Rujano bounces back, grabbing stage and yellow jersey
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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rujano bounces back, grabbing stage and yellow jersey

by VeloNation Press at 10:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi
 



As predicted prior to the race and as feared by his rivals in the event, José Rujano proved to be a class above the rest of the field on today’s penultimate leg of the Tour de Langkawi, blitzing to the stage win plus the yellow jersey.

The ISD-Neri rider dominated the climb of Genting Highlands, some five years after he placed second here to Ryan Cox and went on to finish as the runner-up in the general classification.

Rujano dropped all of the other riders on the mountain, and reached the line two minutes and nine seconds clear of the next finisher, Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling).

His performance fully justified the work his team had put in all week, controlling breakaway groups and limiting their gains. It did the same today on the run up to the final climb. Everyone knew that Rujano was the one to watch; nobody could do a thing about it.

 “My team did perfect work to prepare the terrain for me,” he said after the stage. “I was a bit scared in the last three kilometres as I had a hunger flat, but I managed to maintain my rhythm. I hope tomorrow that we can control the race again and that I can win the Tour de Langkawi, as expected.”

Rujano had seemed like one of the big new talents in cycling when, at 23 years of age, he won a stage, took the mountains jersey and finished third overall in the 2005 Giro d’Italia. A lucrative contract with Quick Step failed to bring about more success, though, and the Venezuelan faded from view.

He showed signs of a rejuvenation last year, though, winning the Vuelta a Columbia and Vuelta a Venezuela, then taking the Vuelta al Táchira earlier this season.

While those South American races don’t have the same standard field as European races, nor the same prestige, he said that winning there is no easy task. “Genting is a very hard climb. To compare things with Columbia, though, if you have a 15 day race, you have ten climbs like that. It is more complicated for me to win the races in South America.” The implication was that he may have spent 2009 with a small Venezuelan team, but that he was still racing at a good level while in their colours.

The rider that Rujano deposed, Tobias Erler, wasn’t too disappointed with how things turned out. He had predicted beforehand that he would have problems on something as steep as Genting, and so it came to happen.

“The climb was very hard but I enjoyed every meter in the yellow jersey,” he told Velonation afterwards. “I don’t know if I will be in this position again, so I really appreciated it.”

Erler has been studying to be a teacher and is considering stopping cycling this autumn. He loves the sport, but wants to have a family and feels he needs to change to a more stable career. He knows therefore that his time in cycling might be limited.

Holding the yellow jersey for several days was significant for him and the Tabriz Petrochemical squad. They performed strongly today and are now leading both the general teams’ classification and also that for Asian outfits.

He said that his tactics this week were designed to work towards those goals. “The last few days people said that they have never seen the yellow jersey working so much. But look at the team GC now and you can see why.”


Active stage, expected outcome:

As mentioned, the ISD-Neri team controlled things on today’s 102.8 kilometre stage from Putrajaya to the Genting Highlands. Whilst a number of breakaway groups were able to go clear, anything dangerous was not given much of a rein.

One effort of note was an attack by Christopher Jennings (South Africa National Team) and Vidal Celis (Footon-Servetto). Whilst they were brought back without too much panic, their foray off the front saw them take the first two places in the intermediate sprint at Kajang.

Points leader Anuar Manan (Geumsan Ginseng Asia) added two points to his total when he took third.

A longer lasting move was launched by Vorarlberg Corratec rider Silvere Ackermann, who accelerated clear on the third category climb of Bukit Indah. He grabbed the KOM points there, and also took green jersey points at Ampang (km 45.8) and Gomback (km 59.3).

Manan’s big rival Michael Matthews failed to score any points, making it very difficult now for him to win the green jersey.

He’ll nevertheless try tomorrow, as will Peter McDonald. The latter finished the day level with Rujano on  mountain points, but the jersey passed to the Venezuelan. McDonald always knew that it would be difficult to score highly on Genting, and had tried to nab second place on Bukit Indah. However Zainal Rizuan (Malaysia) scooped that and this one point difference would prove to be highly important.

“I need one more point. I am equal, apparently,” he said right after the finish. “It is a bit disappointing because I missed a few opportunities out the road. Anyway, I have a few more chances tomorrow. There are two climbs and while I don’t want to think about it [more climbing] right now, I will have to go for it.”


