TANAH MERAH: Caleb Ewan registered his first professional win outside of his native Australia in dramatic circumstances, taking the overall lead in the 20th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) after a sprint from a group of 40 to win Stage 3 from Gerik to Tanah Merah today.
The Orica Greenedge rider, 21, made a strong effort to stay in a chase group that proved to be decisive at the end of the day, as they crested the summit of Titiwangsa after two tough categorised climbs, and then found no match from the sprinters that stayed with him as he brushed aside MTN-Qhubeka's Youcef Reguigui to second spot and Colombia's Leonardo Duque finished third.
Ewan wrested both the leads in the general and points classifications from Astana's Andrea Guardini, who suffered across the summits of both climbs of the day to struggle home more than 24 minutes behind the stage winner's group.
"I saw Guardini suffer, so I did all I could to stay in that chase group. He was dropped and then as we descended I knew we had a good chance of catching the breakaway that had gone earlier," said Ewan.
The five-man breakaway of United Healthcare's Kiel Reijnen, MTN Qhubeka's Natnael Berhane, Bretagne-Seche Environnement's Frederic Brun and the Skydive Dubai duo of Francisco Mancebo and Soufiane Haddi had moved ahead of the peloton before the first climb up a category 2 summit in Gerik.
That saw Reijnen sweep top points in both that and the category 1 summit at Titiwangsa to put a big gap of 19 points between himself and second placed Berhane in the mountains classification. Reijnen said he is now looking to take the red jersey to the finish in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, in what he describes as the biggest race of his career to date.
Ewan will also be looking for more wins, beginning with Stage 4 from Kota Baru to Kuala Berang tomorrow, where the flat profile with a small category 4 climb coming near the finish.
"My legs were feeling good today and I think it will be better tomorrow, so we will try to go for more wins. Hopefully I can climb up Frasers to keep the jersey," said Ewan.
Giant Champion System's Zhang Wen Long took over the lead in the Asian riders classification from Terengganu Cycling Team's Adiq Husainie Othman after finishing in the winner's group today.
Zhang said he was happy to have the jersey as he got assistance from the Hengxiang Cycling Team riders but will be looking at performing better in the coming stages without thinking of the jersey.
"I always enter a race with a positive attitude and I feel good about this race. Today we had some help from the Hengxiang riders and we managed to get the jersey. I've been racing hard everyday and here the weather is a problem, so at the moment I am looking to race well in the remaining stages without thinking about the jersey," said Zhang.
Stage Four tomorrow will offer a chance for another bunch sprint with a fairly flat 165.4km route from Kota Baru to Kuala Berang, where Guardini could be expected to bounce back to challenge Ewan should the outcome be decided in a bunch sprint.