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8th Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi - 2.2
Malaysia, January 31 - February 9, 2003
Stage 9: Saturday Feb 8, Seremban - Genting Highlands, 143.7 km
Start time: 12:00 GMT + 8
12:00 GMT + 8 - 0km / 143.7km to go
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 9th and penultimate stage of the Le Tour de Langkawi.
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 of Genting, 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 that today will be any different; whoever wears the coveted yellow jersey in Genting will surely have earned the privilege.
12:00 GMT + 8 - 0km / 143.7km to go
The weather in the start village of Seremban was even hotter than yesterday, around 40 degrees Celsius and over 95% humidity.
Cycling Australia's Gennie Sheer spoke to one of Flanders-Iteamnova's star climbers Allan Iacuone (Flanders-Iteamnova) shortly before the race, who lies 44th overall, 1:35 behind leader Tom Danielson.
"I'm feeling ready today," said Iacuone. "I had no trouble covering all the moves yesterday and I've been feeling better as the race has gone on."
The stage is officially underway; after a 8.9km neutral zone, the peloton are cruising along at a leisurely pace, hardly surprising given what lies ahead of them.
12:25 GMT + 8 - 15km
Koji Fukushima has attacked (again), but was soon brought back to the peloton.
12:30 GMT + 8 - 17km
Raivis Belohvosciks attacks but Saturn are closing down all the breaks and the Latvian is caught after less than a minute out in front.
According to Gianni Savio, DS of Selle Italia, their game plan today is to send Martinez Freddy Gonzalez up the road on the lower slopes of Genting and see who can match him. This will force Saturn and Panaria-Fiordo to chase as Gonzalez lies 6th overall, 14 seconds behind Danielson and is on the same time as his teammate and last year's winner Hernan Dario Munoz.
13:05 GMT + 8 - 35km / 108.7km to go
The peloton are taking it easy after completing the first sprint of the day at 32.1 kilometres.
Results of the first sprint were: Graeme Brown (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo, Stuart O'grady (Aus) Credit Agricole, Moreno Di Biase (Ita) Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave', Andrus Aug (Est) De Nardi-Colpack. O'Grady is now the virtual leader on the road, although Brown has widened his lead in the points competition from 5 to 7 points over O'Grady.
13:50 GMT + 8 - 56km / 87.7km to go
There's very little going on in the bunch right now - the most action occurs when a team car goes up the peloton to give drinks to the domestiques. After almost two hours of racing, the average speed is a lowly 30.5km/h.
A little bit of info about Genting: It's 25 kilometres long, 1713 metres above sea level, and has an average gradient of 8.5% and a maximum of 15%, with the first and final kilometres of the climb being the steepest. That's why they're dawdling.
Cycling Australia's Gennie Sheer spoke with the leader of the LTdL for the first seven days, Nathan O'Neill at the start in Seremban this morning. O'Neill was involved in a crash with less than two kilometres to go at the end of Stage 7 and cut a hole in his arm so deep that stitches were unsuitable.
"I woke up a little stiffer and sorer this morning, but I should be OK once we get out on the road," said the upbeat Aussie when asked about his injuries.
"My job will be to pace Tom [Danielson] as far as I can up the climb and chase down any attacks, which is basically the same job for the whole team."
14:05 GMT + 8 - 63km / 80.7km to go
A break of 12 riders initiated by Koji Fukushima (Japan) went clear, but once again, the peloton went into overdrive and caught all but Peter Wuyts from Palmans-Collstrop, who has about a 10 second lead.
Cyclingnews' Tommy Campbell spoke with the affable Fukushima at breakfast this morning, who went away after just one kilometre on yesterday's stage.
Asked why he decided to leave his breakaway companion Thomas Evans (Telekom Malaysia) for dead so early on in the peace, Fukishima simply said: "I didn't even know I dropped him until I was near the top."
14:15 GMT + 8 - 78km / 65.7km to go
Wuyts (Palmans-Collstrop) has increased his lead to 56 seconds, although at this stage, the Belgian is no real danger to the leaders after starting the day 4:42 behind Danielson.
14:35 GMT + 8 - 87km / 56.7km to go
In Seremban this morning, Tom Danielson said: "The team and I have gone over this stage a thousand times in our heads, but I've never seen this climb before, so I'm going into this climb blind. But from what I've heard, it sounds great."
Roland Green was slightly more assured: "I'm feeling good and my team has done a lot to get me to this stage, so it's up to me today to have the ride of my life."
Wuyts (Palmans-Collstrop) is still out on his own, his lead now out to 1:52.
At the second sprint in Templer's Park, the results were: Peter Wuyts (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop, Graeme Brown (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo, Brett Lancaster (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo and Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole.
14:50 GMT + 8 - 99.6km / 44.1km to go
Brownie (Graeme Brown, Panaria-Fiordo) is on fire today: at the 3rd and final sprint in Serendah (unless you call the finish in Genting a sprint), it was Peter Wuyts (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop (with a 2:12 lead), Graeme Brown (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo, Brett Lancaster (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo and Ruben Bongiorno (Arg) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo. It looks like Graeme Brown will wear the final sprinter's jersey in Kuala Lumpur.
