Francesco Chicchi launches a late bid for Langkawi’s blue jersey
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Friday, March 01, 2013

Francesco Chicchi launches a late bid for Langkawi’s blue jersey

by Ben Atkins at 3:58 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi
 
Italian sprinter closes to within five points of Andrea Guardini

francesco chicchiFrancesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) is steadily closing in on the top of the points classification in the 2013 Tour de Langkawi, as he sprinted to second place in today’s ninth stage. Although he had a relatively slow start to the race - posting an eight and a sixth in the first two stages - the Italian has failed to miss the podium since his victory on stage four.

As blue jersey incumbent Andrea Guardini (Astana) struggles with the stomach bug that has swept the Langkawi peloton in recent days, Chicchi is edging closer.

Today’s ninth stage saw Chicchi battling for points at the intermediate sprints. He earned five for first place in the first sprint after just 13km, then crossed the line in third place - behind the two man breakaway - to take two more in the second sprint after 52km. Guardini himself took back two points in the third and final sprint, with 47km to go, but the net result was a five point gain for the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia rider.

“I’m trying to win the blue jersey, so today I stuck with Guardini,” Chicchi told VeloNation after the stage finish. “Guardini’s not in good condition, but the last sprint, at 85km, I didn’t go for because I thought it was better [to save myself for] the final sprint.”

In the final sprint Chicchi took second place, behind Europcar’s Bryan Coquard, but, with Guardini electing not to sprint - and rolling in more than a minute behind the peloton - Chicchi has closed the gap to the Astana rider, and now trails by just five points.

“Today was another day with the guy from Europcar,” Chicchi confirmed. “That guy’s really strong, he’s 20 years old. Tomorrow it will be another sprint again, and we will try to win another stage.”

With a number of teams losing riders to the stomach bug there were few volunteers to chase down the two-man break in today’s stage. Chicchi’s team lost Pierpaolo De Negri on stage six, but the five remaining riders were up to taking on most of the task today.

“We have only five riders, and it’s not possible for me to pull for the sprint,” Chicchi explained. “Today, it was only my team and only one guy from Europcar were pulling. My team is big, but not such a big team; we’re a small team and we’re trying to win this race.”

With Guardini too sick to attend the post-stage press conference he may not start the final stage; either way, Chicchi looks odds on to take the 23-year-old’s blue jersey at the end of the race.

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