3/6/2013 - TEAM NEWS!
Chicchi kicks to victory on final stage into Kuala Terengganu
Le Tour de Langkawi 2013
Arredondo maintains tradition with general classification win at Langkawi
Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini - Selle Italia) claimed his second win at Tour de Langkawi on the final day of racing into Kuala Terengganu while the yellow jersey of Julián Arredondo (Team Nippo - De Rosa) finished in the main group to claim the overall title. Chicchi had a perfectly timed run to the line to beat Rico Rogers (Synergy - Baku), who had jumped early, into second-place while Graeme Brown (Blanco) finished third.
Chicchi latched on the wheel of Rogers who hit out during the the disorganised rush to the line to comfortably take his second win of the tour while nine-time stage winner Brown rounded out a successful tour for Blanco with third place after moving out of his lead-out role following the withdrawal of an ill Theo Bos. Chicchi, along with the stage win, captured enough points to pull on the points leader's jersey at the end of the day.
"I'm very happy, for me and my team," said Chicchi at the finish in Kuala Terengganu. "We wanted to win one stage and we pulled all day for the win. We won stages and the blue (points) jersey, we are very happy.
"This team has worked a lot for me. This year there were a lot of sprinters like Theo Bos and myself. [There are] great sprinters from big ProTeams. We are just happy with what we have achieved here," Chicchi added.
"I'm always strong at the beginning of the season and this year is different because I am considered one of the leaders. This is not a WorldTour team but it's a team where we are united and friends. Our friendship makes it a great team, even if we are not in the WorldTour."
The former points leader Andrea Guardini (Astana) has not recovered from his bout of food poisoning from the day before and lost his lead in the classification after Chicchi took maximum points across the finish line. Asked if he felt sorry for Guardini, considering his position Chicchi said: "Hey, what can I do? I came here with the goal of winning the points jersey and I got it. I've been lucky once in 10 years".
Julián Arredondo took the biggest victory in his short career by claiming the overall. The Colombian who signed for Team Nippo in 2012 began his assault on the general classification with a fine second-place into Cameron Highlands before stamping his authority on the race atop the savage Genting Highlands.
"I've prepared for this race very well and have been able to mentalise the preparation for Tour de Langakwi," said overall winner Arredondo.
"The difference from last season when I had Visa problems has been resolved. I've raced Langkawi in a small team but everyone from the team has done their best on the road."
"This team is like a family and in the difficult moments of the race they have remained close to me.
The 24-year-old had already displayed his climbing prowess last season when he took a stage victory at Tour of Japan on his way to second-overall at both Japan and Tour of Kumano. Arredondo had been a predominant name amongst the results sheet in the under-23 ranks but his stage win and overall success at Langkawi proved his ability at the senior level.
"I hope this is only my first victory and there are many more to come," said Arredondo.
"I hope to have the opportunity to join a big team and I've made a lot of sacrifices to reach that goal," he added.
Victory laps for Arredondo
There was an air of certainty on the final stage at Tour de Langkawi as race leader Julián Arredondo (Team Nippo - De Rosa) merely had to finish the stage in the main group to seal his biggest win to date.
The final stage was Tasik Kenyir to Kuala Terengganu featured three intermediate sprints and no categorised climbs. The KoM jersey had been wrapped up on the previous day by Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang Cycling Team) who, like Arredondo had to complete the stage before being officially crowned the KoM classification winner.
It was a more relaxed start to the final stage which began under the hot afternoon sun and with only 114.8km remaining in the race, those looking for a bit of personal glory had one final chance to show their stuff.
The flag dropped and six riders took off from an uninterested bunch. The group contained Diago Rosa (Androni Giocatolli), Meron Russom (MTN - Qhubeka), Amin Sharul (Terengganu), Seo Keong Loh (OCBC), Yasuharu Nakajima (Aisan Racing Team) and Rauf Nur Misbah (Malaysian National Team).
After covering 15km the breakaway group had two minutes over the Vini Fantini squad who were hoping to set up Francesco Chicchi for his second stage win. Chicchi would also be hoping to take some intermediate sprint points along the way, starting the day five points behind Andrea Guardini (Astana) in the points classification.
The group continued to work well together and maintained around two minutes advantage until the first intermediate sprint at 47.4km. Shortly before reaching that point Nakajima was dropped from the break - leaving five riders out front.
There was a bit of cross wind entering the town of Kuala Terengganu and this caused an increase in pace in the main bunch. The gap dropped to less than a minute and shortly after the break was again reduced, this time leaving Rosa and Rauf out in front.
Rosa was the driving force in the two-man group with Rauf clearly struggling to keep up with the pace of his more experienced companion. He continued however to try and go blow for blow with the Androni rider but coming through the finish line for the first of six laps around the seaside town.
The 5km circuit had a number of corners to negotiate but the final 2km were perfect for the destined bunch sprint. On the second lap Rauf was dropped leaving Rosa to try and hold off the Europcar and Vini Fantini lead bunch.
Pierre Rolland was pulling long turns in the hope of leading his neo-pro teammate Bryan Coquard to three straight stage victories and with just one rider out front, the bunch sprint seemed a forgone conclusion.
Rosa continued to push a big gear around Kuala Terengganu, tucking himself into an aero position as the bunch set themselves up for the first intermediate at 82.4km.
Guardini was clearly feeling better after a night recovering from food poisoning and had his Astana train alongside the Europcar pace-setters. Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp) started the day seven seconds behind Wang and looked to move himself into fifth-overall by opening his sprint early. Guardini however, had locked onto the Australian's wheel and easily beat him to the line. Guardini took his desired points and Haas had to be content with picking up a single second while Andrey Kashechkin took fourth.
The lone rider out front was doing his best but the steady increase in pace began to eat into his advantage. At the start of the third lap Rosa had a 30-second lead with Hengxiang at the front of the peloton.
Hass and his teammate Pete Stetina were hovering around the front coming into the final straight with the duo hitting out 500m before the finish line. Chicchi and Guardini appeared content to let the points be swallowed up and Haas took first across the line to move another three-seconds closer to the position of Wang.
He would however, need to feature in the final sprint to leap frog Wang into fifth. The final few kilometres were unorganised compared to the previous stages and with 2km to go it looked like any number of riders would claim the stage.
Astana were the first to really hit out after capturing a move by UnitedHEalthcare but at 350m to go it was Rico Rogers (Synergy - Baku) who looked certain to win. The Australian rider had put in a huge effort but perhaps it was 100m or so too soon as Chicchi had the tactical nous to follow the wheel. Chicchi patiently awaited the time to move and when he did the victory was certain.
Chicchi performed another unique salute while passing under the finishing banner, celebrating not only the second win of the tour but also the points classification jersey - which he pulled off the shoulders of Guardini, who had been struggling with illness.
Arredondo had rarely moved from the front positions throughout the day and crossed the line in the same time as his other general classification rivals to take the Langkawi title for his small Continental Team Nippo squad.
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Photo: © Roberto Bettini