KUALA TERENGGANU: Tudor Pro Cycling Team sprinter Arvid de Kleijn lived up to expectations as he romped to a well deserved win in the opening stage of Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTDL) today.
Despite losing his lead-out man in the closing stages of the race, de Kleijn still had the pace to outkick the field and take the win in four hours, 25 minutes and 48 seconds.
Sasha Weemaes (Human Powered Health) and Gleb Syritsa (Astana Qazaqstan) crossed the line second and third.
The 187.4km stage started in Kerteh and ended in Kuala Terengganu.
The Dutchman, who is nicknamed ‘Little Gorilla’ due to his similarities to German sprint great Andre Greipel, subsequently took charge of the green jersey with a four second advantage atop the general classification (GC).
“It feels good to win my first stage here. It was a hectic sprint and at one kilometre to go I lost my teammate (lead-out) and had to find my own way (to the front),” said de Kleijn just after the race.
“I was a little bit too far behind but managed to get back.
“I had more speed than the others but I had to fight the wind, so I am definitely happy to finish it.
“It is unlikely I will be able to hold on to the green jersey until the end of the tour but hopefully we can continue to do well here.”
The 29-year-old is highly rated and has beaten big names such as Mark Cavendish, Jasper Philipsen and Dylan Groenewegen in the past.
Malaysia national team rider Izzat Hilmi Abdul Halil did well to be placed fourth in the sprint finish while Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team’s (TSG) Harrif Saleh settled for ninth on the day.
Tegshbayar Batsaikhan (Roojai Online Insurance) took charge of the white jersey (Asian rider classification) with a three second advantage after crossing the line first at the intermediate sprints in Ajil and Tok Jamal.
The Mongolian later left the breakaway group, which also included Nur Aiman Zariff (TSG), in the dust and rode solo for roughly 50km before being reeled in by the peloton.
“It means a lot to be in the white jersey as this (LTdL) is a big race in Asia,” said Batsaikhan, who also won the most combative rider daily award.
“Last year my national teammate Jambaljamts Sainbayar won the white jersey with TSG and today I have managed to take the jersey.
“I will try my best to hang on to the jersey until the end of the tour.”
Aiman, however, was able to take charge of the polka dot jersey (mountains classification) after crossing the line first at Jerangau and coming in second at Sekayu, both of which are category four climbs.
The second stage tomorrow will start in Kuala Terengganu and finish in Kota Bharu covering 186.2km.
With only a brace of category four climbs at Setiu and Pelong, it is likely to end in another bunch sprint.