LANGKAWI: With no time trials to contest, the overall winner of Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) is almost always decided on the climbs, and there will be no shortage of top quality “climbers” when the race flags off in Kerteh Saturday.

Monday’s third stage will likely serve as a preview of the general classification (GC) battle.

It will see the peloton traversing the Titiwangsa range, covering a total distance of 183.1 kilometres from Jeli to Baling which includes two category two (Jeli, Seri Banding) and one category one (Puncak Titiwangsa) climbs.

The queen stage (stage five) will once again feature the race’s iconic climb up to Genting Highlands. The fifth stage on Wednesday will start in Slim River and end with a summit finish at the hilltop resort which features an elevation of 1,625 metres.

The hors categories climb is almost certain to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

LTdL chief operating officer Emir Abdul Jalal believes that no less than five riders have the credentials to challenge for the overall win.

“On paper, I would have to say that EF Education-EasyPost (United States) would be the favourites in the GC,” said Emir.

“EF have listed Odd Christian Eiking (Norway) and Jefferson Cepeda (Ecuador) in their squad for LTdL and both are very capable climbers.

“Eiking held the red jersey for seven days during the 2021 Vuelta a Espana before suffering an injury.

“Euskatel-Euskadi (Spain) could also be dangerous with Mikel Iturria (Spain) as he has won a stage at Vuelta before.

“In fact, Euskatel have named a squad full of climbers which shows their intent in the GC.

“Tudor Pro Cycling (Switzerland) have included Simon Pellaud who is another talented GC rider and they have already scheduled a celebration with their fans in Sunway (Subang Jaya) after the race.

“As for Astana Qazaqstan, looking at their squad I believe they will be going more for stage wins rather than the GC.”

EF and Astana are the only two UCI WorldTeams competing in LTdL this year. The rest of the peloton comprise eight ProTeams, 11 Continental teams and one national team (Malaysia).

For the first time in the history of LTdL — first held in 1996 — the leader of the GC will this year wear the green jersey instead of the race’s traditional yellow.

This is in recognition of Petronas, the title sponsor of the UCI ProSeries race this year.

The leader of the points classification category will wear the orange jersey. In previous years, they would wear green.

The first stage Saturday will see riders covering a total distance of 184.4 kilometres with intermediate sprints in Dungun, Ajil and Tok Jamal as well as a brace of category four climbs at Jerangau and Sekayu.