With only a week left to the start of PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2023 next Saturday, two WorldTeam outfits — Astana Qazaqstan and EF Education-EasyPost – will be vying to improve on last year’s achievements.
The eight-stage race starts on Sept 23 in Terengganu with a flat 187.4km race from Kerteh to Kuala Terengganu.
The nature of this year’s route has made it even harder for a straightforward prediction on who will rule the Tour, especially with two tough challenges on the map — Stage 3 from Jeli to Baling and Stage 5 from Slim River to Genting Highlands – which could influence and determine the outcome of the race.
Judging from the line-ups of Astana and EF Education, it is obvious that both rivals are adopting a different approach to ensuring that they will not be heading home from the tour empty-handed.
While Astana are seen to be more focussed on stage wins with a line-up comprising of top sprinters like stage winner Gleb Syritsa, who is now in his first year as a full pro, it is clear that EF Education, with a squad full of climbers, are gunning for bigger rewards – the General Classification (PETRONAS overall champion jersey) and also the overall team titles.
However, it may not be as easy as it seems as both outfits will have to contend against other ProTeam and Continental outfits, seen as equally capable of winning in both the flat terrains and in the highlands.
EF Education will once again pin their hopes on their credible climbers following Hugh Carthy’s 27seconds loss at the hands of Movistar’s Ivan Sosa up Genting Highlands last year.
With two great climbers on the roster – British-born Simon Carr and Ecuadorian Jeferson Cepeda Ortiz – EF Education are hoping to rule the mountains while Astana will again be relying on their top sprinter Gleb Syritsa (last year’s Stage 1 winner) as well as Martin Laas for the stage wins.
However, this time around, the battle in the mountains and especially in the queen stage in Genting Highlands is expected to be even stiffer with several Italian and South American climbers in the fray.
They include Euskaltel-Euskadi’s team of six climbers led by Mikel Iturria and Mikel Bizkarra; Caj-Rural-Seguros RGA’s Eduard Prades Reverter and Calum Johnston as well as the quartet climbers from Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizane led by Davide Gabburo, who had turned in a strong performance at last year’s Giro d’Italia.
In the sprint challenge, Astana will have to contend against some of the peloton’s reputable fast men including Team Corratec-Selle Italia’s Attilio Viviani, Adam De Vos of Human Powered Health and even local hero Mohd Hariff Saleh of Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team and Dutchman Raymond Kredder of JCL Team Ukyo.
Syritsa, De Vos and Harrif have all won stages in LTdL but the first two stages (Kerteh-Kuala Terengganu and Kuala Terengganu-Kota Bharu) will provide an early indication as to who will have the upper hand in the Points classification.
LTdL 2023 Chief Operating Officer Emir Abdul Jalal admitted the difficulty in predicting the outcome of the annual cycling tour and this year is no exception.
“There are a lot of factors to be considered. Strategies and race plans could go haywire during race week as it all depends on the riders themselves, their fitness as well as race incidents which could happen anytime,” said Emir.
“The advantages are with teams and riders who have tasted action in Malaysia in the past. In this instance, three ProTeam outfits – Caja Rural, Equipo Kern Pharma and Euskaltel are making their debut and the same goes for Tudor Pro Cycling (Switzerland) and Bolton Equities Black Spoke Pro Cycling of New Zealand.
“Riders competing for the first time here have no choice but to immediately get themselves familiarised with the hot and changing weather conditions and terrains,” said Emir.
Themed ‘Beat The Heat’, LTdL 2023 is organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports through the National Sports Council (NSC), in collaboration with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF).
The 1,278.1km Tour traverses through 11 states in the Peninsula and will feature 132 riders from 22 teams. The race ends on Sept 29 in front of the PETRONAS Twin Tower on Sept 30.
CONFIRMED TEAMS FOR LTDL 2023
|1||ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM||UCI WORLD TEAM||KAZAKHSTAN|
|2||EF EDUCATION-EASYPOST||UCI WORLD TEAM||USA|
|3||CAJA RURAL-SEGUROS RGA||UCI PROTEAM||SEPANYOL|
|4||EQUIPO KERN PHARMA||UCI PROTEAM||SEPANYOL|
|5||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||UCI PROTEAM||SEPANYOL|
|6||GREEN PROJECT – BARDIANI CSF – FAIZANE||UCI PROTEAM||ITALI|
|7||TEAM CORRATEC – SELLE ITALIA||UCI PROTEAM||ITALI|
|8||HUMAN POWERED HEALTH||UCI PROTEAM||USA|
|9||TUDOR PRO CYCLING TEAM||UCI PROTEAM||SWITZERLAND|
|10||BOLTON EQUITIES BLACK SPOKE PRO CYCLING||UCI PROTEAM||NEW ZEALAND|
|11||TERENGGANU POLYGON CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||MALAYSIA|
|12||7ELEVEN CLIQQ – AIR21 BY ROADBIKE PHILIPPINES||UCI CONTINENTAL||FILIPINA|
|13||NUSANTARA CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||INDONESIA|
|14||HENGXIANG CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||CHINA|
|15||LI NING STAR||UCI CONTINENTAL||CHINA|
|16||GIANT CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||CHINA|
|17||ST GEORGE CONTINENTAL CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||AUSTRALIA|
|18||KSPO PROFESSIONAL||UCI CONTINENTAL||KOREA SELATAN|
|19||JCL TEAM UKYO||UCI CONTINENTAL||JEPUN|
|20||ROOJAI ONLINE INSURANCE||UCI CONTINENTAL||THAILAND|
|21||THAILAND CONTINENTAL CYCLING TEAM||UCI CONTINENTAL||THAILAND|
|22||MALAYSIA NATIONAL TEAM||CONTINENTAL||MALAYSIA|