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News for January 30, 2003
Pre-race press conference & team presentation: LTdL says Selamat Datang
By Anthony Tan in Langkawi
Pre-race press conference
At the pre-race press conference held at the City Bayview Hotel on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, 2002 LTdL winner Hernan Dario Munoz (Columbia Selle Italia) was joined by Australian road champion Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) and Nor Effandy Rosli (Telekom Malaysia) to answer questions on their thoughts for this year's race and what they hope to achieve in the 8th edition of the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi.
Race Controller Alan Rushton introduced the star riders to the media before the standard barrage of questions started - first at Munoz who had come to Malaysia to defend his title:
"My preparation has been good; I have been training since October and I recently won the Vuelta a Tachira in similar weather conditions," said the petite climber from Colombia.
Munoz won the 14 stage Vuelta a Tachira from Carlos Maya by a handy margin, which featured a number of decisive mountain stages of similar length and profile to the queen stage of this year's LTdL to the Genting Highlands.
Stuart O'Grady's form, although very good, is unlikely to be enough to carry the sprinter up to the climb of Genting in the front group, but the freckle-faced boy from Adelaide feels confident enough to win a stage or two.
"I don't know about the overall classification; from what I've heard, it's better to go into the climb blind," said O'Grady with a wry smile. "But my form is good - I won the Australian Championships and nearly won the Tour Down Under - so I'll certainly be trying to win some stages."
Finally, it was Nor Effandy Rosli's turn to speak, with the attention turning to their star climber in the team, Kam-Po Wong from Hong Kong. Asked about Wong's preparation and his climbing condition in the lead up to the LTdL, Effandy was slightly hesitant about his teammate's chances:
"Certainly, Kam-Po Wong has the potential to win this race, but we had a trial run up to the climb of Genting last week and I would say his race condition is not yet at its peak, so we'll have to wait and see," said Effandy.
Half an hour later, the official team presentation was underway at the hotel's Chinese restaurant - quite likely the biggest Chinese restaurant on the island of Langkawi, formally welcoming riders, guests and the media to the 8th LTdL.
In no particular order, the 20 teams made their way to the stage, with David Duffield and Stanley Charles the masters of ceremonies. Columbia-Selle Italia were first, and could well finish in that position at the end of the race with virtually a whole team packed with mountain goats.
The pink and blue clad boys from Team Lampre includes Rubens Bertogliati, winner of stage one and multiple wearer of the maillot jaune in last year's Tour de France. Lampre don't really have an in-form rider for the overall, but could well take some stage wins during the first week of the LTdL with riders like Bertogliati, Marco Serpellini and Max Sciandri.
Danish team Fakta presented a strong group of riders, however coming from temperatures in the mid-20s (minus mid-20s that is), the great Danes may suffer from the heat and humidity that is Malaysia.
The predominantly Aussie-Italo contingent, Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo, came to the stage halfway through the proceedings armed with danger men Paolo Lanfranchi and Graeme Brown, the former a winner of the LTdL in 1999 and the latter a stage winner from last year's race.
American-based Team Saturn look particularly strong on paper with climbers Tom Danielson, Chris Horner (winner of the LTdL in 2000) and Tim Johnson, and rouleurs Charles Dionne, Nathan O'Neill and Eric Wohlberg.
Division II team Flanders-iTeamnova.com also have their share of contenders for the overall in Australians Allan Iacuone and Trent Wilson, supported by another hard man from down under, Giro d'Italia stage winner David McKenzie.
And with the formalities over, the riders went off to dinner. Speaking of food...
Images by Anthony Tan / Cyclingnews