Tour de Langkawi: Francesco Chicchi takes stage three in the hottest sprint so far
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tour de Langkawi: Francesco Chicchi takes stage three in the hottest sprint so far

by Ben Atkins at 3:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour de Langkawi
Italian continues giallo fluo tradition in Malaysian race

francesco chicchi Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) continued his giallo fluo team’s tradition of taking stage wins in le Tour de Langkawi as he sprinted to victory in the fourth stage, between Tapah and Kapar. The Italian managed to position himself on the wheel of Andrea Guardini (Astana) and then come around his 23-year-old compatriot in the closing metres.

Guardini - who was the rider to take all those victories for what was the Farnese Vini team - held on for his second second place of the 2013 race, ahead of Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge), who took his own second third place so far.

“Today we decided to watch what was happening because in the past three days we have worked very hard,” Chicchi explained afterwards. “The first two days it was for me, for the sprint, and yesterday we pulled for [Yonathan] Monsalve, who has ambitions for GC; he has won the Tour de Langkawi before [in 2011 - ed].

“Maybe it was a difficult three days, because of travelling from so far, so today we waited for the end,” Chicchi continued. “I decided to watch Andrea Guardini and, when he started sprinting with 300 metres to go, I was on his wheel and I could pass him.”

Chicchi’s victory was the twelfth for the giallo fluo team in the last three editions of the race, after Guardini’s record-breaking eleven in the previous two years. The team’s ambitions are not restricted to the sprints in 2013, however, as it prepared to take on the decisive stage to Genting Highlands the following day.

“For me and my team it was very important to win here, because for the team it is a big race,” Chicchi confirmed. “To win is difficult here, but tomorrow we will try to win again with Monsalve, the team is in good condition and we’ll to pull for him.”

On the hottest day of the race so far, the break of the day came from Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Phuchong Sai-Udomsin (OCBC Singapore) and Taiji Nishitani (Aisan). The three riders escaped after 24km and were allowed to open up an advantage of 6’20” over the peloton. Race leader Wang Meiyin’s Hengxiang team was left to do most of the controlling of the break, with the sprinters’ teams only joining the chase in the closing 50km.

Double stage winner Theo Bos’ team led the peloton into the final kilometres but, with the Dutch sprinter feeling sick during the stage, the Astana, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Orica-GreenEdge teams took over as the line approached. Guardini was launched at the line by his Astana team, but Chicchi took his wheel and managed to come past at the finish.

Having sat near the front all day, Wang allowed himself to drift back in the approach to the sprint and finished comfortably in the middle of the peloton. The Chinese rider maintained his overall lead of 2’43” over Julian Arrendondo (Team Nippo-De Rosa), with the big stage to Genting Highlands to follow the next day.

The Heat is On but the break takes time to get going

The 168km stage began in the same was as in the three previous days, with a frenetic flurry of attacks as multiple riders tried to get into the break of the day. It wasn’t until the 24th kilometre, however, that Arashiro, Sai-Udomsin and Nishitani finally managed to escape.

Wang’s Hengxiang team took on the responsibility of policing the trio’s progress, and allowed the trio to build a lead of 6’20” as it approached the first intermediate sprint, in Teluk Intan after 40.2km.

“Yesterday was a hard day so today if I go in the group the team doesn’t have to work,” Arashiro explained to VeloNation after the stage. “I wanted to get more and more minutes, but only [six] minutes is not so much.”

Through the feedzone, after 83km, the gap had been reduced to 4’02” by the Hengxiang riders, where it was to stay until the second sprint of the day, in Sungai Besar at the 89km point. From there it was to gradually increase until, with 50km to go, it had risen to 5’04, whereupon the sprinters teams began to lend their support to the chase

Astana, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Blanco sent Assan Bazayev, Bert Grabsch and Marc Goos forward respectively, and the gap began to fall again. Up front Sai-Udomsin was no longer able to contribute, and only the two Japanese riders in the break were resisting the attentions of the peloton.

“It was really hard,” Grabsch told VeloNaton afterwards. “It looked not so hard, but it’s so hot; the heat costs a lot of energy, and when you are riding only 50km you feel really tired.

“The Chinese team did a good job, they let the break only [have] five minutes, and it was perfect for us then,” the former World time trial champion added. “Then we came only in the last 50km, with just one guy, and the rest only have to pull for the sprint.”

With 40km to go the gap was down to 2’50, and was down to 1’44” as Arashiro led across the line at the third intermediate sprint, in Kuala Selangor with 30km to go. With a crosswind now hitting the three breakaway riders, the gap was tumbling quickly so, with little more than 15km to go, Arashiro dropped his two companions and went off alone. The former Japanese champion was visibly tiring at this point, however, and was struggling to hold his advantage over the fresher Astana, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Blanco riders behind him.

“It was difficult in the breakaway group,” Arashiro said. “Me and the other Japanese - Nishitani - when we hit the wind with 15km to go we had no chance.”

All over for Arashiro as the inevitable sprint approaches

Approaching the final ten kilometres, Arashiro held just a few seconds over the strung out peloton behind him, and was finally caught just before he passed the banner. With the break now over, other teams began to bring their sprinters forward, and the different sprint trains began to compete for the head of the peloton.

Europcar, having sat in the bunch with Arashiro up the road, came forward to take over at the front, but the French team soon found itself swamped by Blanco, leading Bos to what it hoped would be his third stage victory.

With five kilometres to go there was an attack from Lufti Fauzan of the Malaysian National Team. He managed to open up a lead of around 100 metres over the strung out peloton, but he was calmly reeled in by the calm efforts of Champion System and Blanco inside the final two kilometres.

Blanco continued to lead the peloton into the final kilometre, with Australian Graeme Brown preparing to deliver Bos to the final 250 metres as usual. The Dutchman was not there, however, as he had drifted back into the peloton suffering from sickness.

Astana then led Guardini into the finish and the eleven-time Langkawi stage winner launched himself with 300 metres to go; the 23-year-old had gone a little too early, however, and Chicchi was able to come around his compatriot to take his first victory in the giallo fluo colours of his new team.

With virtually the entire peloton finishing in the same time, Wang’s lead remained intact going into the decisive Genting stage; the only change at the top of the general classification was a slight reshuffling of the pack behind the Chinese rider, based on the finishing positions of those on the same time as one another.

Result stage 4
1. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
2. Francesco Guardini (Ita) Team Astana
3. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp
5. Andy Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6. Aldo Ilesic (Slo) UnitedHealthcare Procycling
7. Ruslan Tleubayv (Kaz) Team Astana
8. Aunur Manan (Mas) Synergy-Baku Cycling Project
9. Takeaki Ayabe (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team
10. Kazuhiro Mori (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team

Standings after stage 4
1. Wang Meiyin (Chn) Hengxiang Cycling Team
2. Julian Arrendondo (Col) Team Nippo-De Rosa @ 2’43”
3. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp @ 3’29”
4. Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge @ 3’33”
5. Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka
6. Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System @ 3’35”
7. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Yonathan Monsalve (Ven) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
9. Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Team Nippo-De Rosa
10. Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step


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