Rujano reigns, Shaw succeeds on final day of Tour de Langkawi
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rujano reigns, Shaw succeeds on final day of Tour de Langkawi

by VeloNation Press at 9:58 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi

José Rujano took a small step towards winning this year’s Giro d’Italia today when he sealed overall victory in the Tour de Langkawi on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Winning in Malaysia in March is different to triumphing in Italy in May, of course, but taking the final general classification brings with it a big boost in his self-belief.

“This win is very important for me,” a yellow-clad Rujano said after a finishing sprint won by Stuart Shaw (Drapac Porsche). “It was important for my confidence, but also for my new team.

“I am very happy that ISD picked me for this year, after some time outside Europe. I can see that the team has done a great job for me this week. This is also a good sign for the Giro d’Italia, which is the most important race for me this year.”

Aside from his strong performance over the past seven days – in particular his dominating ride on yesterday’s Genting Highlands stage – Rujano is also likely to take encouragement from the fact that in riding the Tour de Langkawi, he is following a similar pattern to what he did in 2005.

Then, he finished second in the Genting stage and took second overall to Ryan Cox. Five years later, he’s hoping that his better performance here will pre-empt a winning performance in Italy.

“This year, the rhythm of the race was pretty high as many riders were in good condition,” he said, when asked how he could compare the 2005 version with this one, which has less big-name teams. “The Asian riders are improving, they are getting better legs year after year.

“The race went very well for me. I am very happy with the condition I have now and I have two months to go to improve it for the Tour of Italy.”

Rujano will take two week’s rest, then ride the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali [March 23 – 27], the Settimana Ciclista Lombardia [March 31 – April 5], the Giro di Trentino [April 20] and the Giro del Appennino [April 25].

It’s a solid-enough programme and that, plus heavy training in the mountains, is what Rujano hopes will hone his condition sufficiently to seal his first Grand Tour in two and a half month’s time.

Final stage, last chances:

His ISD-Neri team had its first chance to defend a yellow jersey today, and did so well. There were plenty of attacks from the drop of the flag, but anything dangerous was swiftly closed down. Some riders and groups were given a little bit of leeway, but not so much that it posed any problems for the race leader.

Even if Rujano’s overall lead would be difficult to challenge, there was still several other scores to settle. One of those was the King of the Mountains classification; yesterday, the little climber took over at the top when he won on Genting. He ended the day level on points with the previous leader Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche) but took the jersey by virtue of the fact that he won a HC-ranked prime.

McDonald indicated yesterday that he would do what he could to bounce back, and had strong team support in the first KOM prime at Batu Arang (km 41.3). He was first to the top, with his team-mate David Pell second and Rujano only third.

Neither of them disputed the final KOM climb in this year’s race, Batu Arang (km 50.6), which went to Irishman David McCann (Giant Asia) ahead of Dmytro Grabovskyy(ISD-Neri) and Ian McLeod (South Africa).

“It has been a long week, with lots of racing,” said a relieved McDonald afterwards. “There were little climbs to try to get a point here, get a point there. Yesterday I was a bit disappointed to miss out on a few opportunities leading up to the big climb [Genting Highlands]. I finished fourth up the big climb and to not actually have the jersey [was frustrating]….I needed one more point.

“Today worked out all right with the team. They did a good job to lead me out for the climb. They were very aggressive in the corners leading up to it, and that helped us to make the gap. I was able to get the sprint.”

Rujano’s team manager indicated yesterday that the team was not unduly worried about the classification, saying that it was happy that he had the yellow jersey. The fact that he sprinted for the first climb suggests that he may have had half a mind to defend  his lead but, as he explained afterwards, the terrain didn’t really suit him.

“For me, really, the most important thing was to win the yellow jersey today,” he said. “I tried to do the sprint but in mountains that are only 100 metre high, it is not really for me. I couldn’t keep the polka-dot jersey but I keep the yellow…that is what I wanted.”