The peloton is moving considerably faster now, aided by two sprints in close succession. Up until now, the riders have mostly been riding along the main highway, but the peloton are now on smaller roads and will soon veer right along the winding road to the Genting Highlands.
15:12 GMT + 8 - 115km / 28.7km to go
Peter Wuyts (Palmans-Collstrop) is now on the climb of Genting and will at least make it 1/8th of the way up before being caught, but that means nothing when the climb is 25km long and whose gradients match L'Alpe d'Huez.
His lead after 115km is 2:06; 4 or 5 Saturn riders are now on the front on the bunch, setting a very fast tempo.
15:20 GMT + 8 - 120km / 23.7km to go
Wuyts has already been caught! Saturn are still on the front, with Danielson sitting 2nd wheel behind Nathan O'Neill and alongside Chris Horner.
15:27 GMT + 8 - 123km / 20.7km to go
O'Neill continues to set the tempo, with Danielson 2nd wheel, Horner 3rd, Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria-Fiordo) 4th and the two Colombians Hernan Dario Munoz and Martinez Freddy Gonzalez (Colombia-Selle Italia) sitting comfortably in the top 15. With only two Saturn riders left to help a very green Danielson early in the peace, trouble may not be far away for the kid from Durango.
15:30 GMT + 8 - 125km / 18.7km to go
Nathan O'Neill has done his job for the day, and Horner doesn't last much longer either. World MTB champion Roland Green (Canada) has gone to the front to take up the pace at the head of the peloton.
With big crowds on the lower slopes of the climb, there's going to be pandemonium up above - especially with Chinese New Year celebrations going on in Genting this weekend.
15:38 GMT + 8 - 128.7km / 15km to go
To quote a saying from Cyclingnews diarist Trent Wilson (Flanders-iTeamnova), riders are blowing like porn stars all over the road; after every 500 metres, at least two riders are popping off the back.
Tom Danielson (Saturn) is playing it very cool, not even turning his head to have a look at who's left in this select group of no more than 20 riders. Stuart O'Grady goes to his DS to ask for another bottle of water - he's spent for today.
15:43 GMT + 8 - 130.7km / 13km to go
Roland Green looks behind him after a small acceleration that drops another three riders; the front group is now more than 12 riders strong.
As Green rolls off, Danielson is forced to set the pace.
15:47 GMT + 8 - 131.7km / 12km to go
Green attacks but is caught 500m later. He goes again! Green is obviously have a good day on the bike.
As soon as Green is caught, Jose Rujano from Colombia-Selle Italia attacks hard and opens up the largest gap so far on the climb.
15:52 GMT + 8 - 133.7km / 10km to go
Roland Green (Canada) and Tom Danielson (Saturn) take up the chase, unaided by the other riders in the lead group. This is playing perfectly into the hands of Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia-Selle Italia).
15:58 GMT + 8 - 136.7km / 7km to go
Danielson and Green are still doing the lion's share of the work. Lanfranchi attacks hard and bridges across to Jose Rujano (Colombia-Selle Italia). The group containing Danielson has now withered away to just five riders.
16:04 GMT + 8 - 138.7km / 5km to go
David George is having an awesome ride today - he's in there with Green and Danielson, using a 42 tooth inner chainring!!
The five are stuffing around a bit though, eyeing each other to see who will take up the chase. You just can't do that when a rider like Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria-Fiordo) is up ahead and there's five kilometres remaining.
16:06 GMT + 8 - 140.7km / 3km to go
This climb is unbelievable - Lanfranchi and Rujano have popped and Green, Danielson and Munoz are now the leaders on the road. Danielson tests the legs of Green and Munoz, but they respond easily.
16:12 GMT + 8 - 141.7km / 2km to go
Munoz attacks and only Danielson can go with him!
Moments later, Green somehow recovers and attacks himself; Munoz goes again and this time leaves Green with Danielson on his wheel.
16:17 GMT + 8 - 142.7km / 1.5km to go
Danielson is having the ride of his life and is showing experience beyond his years; Munoz motions for the American to come through, but Danielson simply sticks on the wheel of Munoz.
16:19 GMT + 8 - 142.7km / 1km to go
Green is only 100metres behind but the winner will most surely come from Munoz or Danielson. Danielson responds to every one of Munoz's accelerations with ease. Open chequebooks will be waiting for this revelation of the LTdL in Genting.
16:24 GMT + 8 - 143.7km / 0km to go
Munoz takes the final corners into the finish much better than Danielson and opens up enough of a gap to take the stage just one second ahead of the American. However, Danielson will keep his yellow jersey going into the final stage and will most likely be the winner of the 2003 Le Tour de Langkawi.
1 Hernan Dario Munoz (Col) Colombia-Selle Italia 4.15.30 2 Tom Danielson (USA) Saturn 3 Roland Green (Can) Canada 4 Martinez Freddy Gonzalez (Col) Colombia-Selle Italia 5 Josep Jufre Pou (Spa) Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada 6 Ruber Alveiro Marin (Col) Colombia-Selle Italia 7 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave' 8 Miguel Perdiguero (Spa) Domina Vacanze-Elitron