KUALA LUMPUR: Harrif Saleh will become the rider with the most ever appearances in the history of Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) when he rolls off the start line in Kerteh tomorrow.
It will be the 14th time the Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (TSG) rider will be racing in LTdL, surpassing the previous record of 13 held by Iranian rider Ghader Mizbani.
With the first two stages of LTdL this year starting from Terengganu, the Dungun-born rider is hoping to make it extra special for the home fans.
“I feel very lucky to still be selected for LTdL by TSG. I have raced in this tour for many years now and have a lot of experience,” said Harrif at a press conference in Kuala Terengganu today.
“Of course, racing at home in Terengganu will be extra special for me and the team.
“The team and I are in good form and we have extra motivation to do well this year.”
Harrif also has more LTdL stage wins (three) than any other Malaysian rider, though adding to his list of victories will not be easy this year.
Among the sprinters expected to excel in the tour this year are Arvid de Kleijn (Tudor Pro Cycling Team), George Jackson (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Enrico Zanoncello (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizane). All three are coming into LTdL with impressive form.
Jackson, who won two stages and won the yellow jersey at the Tour of Taihu Lake last week, is looking to carry his form into LTdL.
“We came away with two stage wins (at Taihu Lake) and we were pretty stoked with that,” said Jackson at the press conference.
“We are here with a couple of good climbers, so we are looking for a nice position in the general classification (GC) and hopefully take one or two stages as well. That would be cool.
“We have looked at the stages and there are a few that could be good for us.”
Dutchman de Kleijn, who won a stage at the Deutschland Tour last month, echoed Jackson’s sentiments.
“There are a lot of sprint stages here, so, of course, we will go for some results. We also have good riders for the one or two stages that go uphill,” said de Kleijn, who has beaten big names such as Mark Cavendish, Jasper Philipsen and Dylan Groenewegen.
Italian Zanoncello, who has been dubbed “the new Andrea Guardini”, is also in a confident mood.
Zanoncello hails from the same city as Guardini in Italy. The latter is known as “Mr Langkawi” as he holds the record of winning the most stages (24) in the history of the tour.
“We have raced a lot in Asia recently and have won at least one stage in every race we competed in. We hope to continue doing the same in LTdL,” said Zanoncello.
Zanoncello won a stage each at Taihu Lake and the Tour of Qinghai Lake in July.
The first stage tomorrow will see riders covering 187.4km starting from Kerteh and ending in Kuala Terengganu, with three intermediate sprints along the way in Dungun, Ajil and Tok Jamal.
The second stage, from Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru (186.2km) on Sunday, will also be one for the sprinters with three intermediate sprints in Bukit Nenas, Bandar Permaisuri and Peringat.