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Tour de Langkawi - 2003
By Podofdonny
Date: 12/22/2002
Tour de Langkawi - 2003

Tour de Langkawi, January 31-February 9 2003 UCI 2.2

Into the Genting Highlands!

The absence of the Mapei team and Malaysia’s most popular rider , Andrea Tafi , is more than compensated when four former winnersof the Le Tour de Langkawi clash against each other in next year's race scheduled from January 31 to February 9, 2003.

The stage is all set for an exciting battle between two Italians, an American and a Colombian, winners of the 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 editions, who will line up at the start for the 2.2-ranked race which offers more world ranking points to riders and teams. All four are formidable climbers with three of them having won the coveted title after winning the decisive stage in Genting.

Topping the list is reigning champion Hernan Dario Munoz of Selle Italia, who is bidding for his second overall win in the race. The Colombian is set to reproduce his scintilating performance this year especially when the peloton goes to the mountains. Munoz was in a class of his own, strutting his stuff with a commanding performance to crush his rivals in Genting and subsequently won the Telekom Malaysia Yellow Jersey.

Dario Munoz

Munoz ended his season with three victories , the overall champion of 2002 Tour de Langkawi, Stage 9 in Tour de Langkawi and Stage 12 in Vuelta a Colombia in July.

"It was really a big win for me as no other non-European riders have managed to win the race before. Of course, I'll be going all out to defend my title," said Munoz, who started his professional career in 1996 with Antioquia-Loteria de Medellin.

The Colombian Cycling Federation has announced the team that will support Hernán Darío Muñoz Joining Muñoz in the Malaysian stage race will be Uberlino Mesa, John Freddy García, Freddy González, Rubert Albeiro Marín and Mijkhael Kalilov.

Meanwhile, Italian Paolo Lanfranchi, the only two-time winner in the race's seven year history (1999 and 2001), returns to Malaysia for his fourth appearance in the race with a new team, hoping to record another major result in his palmares of becoming the only rider to become three-time winner of the race. The Gazzaniga-born Italian, who joined the pro ranks in 1993, left Index Alexia to join Panaria Fiordo this season and his climbing skills will again be tested to the limit. Lanfranchi's bid to record a hattrick suffered badly following an unimpressive performance which saw him managing only 8th overall this year. LTdL 2003 is high on Panaria's priority list this year and Lanfranchi is the team's main man to achieve the target.

Mapei in Command 2001

Having won the overall honours in 1999 and 2001 with the then Mapei team, Lanfranchi's presence in the peloton will certainly be closely watched. The year 2003 mark Lanfranchi's fourth appearance in LTdL. He has been riding in Malaysia since1999 with three different teams - Mapei Quickstep in 1999 and 2001, Index-Alexiain 2002 and for Panaria next year. Lanfranchi was Panaria's final signing this season, completing a list of 13 riders in the team's roster for 2003.

Lanfranchi's major achievements this year include third overall in the GP Kantan Aargau in Switzerland (UCI-category 1.1) in June, 12th overall in Milan-San Remo in March and 8th overall in 2002 Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi. Lanfranchi is known for his climbing skills and despite managing 9th in this year's Genting climb, the Italian will still be favoured to excel in the brutal climb.

Meanwhile, Brown, a member of the four-man team that smashed the world 4km record at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, created waves and received rave reviews in his first year as a professional rider after winning two stages in this year's LTdL. Brown's strong performance this year has earned him respect from his rivals and the Australian will be aiming to reproduce the form that saw him won two stages in this year's LTdL.

The 22 year-old Sydney-born Brown earned honours in this year's Commonwealth Games (4km Team Pursuit and Scratch Race), winner of points race in the Track World Cup in Russia, stage wins in LTdL (Stage 6 and Stage 10). He also finished second behind world champion and the legendary Mario Cippolini in Stage 1 of this year's Giro d'Italia.

According to First Cartel Executive Chairman Datuk Wan Lokman Wan Ibrahim, Panaria will be among the teams to watch next year. "Even without one of its most successful riders Enrico Degano, who has joined a different team, Panaria's line-upis quite formidable," he said.

