PETALING JAYA: Astana Qazaqstan Team are the first outfit from the WorldTeam to confirm their participation in the 27th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from Sept 23-30.

Despite not appearing in major international races throughout the 2023 season so far, the team who have been a regular at LTdL since its debut in 2012 are still considered one of the great contenders in the eight-stage race this year.

Their track record says it all with Alexandr Dyachenko finishing fourth in the General Classification (GC) in 2012 and together with Andrey Zeits and Valentin Iglinsky, they propelled the team to finish as the second best team behind Androni Giocatoli-Venezuela that year.

Astana’s first-stage victory was achieved through Italian rider Andrea Guardini in Stage 7 of the 2013 edition from Kuantan to Dungun and Ricardo Minali topped two stages in 2018.

Of the three names from that early era, Zeits, who is now 36 years old, is still a member of the Astana team to this day.

He even appeared last year to finish 10th in the GC while sprint specialist Gleb Syritsa stormed to a Stage 1 win for Astana to finish seventh overall.

Astana have yet to send their list of six riders but the organisers of LTdL 2023 are confident that the team managed by the legendary Alexander Vinokourov will still put up a formidable line-up to tackle the challenge of the Category 2 ProSeries status race.

LTdL chief operating officer Emir Abdul Jalal said Astana always want to live up to their reputation as a team with WorldTeam status in any race and LTdL is no exception.

In fact, the team’s latest ranking, which is 20th overall among the professional teams in UCI (International Cycling Union) with 4557.4 points (as of Aug 8) reinforces the notion that Astana will be a force to be reckoned with.

“The opportunity to pick up further ranking points from the LTdL will definitely not be missed by Astana, especially when it is now towards the end of the racing season.

“Although they may not send the likes of Mark Cavendish, Simone Velasco or Kazakhstan’s national champion Alexey Lutsenko here, I am sure they will pick the best possible line-up from the team’s list of 30 riders,” said Emir in a media statement.

Emir added Astana are now in a precarious situation where they need to collect enough points toward their UCI ranking so as to prevent the team with a great reputation from being relegated to the lower division.

The 27th edition will see a total distance of 1,280.3km and will start in Kerteh, Terengganu, on Sept 23 through 11 of the 12 states in the Peninsula before ending in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 30.

A total of 132 riders from 22 teams with WorldTeam, ProTeam, Continental status and the Malaysian national team will participate.

– The Star