|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
9th Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi - 2.2
Malaysia, February 6-15, 2004
By Anthony Tan
The 2004 edition of the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi (TMLTdL), the fourth richest cycling event on the UCI calendar, is a markedly different and on paper, much more exciting route than previous years, with its mixture of short but tough stages resembling a mini Vuelta a Espaņa.
Strongly backed by the Malaysian government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the brainchild of former Prime Minister, Y.A.Bhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the TMLTdL boasts the highest UCI rating for a stage race outside Europe, its UCI 2.2 classification on par with the Giro del Trentino, Tour de Picardie and tours of Belgium, Germany and Poland.
In the past, the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi has often reached its climax on the stage to Genting Highlands, a brutal 25 kilometre climb finishing at an eye-popping altitude of 1713 metres. With no decisive stages in between in terms of overall classification, the Genting stage, held on the penultimate day the previous two years and also this year, has invariably determined the ultimate winner of the race.
However, organisers of the TMLTdL have sensed the need for a possible shake-up earlier on to create further interest in the event, with the parcours for the this year's event a welcome change. Featuring three mountain stages and an individual time trial midway through the race, the winner of the TMLTdL may well be decided by the second stage to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands - though what is assured is a far more aggressive and exciting race than ever before.
With the start in Penang on February 6, this year's TMLTdL will not be visiting the holiday island of Langkawi. Instead, the race shall be based solely on the mainland, following a coastal route down the western seaboard to Johor Bahru on the country's southern tip, then doubling back up the coast before finishing in the capital of Kuala Lumpur 10 days later.
Stage 2, a 151.6 kilometre journey from Ipoh to Tanah Rata, will be the first real test for those who have come to Malaysia with ambitions of winning the race overall. The final 60 kilometres, apart from a brief respite at Ringlet (km 138), is all uphill, with a Cat 1 mountain-top finish to boot.
The following day could be another stage for the climbers or more likely, the opportunists. Beginning in Tapah, a regular stop in previous editions of the TMLTdL, riders travel along a mostly flat route before tackling the 20 kilometre climb up to Fraser's Gap (km 136.3). From there, it will be a fast run-in to the finish in the town of Raub in Pahang.
For the first time in the race's history, the individual time trial, or "race of truth" as it is commonly known, will be held at the halfway mark (Stage 5) in the historical town of Melaka. Founded by Parameswara in 1396 who named his sultanate after the Melaka tree, Melaka has provided the stage where the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English have each played their roles in shaping the country's history. Although only 18 kilometres long and unlikely to provide a major shake-up on general classification, specialists against the clock will look to gain time against the pure climbers before the penultimate stage to Genting Highlands four days later.
With no climbs to contend with over the following three stages, speedsters will revel in the limelight as the peloton face an about-turn after Stage 6 to Johor Bahru and head back up the west coast to Shah Alam, visiting the towns of Muar (Stage 6), Pontian (Stage 7) and Port Dickson (Stage 8), where the battle for the sprinter's jersey is sure to be decided.
Saturday, February 14 marks invariably the most anticipated day of the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi, beginning in Kuala Lumpur and finishing atop the spectacular climb of Genting 131.6 kilometres later. While significant time gaps will have already formed, the battle for overall honours is still likely to be wide open, with the final 25 kilometres to the finish at First World Hotel the most critical of the race.
Once again, the final day's racing continues the tradition of past TMLTdLs with a 80.4 kilometre, 12-lap circuit race at the Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur. The race for the overall classification may be decided, but the sprinters will still be going full-throttle in an effort to bring home the bacon for their final chance at glory.
Totalling a distance of 1250.9 kilometres, this year's edition of the Le Tour de Langkawi not unlike a mini Vuelta a Espaņa, a race that has often come down to the wire in recent years, thrilling fans and spectators alike. The scene has been set for a similar outcome in Malaysia, now just a few weeks' away.
Cyclingnews will be providing our readers with extensive coverage of the 2004 Le Tour de Langkawi, including live race reports, full results, photos, interviews and features stories, and tech coverage.
2003 Tom Danielson (USA) Saturn 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