Having been in the peloton since 1998, Panaria aims to scale greater heights in their sixth appearance next year. The last two years saw them accumulating six stage wins in the race while the team's biggest victory came in 2000 when Julio Alberto Perez won the King of the Mountains title title who once again , will be expected to dominate in the Genting Highlands.To read an article on “Lucky” click HERE

The inclusion of some young guns and new professional riders should provide the team with a balanced strength. Former world junior champion Brett Lancaster of Australia, who was with team this year, is out to achieve bigger feats with the Italian team.

Sergey Matveyev is another old hand of the team in and having won stages in Circuit Des Mines (2.5) and Grand Premio Europa (1.5), the Ukrainian is also Panaria's hopeful. Completing the LTdL roster are Italian Filippo Perfeto, in his third year as a pro and new professionals Guillermo Buongiorno of Argentina and Scott Davis of Australia.

RIDERS: Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) . Filippo Perfetto (Ita) . Graeme Brown (Aus) .Brett Lancaster (Aus) . Sergey Matveyev (Ukraine) . Guillermo Buongiorno (Arg) .Scott Davis (Aus)

Horner in Yellow 2000

American Chris Horner, who last competed in the race last year, will also be looking to revive the sweet memories of winning the 2000 title with the then Mercury team. The 30 year-old Californian, has left Prime Alliance to join Saturn next year. He has extensive international experience, including a victory at the Tour of Langkawi (Malaysia) and 5 years of racing with major international teams.

A dominating multi-purpose rider, Horner's his major feats this year include clinching 7th overall in the First Union Classic (ranked 1.3) in June and 9th overall in the San Francisco GP in September.Expected to help Chris in his search for yellow will be new signing , Australian Nathan O’Neill. O’Neill has raced the past three years for the Italian Ceramiche Panaria Team and is looking forward to bringing his strength as a time trialist and all-around rider to the Saturn squad. Twenty-eight-year-old O’Neill represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in the time-trial event, and went on to finish eighth in the 2001 World Championships in the same event.

Missaglia in yellow 1998

Among the four, Lampre's Gabriele Missaglia of Italy will be the most hard pressed to win the title. After a lapse of four year, Missaglia will have a lot of catching up to do and need to get himself quickly acquainted to the Malaysian heat and terrain should he harbour hopes to be in yellow at the end of the race. In 1998, Missaglia took the race leader's jersey with just one day to go in 1998. Missagli'as best achievement this year was 2nd in GP Citta di Camaiore (ranked1.2) and 8th overall in the World Cup race Rondevan Vlaanderan in Netherland inApril. First Cartel Executive Chairman Datuk Wan Lokman Wan Ibrahim said the presence of the four former winners would surely add spice and excitement to the 2.2 race. "Too bad, Luca Scinto of Italy, the 1997 winner, won't be around for next year'srace. it would have been a grand reunion of past winners of the race," said Wan Lokman. Scinto, who rode in this year's LTdL with Mapei, won the 1997 edition with the then MG Technogym team after a commanding win in Genting Highlands. To read about Scinto’s decision to retire click HERE

The 2.2 race, offering more world ranking points and a total prize money of RM1.5million, has so far attracted 20 teams including 13 professional teams. The 10-stage race, the eighth edition in its series, will cover a total distance of 1,343 km and isscheduled to start in Langkawi with a time trial race on January 31.

Other Teams in the Race

Newly-merged team Flanders-Iteamnova of Belgium and division two outfit Marlux-Nixdorf are the latest addition to the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi 2003 which runs from Jan 31 to Feb 9.

With the inclusion of both teams, the race now has a pool of 21 teams which includes 14 professional teams (five division one and 9 teams from the second division). Six national teams and composite team, Telekom Malaysia made up the rest of the field for the eighth edition of the race, which flags off at Langkawi Island on Jan 31. Team Gerolsteiner, who had earlier indicated their interest to compete in the race, pulled out due to commitment with its sponsors.

