KUALA TERENGGANU: The arrival of all 22 teams competing in the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2023 since yesterday (September 21) proves that the race, which starts tomorrow until September 30, is still one of the biggest races in Asia and that the cyclists’ enthusiasm has never waned.

The race, which involves eight stages with a total distance of 1,278.1 kilometres (km), not only excites local sports fans but also cyclists, local and foreign.

All participating teams, involving a total of 131 riders, have the same goal, which is to prove who deserves to wear the green jersey as the overall leader of LTdL 2023.

In this unique edition since its inception in 1996, the change in the jersey colour for the overall leader for this ProSeries tour was made due to Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) being the title sponsor of the race.

Also up for grabs in the 27th edition of the LTdL are the orange jersey (Sprint King); polka-dot jersey (King of the Mountain); and white jersey (Best Asian Rider).

Unlike last year’s edition which had the participation of six WorldTeam teams, this year’s edition features only two teams – EF Education-Easypost from the United States and Astana Qazaqstan Team from Kazakhstan – but still with a force to be reckoned with.

The national cycling squad’s head coach, Mohd Yusof Nasir, said the presence of the two WorldTeam teams is the best opportunity for the national squad to continue experiencing competition at the highest level.

It is also an opportunity for Malaysian riders to prove their abilities and capabilities to compete with professional riders, with the aim of making it to the podium at any stage of the competition, he said.

Stage 1 of the LTdL 2023 will begin from Kerteh to Kuala Terengganu, followed by Stage 2 (Kuala Terengganu-Kota Bharu), Stage 3 (Jeli-Baling), Stage 4 (Bukit Mertajam-Meru Raya), Stage 5 (Slim River-Genting Highlands), Stage 6 (Karak-Melaka), Stage 7 (Muar-Seremban), and concludes with Stage 8 (Setia Alam-Kuala Lumpur).

The first two stages of the race in Terengganu and Kelantan should give an advantage to the Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (TSG) contingent, which is based in the state, to shine.

Meanwhile, LTdL Chief Operating Officer, Emir Abdul Jalal, expects tough competition as early as Stage 1, with the race along the panoramic coastline serving as the icebreaker for the cyclists.

Three sprint zones for Stage 1 will be in Dungun, Ajil, and Tok Jamal, as well as two Category 4 climbing zones (KOM4) in Jerangau and Sekayu, which will be the early hunting grounds for riders to win the four major jerseys.

“We expect a mass finish in the first stage from Kerteh to Kuala Terengganu, where the giant teams will give way to TSG and the national team to make a breakthrough.

“Muhammad Nur Aiman Mohd Zariff (TSG rider) has a chance on the first day as he will be passing through his hometown, so he will continue to ride energetically from the first day to collect points in the climbing zone,” he added.