Tour de Langkawi - Stage One
Gianni Savio's Selle Italia rider Alberto Loddo takes the stage and race lead;
but it was Japanese Koji Fukushima who animated the race with attacks and stole
the hearts of the fans.
Gianni Savio's Selle Italia rider Alberto Loddo took the stage victory and
leaders jersey of the 12th edition of the Tour de Langkawi in five up sprint.
Loddo sensationally claimed the first stage nipping Ruben Bongiorno by a
wheel; on a day when the first Malaysian continental team, LeTua Cycling,
grabbed two of the top10 slots in the overall classification here today.
Alberto Celebrates! Bongiorno, Loddo, Huff, Richeze, Trusov... Photo c. Bruno Bade
The main animator of the race was Japanese ace Koji Fukushima who stole the
hearts of the locals with a smashing performance during the race and a quirky
rendition of a Japanese video-game tune. Fukushima, a stage winner here and
regular participant in this race, broke away after two kilometers, but was
chased back by the peloton not eager to see the former stage winner off on a
Herwin Jaya and Koji Fukushima. Photo c. Bruno Bade
Fukushima (Nippon-Meitan Hompo) attacked again at 17-kilometres, this time
with companion Herwin Jaya (Polygon) and gained a maximum lead of 2 minutes and
15 seconds during the 50 km break.
Despite being caught, Fukushima went on to take all three sprints and one
climb to wrest the King of the Mountain and Asian jerseys. “I knew it was going
to be difficult today. I broke away but was afraid to be caught, and that’s what
happened … I lost my lead. I will stick to my normal game plan and attack
With 20km to go, Fukushima’s lead was steadily reducing and he was caught at
12km. Next to attack was former Maillo Jaune wearer Thomas Voeckler, who
attacked at the 5km mark. A brave solo effort but the sprinters teams were in no
mood to let Tommy take the victory and caught him near the finish at 600-metres,
as the sprinters teams launched their strong men to the front.
Credit Agricole's Charteu leads the peloton in the chase Photo c. Bruno Bade
Loddo, a sprinter from the Selle Italia-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni team,
kept his cool in the blistering conditions and waited for his chance to make his
move. A winner of a stage win in Venezuela this year, Loddo broke loose a
kilometer from the end to take the sprint victory denying former stage winner,
Ruben Bongiorno of Ceramiche Panaria. Taking the last podium step Maximiliano
Richeze (Ceramiche Panaria Nav) with Brad Huff of Slipstream and Nikolai Trusov
of Tinkoff Credit Systems weighing in the sprint for fourth and fifth.
The victory for Loddo makes it a glorious start for the team that has picked
up numerous accolades in the Le Tour de Langkawi over the years. This includes
the titles picked up by Hernan Dario Munoz (2002) and Freddy Gonzalez (2004).
They are also the defending overall team champion here.
Another wider shot of the finish. Photo c. Tour de Langkawi
“I was convinced that today would end in a bunch finish. I did not have the
strength to stay with the leaders so I remained in about the 20th position. With
about one kilometer to go, I made my move. I found Bongiorno and came out of his
wheel with 150-metres to go,” said a jubilant Loddo.
The victory was especially sweet for Loddo as it was his way of repaying the
faith of his team manager, the charismatic Gianni Savio. “I was out of contract
in 2005 but Gianni gave me the opportunity to be with Selle Italia. I got six
wins last year and with two already this year, I think it’s a good start,” Loddo
Rolling in hot on the heels of Loddo today were Bongiorno, a multiple stage
winner in this race and his Ceramiche Panaria teammate, Maximiliano Richeze.
The second stage will be start in the northern town of Kangar and end 166km
later in Kulim.
The Le Tour de Langkawi 2007 is organized by the Malaysian National Cycling
Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the
Ministry of Tourism.