TSG Terengganu cycling team will be under the microscope in the upcoming Le Tour de Langkawi as they enter the fray with favourites’ tag on their backs.
The 24th edition of the tour will start on April 6 in Kuala Lumpur from the Petronas Twin Tower and will end on April 13 in Langkawi.
TSG’s Artem Ovechkin grabbed the tour’s yellow jersey in the last edition.
The eight-stage race, which will cover a total of 1,250km on the west coast route of Western Malaysia, will see teams from the WorldTour, Pro-Continental, Continental and national outfits vying for honours.
It was a strong feat by TSG last year following the historical achievement of becoming the first Asian team to win the overall individual title in the tour’s 23-year history.
With Genting Highlands back in the picture, TSG are banking on their seasoned climbers to be in top shape to deliver the results. Apart from the 33-year-old Ovechkin, the team are looking at former Mitchelton BikeExchange rider Drew Morey to form a formidable force with Ovechkin in the mountains.
Besides Ovechkin and Morey, 2015 winner Youcef Reguigui, the former MTN-Qhubeka rider who came in third overall in the recent African Continental Championships, is also in strong contention to excel in the race. Finishing fourth in the recent Tour of Gabon, Reguigui will be flying in with sufficient mileage in his legs to mount a strong challenge for the top honours.
On the sprint, TSG, with Mohd Zamri Salleh as the leader, are expected to be among the force in the challenges with Mohd Hariff Saleh recognised as among the top sprinters in the peloton.
TSG Chief Operating Officer Nasiruddin Wan Idrus said with the inclusion of Genting, the team are not putting unnecessary pressures on the riders and have set a modest target of a top-five finish in the general classification and two podium finishes.
“Artem and Drew are our main men in the mountains while Harrif and Youcef will have their sights set on podium finishes based on their strength and previous achievement,” he said.
“Zamri remains as leader while the experienced Nur Amirul Fakhruddin Marzuki will take up the domestic role in the Tour,” he added.
Russian Ovechkin is in top shape, coming in straight from three major Asia Tour races – Rondas Pilipina in the Philippines, Tour of Antalya and the Tour de Taiwan – last week. Morey, meanwhile, was fourth overall in the Oceania Road Race championships.
TSG are currently second on the UCI Asia Tour ranking list, 32 points behind another Malaysian continental outfit Team Sapura Cycling who are at the top of the table with 1,222 points. – Le Tour de Langkawi