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14th Le Tour de Langkawi - 2.HC

Malaysia, February 9-15, 2009

New look Langkawi sees old decider return

By Greg Johnson in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jose Serpa was the last man to win on Genting, and returns in 2009.
Photo ©: Shane Goss
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The Tour of Langkawi takes on a different look in 2009 - heavy revisions to the race route should see the event again decided on the Genting Highlands climb. The 1600m climb was left out of last year’s race due to the timing of Chinese New Year, but features once more in this year’s shortened parcours.

Having traditionally been contested over 10 stages, the race dropped to nine stages for last year's event but this year will be a seven stage, week-long race.

The number of stages in this year's race isn't the only major change to the event, either, as their location is also substantially different to years past. As was the case in 2008 competition will not take place on the island after which it is named.

This year’s event will be significantly more centralised around the nation's capital of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia's west. The race travels just 36km north of the capital to Batang Kali and 145km south to Melaka over the seven stages. By contrast, last year's race covered the 770-kilometre stretch from Alor Setar in the north to the southern tip of Johor Bahru, as it traveled down the west coast and back up the east before returning to Kuala Lumpur for the final criterium, which will also close this year's race.

While stage victories in this year's race will again be dominated by the sprinters, the return of Genting Highlands ensures it will be a climber that takes the general classification victory.

After being a dominant force at the race in recent years, Gianni Savio's Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli squad is in a strong position to defend the title it won with Ruslan Ivanov last year. Savio has once again brought Jose Serpa - a two time winner of the Genting Highlands stage - supported by Carlos José Ochoa and Jackson Rodriguez.

American Timothy Duggan (Garmin-Slipstream) will be amongst those at the head of the action as the race reaches Genting Highlands. Duggan, who has returned from a crash at last year’s Tour of Georgia, can expect company from Jeremy Yates (LeTua) and Jai Crawford (Australian National Team) on the way to the casino-topped mountain.

Duggan's ProTour teammates could cause a stir on the sprint stages as well, with riders like Canadian road champion Christian Meier and Australian pairing Chris Sutton and Cameron Meyer in the squad. Having enjoyed last year's race with former team Bouygues Telecom, Aurélien Clerc (Ag2R La Mondiale) has returned for this year's event in the hope of defending his points jersey.

Savio believes the presence of so many national teams at this year's event will make the racing hard to control. There are just four ProTour teams and five Professional Contiental squads heading to Malaysia in 2009, while national teams include those from the home nation, Australia, South Africa, China, Iran and Kazakhstan. Five Continental teams, including Seoul Cycling and Doha Team, take the total number of squads contesting the event to 20.

The race will have a little less 'attacking' in 2009, with the absence of Koji Fukushima due to the Japanese rider's retirement. Loved by the local fans, Fukushima would regularly launch stage-long, ill-fated attacks at the race. The rider's EQA-Meitan Hompo - Graphite Design team will still likely be making its presence known at the event, with hit brother Shinichi Fukushima joined by sprinter Sung Baek Park on the roster.