Showdown on Genting:

Ackermann was eventually hauled back 61 kilometres after the start, and things stayed more or less together until the start of the Genting Highlands climb. Manan and Erler were two of those who came under pressure and dropped back; Rujano was feeling good, and he turned the screw sixteen kilometres from the end.

He initially got clear with McDonald (Drapac Porsche Cycling), Ghader Mizbani (Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling), Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling), Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling) and Amir Zargari (Azad University Iran), but dropped all bar Askari soon afterwards.

The Iranian held on for another three kilometres, then he too cracked and slipped back. Rujano continued to gain time and finished far ahead of the next riders, taking the stage win, the yellow jersey and the King of the Mountains lead.

Gong put in a late charge and caught Askari, going on to finish second on the stage, move up to second overall and take over the blue jersey for best Asian rider.

Askari is 35 seconds back but with tomorrow’s stage being mainly flat, it is very difficult to envisage the blue jersey changing hands once again.

Anuar Manan had been at the top of that ranking but knew that Genting would be very difficult for a sprint specialist. He was not too worried, though, taking great satisfaction from the fact that he is a day – and two points – closer to victory in the green jersey competition.

He started the day with a nine point lead over his closest rival Michael Matthews. The Jayco-Skins rider needed to make inroads into Manan’s lead to help his chances of seizing back the jersey tomorrow, but failed to clock up any points today. That makes it mathematically difficult for him to make up the deficit now.

Manan is feeling good about his chances, and is focussing more on another aim tomorrow. “I am not worried about the green jersey now, I am confident,” he said. “I will try to win one more stage on the last day. There are many advantages for a sprinter like me, and I will try my best tomorrow.”

If he is to be challenged, his rival will need to pick up sufficient points in the intermediate sprints, then beat him at the finish.  Manan would prefer not to have to make big efforts until the end of the race, and so he said that he would monitor the Australian to see what he will do.

“Tomorrow I will be just watching Matthew. If Matthew wants to fight to get points, I will take points also. I know that if he gets points, he will be very close to me. I will [otherwise] try to save energy. I will try to win the stage tomorrow.”

The 2010 Tour de Langkawi comes to an end tomorrow with a mainly flat 133.7 kilometre race from Kuala Kubu and ending in Kuala Lumpur. It includes five laps of a 6.5 kilometre circuit, where that points competition will finally be settled. Before then, McDonald will have two mountain primes where he will try to take the KOM jersey back off Rujano.

He wasn’t sure how that would go but will be reassured by what ISD-Neri manager Luca Amoriello told Velonation. “We are very happy with the yellow jersey,” he said, implying that the team may not necessarily fight for the mountains prize.


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Le Tour de Langkawi, Malaysia (2.HC, March 1- 7)

March 6, Stage 6: Putrajaya - Genting Highlands:

1, José Rujano Guillen (ISD-Neri) 102.8 kilometres in 3 hours 4 mins 21 secs
2, Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling) at 2 mins 9 secs
3, Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 2 mins 36 secs
4, Peter McDonald (Drapac-Porsche) at 3 mins 22 secs
5, Amir Zargari (Azad University Iran)  same time
6, Alexandr Shushemoin (Kazakhstan National Team) at 4 mins 27 secs
7, Matthias Brandle (Footon-Servetto) at 4 mins 52 secs
8, Markus Eibegger (Footon-Servetto) same time
9, Ghader Mizbani (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 5 mins 2 secs
10, Ahad Kazemi (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 5 mins 36 secs


General Classification:

1, José Rujano Guillen (ISD-Neri) 21 hours 6  mins 58 secs
2, Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling) at 2 mins 7 secs
3, Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 2 mins 42 secs
4, Peter McDonald (Drapac-Porsche) at 3 mins 21 secs
5, Amir Zargari (Azad University Iran) at 3 mins 24 secs
6, Alexandr Shushemoin (Kazakhstan National Team) at 4 mins 32 secs
7, Matthias Brandle (Footon-Servetto) at 4 mins 54 secs
8, Markus Eibegger (Footon-Servetto) at 4 mins 58 secs
9, Ghader Mizbani (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 5 mins 12 secs
10, Ahad Kazemi (Tabriz Petrochemical) at 5 mins 46 secs

 

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