Scrapping for the sprinter’s jersey:

The final stage saw another classification being decided, with the green jersey remaining on the shoulders of Anuar Manan (Geumsan Ginseng Asia). He started the day nine points clear of his closest rival Michael Matthews (Team Jayco-Skins), and said that he would only go for the intermediate sprints if Matthews did likewise.

In the end neither scored any points before the finish; the three intermediate sprints were won by Shaw, Christoff Van Heerden (South Africa) and Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling). Everything was left to be settled in the final gallop.

Both riders went for the stage victory, but the honours went instead to another rider. Shaw burst out of the bunch and hit the line ahead of the rest, nabbing a very nice win.

“I just had my appendix out and had surgery. I had three months off my bike and this is my first race in five months,” he said, clearly both surprised and elated. “The team sent me here, which was nice, to come and help Peter [McDonald] win the King of the Mountain and to help Adiq Othman.

“I just came here to help the team and every day I got a little bit stronger. Today I felt good near the sprint. So I had a bit of a go. It was a nice result.”

Manan was fourth, ten places better than Matthews, and ended the race an impressive 21 points clear in the best sprinter classification. He collected trophies, jerseys, prizemoney, but also massive cheers from a crowd who were fully behind him on this final stage.

“I got the green jersey, it is the best thing for me,” he beamed, when asked if this race had brought his best performance to date in cycling. “I won one stage and I took the green jersey too – I am very happy.”

His goal is now to head overseas and do a lot more racing, improving his sprinting power and tactics. “I have a good team now to bring me up from the Asian level,” he said. “The next step is that I am going to Europe and will be doing some races there.

“We will go to France for around three months, racing and training there. Maybe it is good for me, will help me develop more. If I have many, many races, perhaps I can improve my sprint. Then I can reach the same level as the ProTour sprinters.”

He said that he’d also consider changing teams next season in order to have greater exposure to top-level races.

Asian growth:

This year’s Tour de Langkawi saw a notable jump in the performances of the Malaysian and Asian riders. In previous years they had played second-fiddle to riders from more-established cycling countries, but there were a multitude of signs this time round that things were changing.

Manan’s green jersey success and stage win are obviously indicators, of course, but so too the stage victory of
Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team), the overall GC runner-up slot of Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling), the
team classification win by the Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling squad, plus the willingness of the Asian riders to simply get stuck right in and take the fight to the others in the peloton.

The race itself also moved forward considerably. After several years of instability, the 2010 version appeared very solid and well-run. The teams were happy, the officials worked well together and the vibes were positive. The hope is that next year will see the race dates change back to its earlier timeslot and the funding increase. Both would help guarantee bigger teams, ensure the retention of the race’s 2.HC status, and preserve the future of what is one of the most unique and colourful races on the international calendar.

Tour de Langkawi, Malaysia (2.HC, March 1 – 7):

March 7, Stage 7: Kuala Kubu Baru - Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur:

1 Stuart Shaw (Drapac-Porsche) 133.7 kilometres in 3 hours 1 min
2, Vidal Celis (Footon-Servetto)
3, René Haselbacher (Corratec-Vorarlberg)
4, Anuar Manan (Geumsan Ginseng Asia)
5, Ruslan Tleubayev (Kazakhstan National Team)
6, Tobias Erler (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
7, Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
8, Pierpaolo De Negri (ISD-Neri)
9, Hossein Nateghi (Azad University Team)
10, Richard Lang (Jayco-Skins) all same time

General Classification:

 1, José Rujano (ISD-Neri) 24 hours 7 mins 58 secs
2, Hyo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling) at 2 mins 7 secs
3, Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) at 2 mins 39 secs
4, Peter McDonald (Drapac-Porsche) at 3 mins 21 secs
5, Amir Zargari (Azad University Iran) at 4 mins 13 secs
6, Markus Eibegger (Footon-Servetto) at 4 mins 54 secs
7, Alexandr Shushemoin (Kazakhstan National Team)
8, Matthias Brandle (Footon-Servetto) at 4 mins 58 secs
9, Ghader Mizbani (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) at 5 mins 10 secs
10, Ahad Kazemi (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) at 5 mins 46 secs


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