First Cartel Executive Chairman Datuk Wan Lokman Dato' Paduka Wan Ibrahim said both Flanders-Iteamnova and Marlux are capable of giving the top teams a run for their money.

"Iteamnova put up a creditable performance in their debut appearance this year and with some good climbers and all-rounders, the Belgian outfit should be able to improve on their performance," said Wan Lokman.

Having made their debut this year, Iteamnova will enter the fray with some valuable knowledge on the condition of Malaysian terrain. The merger with RDM-Flanders and the presence of some Belgian riders in the outfit should provide the team with added strength. Among the notable and familiar names in its 2003 set up are Allan Iacuone, David McKenzie and Dominique Perras.

Marlux-Nixdorf, meanwhile, makes their debut and it would be interesting to see how the Belgium-based team will fare in the 10-day race. In its bid to make impact this season, Marlux has signed several notable riders such as Lithuanian Raivis Belohvosciks of Lampre and Saulius Ruskys of Gerolsteiner, French rider Charles Guilbert of Bonjour and Sébastien Mattozza from Landbouwkrediet

As well as the professional teams there will be seven national teams taking part. South Africa, Iran, Japan, Canada, Philippines, Malaysia and Telekom Malaysia have entered.

South Africa’s , Malcolm Lange , who has recently signed with Microsoft has been named in a squad that has a handful of Microsoft riders, including Owen Hannie, Simon Kessler, Johan van der Bergh and Morné Bester. Making up the rest of the team will be two riders currently in between teams - Ross Grant, who rode for EDS before they folded recently after just a year of existence and David George, who is reported to be on the verge of signing for an European team.

Despite HSBC and Barloworld deciding to withhold their riders from team South Africa, it is by all accounts a strong squad for an event in which South Africans generally fare well. The SA team finished second in the 2002 race and boasted impressive individual displays. Robert Hunter, riding for Italy's Mapei-Quickstep, finished second overall, winning three stages. George, after a stunning ride in the testing Genting Highlands mountain stage, in which he finished second, was third overall.

George is the man to watch for South Africa. He won the 2002 Giro de Capo on the final day when he out-duelled Daniel Spence on the final time trial. He has the strength to ride as well in Malaysia. The organisers are still waiting to hear if he will be available for the team. If not, then Douglas Ryder, who captained the South African team this year, will step in.

Lange, who was easily South Africa's best rider and sprinter on the domestic scene this year, will be targeting stage wins, hoping to emulate the three that Hunter picked up.

Team: Malcolm Lange, Simon Kessler, Johan van der Bergh, Morne Bester, Owen Hannie, Ross Grant, David George. Reserve: Douglas Ryder. Management: Manager: Gary Stanley. Physio: Leslie Abrahams. Mechanic: Mally Claasen

Meanwhile last seasons sensation , new Rabobank signing , Robert Hunter of South Africa will miss January’s Tour of Langkawi in which he won three stages in 2002. Rabobank will not be at the race because the sponsor does not have any interest in spreading it’s name outside Europe and so do not race at Langkawi or the Tour Down Under with team manager Jan Raas prefering to hone the teams preparation within Europe. Hunter who will be leaving South Africa in mid January to travel to Europe to meet up with the squad commented, “Rabobank aren’t worried about all the early season tours like the Tour de Langkawi and the tour Down Under.” Hunter’s pre season work will concentrated on getting him into top form for the Spring Classics.

Tonton Susanto best Asian Rider 2002

Meanwhile the chase for the coverted Blue jersey of best Asian rider will again be between riders such as 2002 winner Tonton Susanto (Indonesia) a superstrong rider, good time trialist and climber, Fukushima , Wong Kam Po , Espiritu , Quirimit and Mizbani .

Naturally Malaysia is in full selection process for their team at the present time . With the top five places almost confirmed, the rest of the trainees will have just one last chance to prove that they warrant the remaining two places in the squad for Le Tour de Langkawi next month.

