road riding in Penang | Malaysia
Tour de Langkawi
With the TV and media coverage being, ummm, rather poor for this year's TdL, you can surely depend on TheDuh.com for your fix of Malaysia and Asia's top tour. We would honestly like to say that too, but for a variety of reasons, this year's collection of TdL articles numbers a grand total of one and it is coming out this long after the Tour has ended. Well, if you must know, TheDuh.com is somewhere near the bottom of the "Other Creditors" list and we're still waiting to be paid by management of TdL for the excellent work we did last year.
(Ok, that was evil - we're sorry, that's not true and we're doing this article for the love of it).
This year's TdL began and ended in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Along the way, it took in the ultra-long climb to Cameron Highlands (last raced about 3 years ago) and of course, the signature climb of Genting Highlands. Throw in one individual time trial in Malacca and the traditional final stage criterium around the streets of KL, and you have the 10-stage 2.HC race, Asia's highest ranked.
As you can see from the map above, the route was pretty "compacto" compared to editions of previous years. No east coast, no northern region, and certainly no East Malaysia (which the Tour visited only once in its 11-year history and ended up with a mountain of complaints over the long transfers). Having said that, the racing was definitely no less furious, judging from the comments we read here and there coming from the riders.
The penultimate stage, a 16km individual time trial was perhaps included in the hope of matching the style of the Grand Tours that nowadays schedule a TT stage near the end of the race. Maybe the intention was to create upsets in the General Classification, thereby ensuring suspense till the very end. That didn't actually happen, however, but it was still a good race.
So, here we were, your faithful reporters (myself and TheDuh.com official photographer, Andrew "Hats" Lee), watching the final stage, the 56km KL criterium. Genting on a weekday (and in the middle of the week no less!) made it hard for us to make our somewhat ritual pilgrimage up the 1,800 metre mountain - we have been there for the last 3 or 4 years - so the next best thing was the criterium which was on a Sunday.
We got to the stage start with just a few minutes to spare. We walked around checking out the team bikes and riders although there wasn't much to see as many riders were already at the start line. Some of them, of course, chose to hang around their team cars waiting for the very last moment before heading off. So here we find Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom) watering the flowers, or rather, watering the moss that was growing by the wall.....
Not a bad photo to start off your TdL article with, huh?
Andy Flickinger is 1.93 metres tall and you can see that from the size of his bike (shod with Campy's Eurus wheels). Since we're on Bouygues Telecom, check out the Stronglight Pulsion carbon fibre crank on their delicious Time VXRs, this one belonging to Laurent Lefevre:
You can see the cut out in the middle of the crank arm. Mmm... nice.
So, that's it for the bike photos (it is a dry year indeed....). On to the race proper then.
The criterium was to be run over 18-laps, which made it something like 3.1km per lap. It was fast, fast from the gun. To find out exactly how fast, I timed the second lap which was ridden at an average speed to 50.9km/h. We exchange incredulous looks.
Here are some shots of the charging peloton:
No article on the TdL would be complete without a photo of the local crowd favourite, Koji Fukushima:
The affable Japanese was even asked to play a harmonica at the stage start, which he duly did to the delight of the crowd.
Anyway, the action was getting all hot and heavy when the heavens open up quarter way through the stage. At that point a Spanish bloke was off the front [Angel Vallejo Dominguez (Relax-Gam)] and after the rain got heavier and heavier, the peloton rolled to a gentle stop at the start/finish line. After some discussion the riders agreed to continue the stage which was neutralised out of safety concerns. Senor Dominguez was declared the unofficial winner of this stage.
So that's it. Our TdL experience lasted all of 10km. Hoping for more next year, though.
2006 Tour de Langkawi final general classification:
George (RSA) South Africa 26 hours 43 min 55 sec
Other notable names from our memory are Mark Walters (12th) - we featured his bike last year; others are last year's champion Ryan Cox at 16th, Credit Agricole's up-and-coming young American Saul Raisin at 11th, Koji Fukushima (69th) and his brother Shinichi (24th), former mountain bike world champion Filip Meirhaeghe (74th), and Ruben "Tree Trunks" Bongiorno (96th).
Signing off, with TheDuh.com's version of PezCycling's "Daily Distraction":
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