LANGKAWI: Italy's Andrea Guardini now has 15 Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) stage wins to his record after yet another emphatic win in a bunch sprint in Stage One, ironically in Langkawi where he registered the first professional victory of his career on the opening stage of the same race in 2011.
The Astana rider surged ahead of a bunch sprint ahead of Orica-GreenEdge's Caleb Ewan of Australia, and Malaysia's Anuar Manan of the Terengganu Cycling Team, to take what was also his second victory of the year after winning a stage in the Tour of Oman last month.
"I am in good form coming into this race and I have worked hard during the winter to prepare for this, so I am very happy with this first win. Now we will look at the coming stages to see if we can take more wins," said Guardini, 27.
Guardini said the Orica-GreenEdge train had been a strong one and he managed to tag along behind their sprinter Ewan and opened up the sprint in the final 200 metres, which he won.
"I think Orica-GreenEdge have a strong lead-out train, but our team have a good team for working to catch breakaways. So, if we work together in the coming stages, we can expect more wins."
The stage started with a six man breakaway that included eventual mountains classification leader Kiel Reijnen of United Healthcare and Asian riders' classification leader Ma Guangtong of the Hengxiang Cycling Team. Guardini landed the blue jersey for the points classification leader, on top of the yellow jersey as the overall leader after his win.
Reijnen had bagged top points in both KOM summits of the day, which he said was his target, but he also launched an audacious solo attack in the final kilometres after the rest of his breakaway partners were caught by the peloton. Reijnen was only caught by the peloton with less than a kilometre to go.
Malaysian hopes were spiked after TSG's Anuar took his first LTdL podium in two years and will now be planning for a stage win in the coming stages.
"It was quite a tough day today. The speed was quite high in the final kilometres and then a crash happened in the front. Harrif Saleh and myself managed to get to the front as a result of that and then I managed to stay with the leaders and sprint. I didn't get the victory today, but now our first target of a podium has been achieved," said Anuar.
"We will now target a win in one of the coming stages. But remember, there is not just me. We have Harrif, who is also in good form."
The 20th edition of LTdL continues tomorrow with Stage 2 fro Alor Setar to Sungai Petani, which will cover a distance of 180km.