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8th Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi - 2.2
Malaysia, January 31 - February 9, 2003
One of the richest stage races in the world, the UCI recently upgraded the Malaysian stage race from 2.3 to 2.2, making the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) the highest ranked cycling event outside Europe.
The race, which will include many of the top teams and riders in the world, returns to its traditional starting point on the island of Langkawi. On Stage 1, the riders will participate in a 9.5 kilometre time trial, leaving at one minute intervals against the clock on a short but hilly route - the fastest rider first to don the coveted yellow jersey as the first leader of the 2003 LTdL.
The entourage moves across to Peninsular Malaysia for Stage 2, commencing starting in Kangar, and is a completely flat, 148 kilometre run down the western seaboard to Butterworth. When the riders first reach the finish line in Butterworth, they will have to complete three laps of an eight kilometre circuit before the actual finish, providing an exciting finale for the spectators.
Having overnighted on the beautiful island of Penang, Stage 3 takes the race from Kulim to Ipoh, a distance of 169 kilometres. The one small climb on this stage won’t be enough to split the field, so expect a super fast run-in over the final 30 kilometres.
A short transfer the following morning brings the race to the start town of Gerik. This stage, totaling some 172 kilometres, will feature the first real climbs of the race as it crosses over two mountain ranges that present the riders with two climbs, both 20km in length. While the stage may give the mountain climbers an opportunity to show their skills, there is every possibility of another bunch gallop in the town of Tanah Merah with 100km to go after the race crosses the second climb.
Stages 5 & 6 take the race down the east coast, and both allow ample opportunities for aggressive racing with the possibility of a breakaway group upsetting the overall classification.
The first of these starts in Kota Bahru, featuring one short climb on the 179 kilometre route to Kuala Terrenganu, so the stage should once again suit the sprinters. Stage 6 is only 136kms in length, beginning at the small fishing village of Marang and heading out to Cukai, a distance the peloton will cover in just under three hours.
Up till now, the route has mostly suited the fast sprinters, but on Stage 7, the Tour de Langkawi changes its face. The 196 kilometre stage takes the Tour west, back across the country for the longest stage of this year’s race on rolling terrain from Kuantan to Bentong.
The following stage could well produce a defining moment. Starting at Telekom headquarters in downtown Kuala Lumpur, the peloton travels a relatively short 112 kilometres to Seremban, but features several climbs on route that could produce an upset.
Stage 9 is the queen stage of the Tour to Genting Highlands, starting in Seremban and traveling a distance of 117 kilometres before the field hit the slopes of the climb to Genting Highlands, a back-breaking 25 kilometre ascent with no respite. The climb, revered by cycling fans all over the world, has long been the defining climb in deciding the final victor of Tour de Langkawi, and there is no doubt 2003 should will be any different; whoever wears the coveted yellow jersey in Genting will surely have earned the privilege.
The final stage on Sunday will be the traditional circuit race in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, a spectacular and colourful finale to the 10 stage event. After the finish of the 76 kilometre criterium, the final presentations shall be awarded, none more deserving than the final yellow jersey wearer of the 2003 Tour de Langkawi.
Past winners have included Paolo Lanfranchi, a dual winner of the LTDL (1999, 2001), Christopher Horner (2000) and Gabriele Massaglia (1998). Last year's winner was Columbian rider Hernan Dario Munoz, riding for Colombia-Selle Italia, who won the stage to the Genting Highlands, displacing overnight leader Robert Hunter from South Africa in the process.
2002 Hernan Dario Munoz (Col) Colombia-Selle 2001 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Mapei-Quickstep 2000 Christopher Horner (Usa) Mercury 1999 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Mapei-Quickstep 1998 Gabrielle Missaglia (Ita) Mapei-Bricobi 1997 Luca Scinto (Ita) Mg-Technogym 1996 Damian Mcdonald (Aus) Giant-AIS