Le Tour de Langkawi 2008
Local ace Loh Sea Keong of the Trek/Marco Polo team is determined to continue
his combative performance of 2007. Trek/Marco Polo provisional start list
For 10 days in last year’s Le Tour de Langkawi, local ace Loh Sea Keong
captured the hearts of the Malaysian fans with his combative performances. As a
result, thousands of fans braved the scorching heat to cheer the young rider on
all the way to the end of the Tour.
And now he’s back for more. Sea Keong is returning for the 13th edition of
Asia's biggest cycling event from Feb 9-17 with renewed vigour and ambition. A
year wiser and still only 22-years-old, the rider from Kuala Krai, Kelantan is
determined to put on a display that will completely win over the local fans.
His team, previously known as Discovery Channel-Marco Polo, completed their
last race of 2007 in the Tour of South China Sea. This year, the team has been
re-named Trek-Marco Polo, with the famed American bicycle manufacturers as their
Realizing the opportunity to produce results in a high level race such as
LTdL may be limited for Asian riders, Sea Keong said it was important to show
fighting spirit and not give in to fate.
"One thing I realized during last year's LTdL was that people, particularly
local cycling fans are not really that ignorant. After so many years of high
level racing, people here now know and appreciate how hard we have to work. That
was why, despite not winning any stages, people appreciated the effort I put
into trying to achieve something," said Sea Keong.
His best result came in Stage Seven of the race last year, when he formed
part of a nine-man breakaway that succeeded and Sea Keong, totally exhausted
from the effort, rolled home in seventh to emerge the first Malaysian to succeed
in a breakaway in LTdL's 12 year history. But still he lived to attack again the
Stage 7 Breakaway with Fukushima at the front of the pack. Fukushima went on to
win the stage. Photo c. Bruno Bade
It was an attacking show that began on the second stage of last year's race,
mainly due to a Discovery Channel-Marco Polo team which was depleted by three
early retirements. Without a strong team to back or be backed by, Sea Keong
launched his memorable daily attack routine which won him many admirers, some
even calling him the Malaysian version of Japanese breakaway demon Koji
"I was driven last year. I had nothing to lose. But you must remember that
I'm still a young rider with the team. My main goal is to learn and gain
experience. It might not have to be an attacking show in every race," said Sea
Keong. Sweetest of all last year was his solo attack entering his home town of
Kuala Krai on Stage Four of LTdL, where a large part of the population lined the
roads to provide a welcome fit for a hero.
"I will do that again this year. I know the race will be having some really
big names this year, so it will be even tougher. But if we keep on trying, a
breaking away each day, you never know what will happen. If I sit in the bunch,
waiting, I know what will happen. Nothing," said Sea Keong.
"Most important is to get to ride. I'm confident that the team has enough
trust in me to line me up in a big race like LTdL, despite some good new
signings in the team. So, first of all, it will be team orders. If the boss
gives me a ticket to attack, you can bet that I'll do it, over and over again,"
Stronger Trek/Marco Polo Squad - 2008
Big signings for the Trek-Marco Polo outfit come in the form of Chinese former
Discovery Channel Pro Team rider Li Fuyu, who makes a return after the Pro Tour
outfit folded at the end of last year. He joins another promising signing from
Giant Asia, Australian Jai Crawford, who many will remember, finished an
astonishing fifth in the Genting Highlands stage of LTdL last year.
Russian strongman Sergey Kudentsov will be the team's main sprinter and will
be backed by Japan's Ken Onodera and another Chinese rider Liu Yilin, apart from
the presence of Sea Keong. This line-up is subject to change, depending on the
availability of the team's new Dutch signing from the Rabobank Pro Tour team,
Leon Van Bon.
Meanwhile, a total of 25 teams will grace the 13th edition of the prestigious
LTdL. With the increased participation and the return of the Pro Tour teams,
combined with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who are the main
organizers for the event next year, the LTdL 2008 is set to be the best ever
since its inception in 1996.
The Tour is also sanctioned by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF),
the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the Asian Cycling Confederation.
One of the major differences in the coming Tour is the idea of taking it
closer to the people. To achieve this, more events will be organized on the
ground which means more carnival-like activities at all start and finish venues.
One of the side events to be included will be cycling clinics.
One of the priorities for the Tour next year is to promote cycling at the
grass root level. This will be done via the Rukun Tetangga and Kampung Baru
programmes. One of the other key messages will be to encourage more Malaysians
to take up cycling as a means to a healthier lifestyle.
Trek-Marco Polo (provisional line-up):
Jai Crawford (Aus), Sergey Kudentsov (Rus), Loh Sea Keong (Mas), Li Fuyu (Chn),
Liu Yilin (Chn) Ken Onodera (Jap).