KUALA LUMPUR – There will be no shortage of excitement despite the exclusion of Langkawi as this year’s Le Tour de Langkawi is set to enthrall fans with thrilling action and atmosphere starting from Kerteh in Terengganu, on September 23.
Traversing across 11 states, the 1,280.3km race is set to come alive with an electrifying atmosphere as it makes its way back to the east coast states of Terengganu and Kelantan after a two-year lapse.
Terengganu returns to the fold with Kerteh, known as the City of Lights, hosting the opening stage. Kerteh last hosted the race as the Stage 2 finish venue in 2020 which saw Australian Taj Jones of ARA Pro Racing Sunshine emerging as the winner.
Kelantan is back on the racing map of the UCI ProSeries race as Kota Bharu gears itself as the finish venue for Stage 2, while Jeli is the start venue for Stage 3 to Baling.
No stones are left unturned as organisers embarked on early preparation for the Tour, with emphasis on several pertinent aspects including the race’s competitiveness, broadcasting, spectators’ support as well as living up to this year’s “Beat The Heat” theme.
According to LTdL 2023 Chief Operating Emir Abdul Jalal, the Tour continues to attract widespread interest and recognition from professional global teams and the cycling fraternity as among Asia’s hardest races.
“We want to ensure that the routes and the race atmosphere fit perfectly with this year’s “Beat The Heat” theme…not only about battling against the scorching heat but also showcasing the overwhelming support from fans and local spectators at venues and along the roads. The race, as always, will be a great showcase of Malaysia’s diverse culture and background and it fits perfectly into the country’s sports tourism agenda,” he said.
Except for a small 150-metre climb at Sekayu, it will be flat all the way in Stage 1 from Kerteh to Kota Bharu (184km), where the fast men are expected to burst into action from the get-go to accumulate points for sprints classification from the three specified sprint zones.
Another long day in the saddle in 186.2km-Stage 2 from Kuala Terengganu to Kota Bharu, which will again be dominated by sprinters. Local Continental team, Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (TSG) would certainly fancy their chances of winning on home ground and stamp their mark as the best Asian team in the first two stages.
From two flat stages on the east coast, the peloton heads for the west coast, starting their 171km journey from Jeli to Baling where climbers are expected to charge strongly as they head for the 1,059m KOM point at Titiwangsa.
Another two KOM zones at Jeli (774m) and Belum (677m) could also produce some interesting results and split the peloton as they head for the fourth KOM in Sungai Rui, Baling.
This is the second time that the peloton will head to Baling with a route different from the 2016 edition.
The flat Stage 4 from Bukit Mertajam to Meru Raya (140km), with three sprint zones in Sg Bagak, Talang and Sg Siput along the way provides a short respite, but not for the sprinters who will again be giving their all for a podium finish in Ipoh.
As in the past, all eyes will be on the gruelling climb to Genting Highlands on the fifth day, as teams push their best climbers to the front, where a win at the summit of the 1,682metre Genting climb could earn them the coveted overall champion title.
Starting off from Slim River, three sprint points in Rasa, Serendah and Gombak present sprinters with opportunities to improve their standings. Climbers are expected to make their moves as they approach the 628-metre climb at Janda Baik on their way to the Genting summit.
“Teamwork is key as the climb to Genting will be the defining moment for teams and riders. The winner in Genting will most likely have the yellow jersey on their back right up to the finale in Kuala Lumpur,” said Emir.
While the leading teams and riders are expected to play it safe to ensure their respective leaders reach Kuala Lumpur safely, the battle amongst sprinters is expected to resume in the last three stages – Stage 6 from Karak to Melaka (176.6km), Stage 7 from Muar to Seremban 2 over 125.7km and the final stage from Setia Alam in Shah Alam to KLCC over 157km.
“Watch out for the last three stages…this is where tactics, the physical and mental strength of leaders of the respective jerseys are tested to the limit, as their rivals push hard to shackle their positions. It will be an exciting battle right up to the final stage in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 30,” said Emir.
Following the successful organization of the 2012 to 2014 LTdL, the Malaysian National Sports Council (NSC) has again been entrusted as race organisers by the government, in collaboration with the national body Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF).
On the roster for this year’s edition from Sept 23-30 are three WorldTeams, seven UCI ProTeams, 11 Continental teams and the Malaysian National Team.