MERU – Czech rider Daniel Babor of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA timed his sprint perfectly in the last 200 metres to clinch Stage 4 of the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2023 at Meru Raya here, today.
Second-placed and yesterday’s Stage 3 winner George Jackson of Bolton Equities Black Spoke is now the overall race leader, taking over the PETRONAS Green Jersey from Italian Enrico Zanoncello of Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizane.
Zanoncello is second overall with a six-second deficit followed by the top favourite for tomorrow’s big climb in Genting, Simon Carr of EF Education-EasyPost who is 10 seconds adrift behind the leader.
The Tour which started in Kerteh, Terengganu on Saturday, has now seen four different winners from four different teams after four days of racing.
The 23-year-old rider, who is racing in his last race of the season here, had countrymate Tomas Bartab to thank for executing a great lead out which put him in a good sprinting position to the line, ahead of second-placed and yesterday’s winner yesterday’s winner George Jackson of Bolton Equities Black Spoke with a time of 3:06.05s. Belgian Sasha Weemaes of Human Power Health came in third.
Babor was elated with his win here after struggling throughout the year with just one stage win in Volta a Portugal (2.1) in August to show on his palmares this season.
“It’s my first major win in Asia and second stage win in top-level races this season. I’m not really in good shape and this is my last race of the season, so this win truly means a lot to me,” said Babor, who was fourth in Stage 4 in Kota Bharu, which was won by Astana Qazaqstan’s Gleb Syritsa.
Stage winners Arvid de Kleijn and Syritsa, the two top fast men heavily tipped to take the stage, lost out in the locked out in a hectic final sprint and had to settle for 8th and 10th placings respectively.
“I’m not actually in the best shape here, but after taking 4th place in Stage 2, I thought we could get better results but not a stage win. But today, in the last 20km, I felt good, got into the last corner first, had a good lead out and hit the line first,” said Babor, saying that he is now more confident of taking on the best in field such as Kleijn and Syritsa and deliver good sprint results for the team after today’s win.
Second-placed Jackson of Bolton Equities Black Spoke, yesterday’s Stage 3 winner, said he had a good lead out and gave his all in the last 200 metres but lost out to a better sprinter.
“I had a good lead out in the last 300 metres, came around the corner, tried hard but Babor was the fastest man today. I’m still happy with the results and we have a few more shots at stage wins after this,” said the Kiwi rider.
The day started with 121 riders signing on, with three intermediate sprints along the 140.2km flat route. A nine-men breakaway group charged strongly after the 8km mark which was later reduced to only three riders – Giulio Massoto of Corratec-Selle Italia, Muhammad Afiq Huznie of Nusantara Cycling and Nichol Pareja of 7Eleven Cliqq Air by Road Bikes Philippines. With 6km to go, the trio were subsequently reeled by the peloton.
Tudor, Astana and Green Project-Bardiani were scrambling to put their sprinters in the best position for the final sprint in the last few kilometres but in the end, Caja Rural’s Babor had the upper hand after slipping through into the last corner first.
Simon Pellaud of Tudor Pro Cycling Team Simon Pellaud kept the mountains classification’s TOURISM MALAYSIA red polka dot jersey for the second day with 20 points, ahead of Luca Covilli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF Faizane) with 12 points.
Rating his chances for tomorrow’s big climb in Genting, Pellaud said: “It’s going to be hard, but I will try to defend the polka dot jersey, especially against Luca Covilli who is 12 points behind me. My target is to be with the great climbing guys tomorrow,” said Pellaud, who picked EF Education-EasyPost top climber Simon Carr as the top favourites for tomorrow’s queen stage in Genting.
Dutch sprinter Arvid de Kleijn, who was out of position in today’s sprint, remained in KBS Orange Sprints jersey as sprints classification leader with 30 points, only a point ahead of close rival Enrico Zanoncello and George Jackson (Bolton Equities) with 27 points.
In the Asian classification, Thailand Continental Cycling Team’s Ratchanon Yaowarat is the wearer of the BEAUTIFUL TERENGGANU White jersey, after leading 4 seconds ahead of compatriot Thanakan Chaiyasombat and Muhammad Nur Aiman Rosli of the Malaysian National team.
“I’m happy to be wearing the white jersey, but on top of that I’m happy over my fifth-placings in the GC after today’s stage with 12 seconds deficit behind the leader,” said Yaorawat.
Meanwhile, Giulio Masotto of Corratec Selle Italia, who was among the nine riders in the early breakaway group, won the Most Combative Award.
After four days of racing, tomorrow’s Hors climb to the summit of Genting (1,625 metres) will be the defining moment for teams and pure climbers as they tackle the 126.4km route with the winner of the stage likely be crowned as the eventual overall leader of the 27th edition of the Tour.