Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 - Team Meitan Hompo - GDR
Young Gun Ng Yong Li continues his dream on the Meitan Hompo Japenese squad.
Stage winning brothers Shinichi & Koji Fukushima return. Team provisional start
Malaysian rider Ng Yong Li continues his dream in Le
Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2008
In his fourth straight appearance isn't the only reason this Young Gun from
Malaysia stands out in the crowd of world class riders. Yong Li has never
competed in the race with the same team twice; having made his debut in Asia's
biggest cycling event with the Proton T-Bikes team in 2005 at 18 years old, the
rider from Batu Pahat made a return with composite team Equipe Asia in 2006.
First Malaysian Professional Cyclist
In the 12th edition of the race last year, Yong Li, then 21 years of age was
riding and making history as Malaysia's first ever professional cyclist with
Portuguese team Vitoria-ASC. This time around, he has signed with the Japanese
outfit Meitan-Hompo GDR, and believes he has a team that shares the same dream
and ironically the same target - of earning a ride in the Tour de France by
Shinichi Fukushima celebrates his Victory in Karak. Photo c.
Team Meitan Hompo - GDR
The team features two of only three Asian stage winners in LTdL's
history in brothers Shinichi and Koji Fukushima. But as the sole climber in all
of the 12 riders in the team's roster for the 2007-2008 season, Yong Li has a
bigger responsibility. Known for his climbing ability, Yong Li almost secured a
top 10 finish in the Cameron Highlands stage last year, having been positioned
sixth in the penultimate climb leading to the finish. A crash in the final three
kilometres not only ruined his chances in that stage, in put him out of
contention for the Asian riders' jersey.
The Tour de Langkawi stage 7 - jersey leaders Loddo, Charteau and Shinichi
Fukushima Photo c. Bruno Bade
Meitan-Hompo GDR is currently based at their regular pre-season training camp
in Chiang Rai, Thailand and will be flying to Malaysia only shortly before the
start of LTdL 2008 in Alor Star, Kedah on February 9. The month spent there has
given Yong Li the chance to get to know his new team, although he has raced
against them on a number of occasions before.
"I've been told by the team manager Akira Asada that I've got a bigger
responsibility with this team, not just in the tour de Langkawi; but more
importantly in the European calendar, where we'll spend most of our time this
year," said 22-year old Yong Li.
"As I'm the only climber in the whole team, my plans will be for the mountain
top finishes. What is more important is the team and I share the same
aspirations. My target since I went to Europe in 2005, was to make it to the
Tour de France by 2010. This team wants to be the first Asian team to do so in
2010, so we've gelled right from the beginning," added Yong Li, who started his
career in the European peloton with Spanish team Wurth-Liberty Seguros in 2005.
"The first plan is to move up from continental to profesional continental
team and the management are working hard on that. Once we've done that, we will
earn some wildcard entries into Pro Tour races, then establish ourselves from
there. So, since LTdL will be the first race of the year for me, I'll probably
be heading there with 80 percent form and build up for the rest of the year from
Shinici Fukushima of team Nippo Meitan Hompo celebrates his win while Elia
Aggiano (Ita) of Tinkoff Credit Systems looks over his shoulder for the chasing
peloton - 7th Stage Le Tour de Langkawi 2007 from Kuantan to Karak .
Photo c. Tour de Langkawi
This team, apart from Giant Asia, are the Asian teams never to be discounted
in the Asian tour, as they have proven twice that they are capable of winning
stages - Koji did it in the Grik to Tanah Merah stage in 2005 and Shinichi in
Stage Seven of the LTdL from Kuantan to Karak last year.
Koji is undoubtedly among the most popular riders each time he makes his way
to LTdL. Playing the harmonica for fans and dishing out a few words of Bahasa
Malaysia along the way are just part of his repertoire, marked mainly by his
never ending eagerness to breakaway during the race.
The team also comes this year with a proven time-trialist in Thailand's Sea
Games individual time trial gold medal winner Prajak Mahawong, while Japan's
Takashi Miyazawa will again be the fast man the team counts on in bunch sprint
Taiwan's Wang Kyi is expected to make his debut in Langkawi, with the team
and at just 19-years old, is expected to be the youngest rider in the field this
year. Shinichi at 36-years old, is likely to be one of the oldest.
Meitan Hompo - GDR
Equipe Asada (provisional)
Shinichi Fukushima (Jap)
Koji Fukushima (Jap)
Ng Yong Li (Mas)
Prajak Mahawong (Tha)
Takashi Miyazawa (Jap)
Wang Kyi (Tai)
Meanwhile, a total of 25 teams will grace the 13th edition of the prestigious
tour de Lankawi. 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 forthcoming Tour is the idea of taking it
closer to the people. To achieve this, more events will be organised 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 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