This follows Mohd Shahrulneeza Razali's comfortable win on the 168km second stage of trials in Bagan Lalang in Selangor with Wong Ah Thiam second and Nor Effandy Rosli third.

From the first two trials, it seems likely that the team will be comprised of Ah Thiam, Shahrulneeza and Nor Effandy with the remaining spot being a tough fight between Mahazir Hamad and Musairi Musa from the seniors.

From the juniors in the meantime, it is likely that the Senior Development Committee will take on Suhardi Hassan, Sayuti Zahit and Sazali Ismail.

Suhardi is perhaps the most talented of the ten juniors currently on trials having won the second stage of the recent Tour of Taiwan, edging out eventual tour winner Wong Kam Po in the last kilometre.

"It is still a little difficult to say with any certainty who will make the cut as the climb up Genting Highland could well decide the overall look of the team," said team manager Amrun Misnoh.

"Sure it will be the last stage but consideration has to be taken on the whole picture instead of just who is in the lead after two stages of the trials."

After the 168km stage in Bagan Lalang, Ah Thiam is still in the overall lead after his win in Terengganu on Dec 16.

The Teams

1. Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ ? ITA

2. Credit Agricole FRA

3. Index Alexia ITA

4. Lampre-Daikin ITA

5. Colombia-Selle Italia COL

6. Ceramiche Panaria Fiordo ITA

7. De Nardi Colpack SVK

8. Palmans-Colstrop BEL

9. Formaggi Trentini ITA

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita), Moreno Di Biase (Ita), Biagio Conte (Ita), Elio Aggiano (Ita), Antonio Rizzi (Ita), Domenico Gualdi (Ita), Hector Mesa (Col)

10. EDS Fakta DEN

11. Relax-Fuenlabrada ESP

12. Saturn Cycling Team USA

13. Flanders-Iteamnova BEL

14. Marlux-Nixdorf BEL

15. Canada CAN

16. Phillipines PHI

17. Iran IRI

18. Japan JPN

19. Malaysia MAS

20. South Africa RSA

Malcolm Lange, Simon Kessler, Johan van der Bergh, Morne Bester, Owen Hannie, Ross Grant, David George. Reserve: Douglas Ryder. Management: Manager: Gary Stanley. Physio: Leslie Abrahams. Mechanic: Mally Claasen

21. Telekom Malaysia.

The Stages

Stage 1 - Langkawi (Time Trial) - 31 Jan 2003, Friday | 9.5 km

Stage 2 - Kangar - Butterworth - 1 Feb 2003, Saturday | 148.3 km ; flat stage ending with 3 circuits of a 8km circuit before the eventual finish

Stage 3 - Kulim - Ipoh - 2 Feb 2003, Sunday | 169.6 km ; another one for the sprinters

Stage 4 - Gerik - Tanah Merah - 3 Feb 2003, Monday | 172.9 km ; two climbs in the first 70 kilometres but the sprinters should pull it all back together for the finale .

Stage 5 - Kota Bharu - Kuala Terengganu - 4 Feb 2003, Tuesday | 179.1 km ; the escapees will try but probably one for the sprinters

Stage 6 - Marang - Cukai - 5 Feb 2003, Wednesday | 136.3 km ; short stage may encourage the “fuyards”

Stage 7 - Kuantan - Bentong - 6 Feb 2003, Thursday | 196 km ; first real test rolling roads , heat and humidity will take their toll

Stage 8 - Menara Telekom, KL - Seremban - 7 Feb 2003, Friday | 112.5 km ; another hard day in the saddle

Stage 9 - Seremban - Genting Highlands - 8 Feb 2002, Saturday | 143.7 km ; the infamous 25kilometre climb that decides the race nicknamed the Alpe d’Huez of Malaysia

Stage 10 - Kuala Lumpur Criterium- 9 Feb 2002, Sunday | 6.3 km x 12 laps = 75.6 km ; traditional criterium finish display and well deserved kisses from the misses for the winners!

All photos and special thanks to the official site - please pay this excellent site a visit by clicking HERE

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