*photos by Le Tour de Langkawi 2017
CAMERON HIGHLANDS : Dimension Data continued its winning streak with Eritrea’s Mekseb Debesay coming first atop the mythical Cameron Highlands, beating Australia’s Cameron Bayly by the length of a bike while Ryan Gibbons, third on the line only four seconds later, retained the yellow jersey and therefore gave the South African outfit a good chance to become the first team to win three Le Tour de Langkawi in a row after Youcef Reguigui and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg did so in 2015 and 2016.
“This is my first big victory”, reacted Debesay who only joined the WorldTour giants last year. “We rode together with my team-mates all day. The finale was quite hard but I followed some good riders and I outsprinted them. It was always my childhood dream in Africa to become a successful professional cyclist. It’s a dream come true now. I’ve been inspired by my compatriots Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane. They’re my heroes and I want to ride the Grand Tours like them in the same way I did today.”
Bayly of IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness moved up to second overall as he finished right behind Debesay and ahead of a group of nine riders who surge atop the final climb and comprised hot favourites Egan Bernal and Daniel Jaramillo as well as race leader Gibbons. “This is definitely a good result”, Bayly analyzed. “I’m a little bit disappointed to get second and not to win, being so close, but at the end of the day I was just not quick enough for the sprint. There were quite a few attacks before.
The Androni team was really aggressive. Bernal was very strong. I attacked with 1.5km to go. The Dimension Data rider came to wheel. I had to lead the sprint out. It’s good to be second on GC. We’ve got another four stages to go with a few of our riders in the top ten. We’ll try to shake things out, we’re not gonna leave it.”
Gibbons who expected to be in yellow for the last time saved his jersey and became the favourite for the overall classification as he’s got potential to improve his lead throughout the time bonuses in the upcoming sprints. “I’m more shocked than you guys are to still lead the race”, the South African said.
“A group of guys rode away but my team mates kept looking back and saw that I was coming across. Thankfully they didn’t put the pace on. They did a good job making sure that I was still up there. Jacques Janse van Rensburg brought me back to the front a few times. Nothing in my history proved that I could climb that well. This is new for me. I was not bluffing. It’s a surprise for me that I’ve been able to stay up there.”
Stage 5 from Meru Raya to Kuala Kubu Bahru, close to Kuala Lumpur, on a distance of 151.5km, should suit the sprinters.
Organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia and managed by Ciclista Sports Sdn Bhd, the 22nd edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from 22 February to 1 March, 2017 is set to cover more than 1,200km over 8 stages, the UCI 2.HC (hors category) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.