LANGKAWI: Be it glory at the stages or the battle for the individual general classification of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2018, the riders and teams set to compete in the 23rd edition of the race that begins in Kangar on Sunday have stated their eagerness to deliver a positive response to the challenge.
From Stage 1 covering the route from Kangar to Kulim, followed by the scenic route from Gerik to Kota Baru, then Kota Baru-Kuala Terengganu, Dungun-Pekan, Bentong-Cameron Highlands, Tapah-Tanjung Malim right up to the final stage from Rembau to Kuala Lumpur, all teams have stated their readiness to execute their respective strategies, promising a mouth- watering spectacle for fans frim start to finish.
The flat stages promise an enticing affair for the sprinters with attention mainly directed towards the hot favourite and record 22-stage winner Andrea Guardini of Bardiani-CSF.
"I am with a new team, but an established team from Italy as well and this gives me a new inspiration to give them some stage wins, as I myself have not registered any stage wins in the past two years," said Guardini.
"We have come to LTdL to deliver some good results to give us a boost in motivation as we prepare for the Giro d'Italia for which we have been invited," added the 28-year old who was born in Tregnano, Italy and exploded onto the professional scene with five stage victories in his LTdL debut in 2011.
Guardini however admitted that the challengers will be aplenty, including the likes of young Polish sprinter Szymon Wonchich Sajnok of CCC Sprandi Polkowice, who just recently emerged world champion in the omnium at the World Championships on Apeldoorn, Holland.
Malaysia's top two sprinters Anuar Manan (Forca Amskins) and Harrif Salleh (TSG) will also be eyeing some glory for the host nation.
Anuar admitted that after ending contract with TSG, he now carries a bigger responsibility to produce results with Forca Amskins, which he founded and is also a title sponsor with his apparel brand Amskins.
Still the only Malaysian to have ever won a stage in LTdL, which he achieved in 2010, when he also emerged the points classification winner, Anuar said despite LTdL being his new team's official debut on the international stage, Forca have roped in some experienced riders of true caliber to help them achieve some positive results.
"We have also entered some local races and held a centralised training camp to prepare well for this race," said Anuar.
"Our target is also to register a stage win, while our three climbers Alvaro Duarte, John Ebsen ans Saufi Mat Senan will mount our challenge for the general classification."
Anuar said it would not be impossible for a Malaysian to win a stage in this year's race.
"It is not impossible, if we can all work together and help each other," said Anuar, who hoped Forca would be able to gain the public's attention in its first year of establishment.
Meanwhile, the battle for the yellow jersey will see attention focused towards two Dimension Data teammates Mekseb Debesay and Nicholas Dlamini.
Eritrean Debesay, who finished fifth overall last year, will this time have the backing of 2018 Tour Down Under mountains classification winner Dlamini, who will be making his first appearance in LTdL.
"I have heard a lot about this race, as it is quite popular among African and European riders.
“Having achieved some success in the Tour Down Under, I hopentonhelp my teammates to make an impact here in the general classification and teams classification," said 22-year old South African Dlamini.
"Despite being without an established sprinter, we hope to provide a challenge in the bucnh sprints. There obviously is some pressure, but we will assess the situation on a daily basis and prepare our strategy accordingly.
LTdL 2018 begins with the teams presentation ceremony in Dataran Lang, Langkawi tonight, before the teams shift to Kangar tomorrow ahead of the start there on Sunday.
A total of 22 teams including two UCI WorldTour teams, Professional Continental, Continental teams and national teams have confirmed their participation in the 23rd edition of the race, which covers a total distance of 1,341km covering eight states in Peninsula Malaysia.
This UCI 2.HC event is organised by Ciclista Sports, with the full support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.