Guardini keeps cool, wary of potential threats

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FAMOUSLY known as Mr Langkawi, Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini, with the favourites’ tag on his back, is wary of the threats from his potential rivals as he seeks to add to his record 24 victories in the 24th edition of PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2019 which starts off from Kuala Lumpur, tomorrow.

Depsite being under close scrutiny, the Bardiani CSF top sprinter does not consider himself as the chosen one, playing down his chances and said that each stage carries its own unique challenges.

All 132 riders, representing almost all continents, will be flagged off by none other than the “Father of Le Tour de Langkawi” himself, Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the country’s iconic landmark Petronas Twin Tower at 12pm tomorrow.

Tonight, all 22 teams were presented in a colourful ceremony filled with traditional performances and vibrant atmosphere at KLCC, marking the official start of the 24th edition of the race organised by Human Voyage Sdn Bhd, with full support by the the Mnistry of Youth and Sports.

The 8-stage race ends with a penultimate and the final stage in Langkawi on April 12 and 13. Genting makes a comeback after a 4-year hiatus.

Guardini expects the opening stage from Kuala Lumpur to Tampin to be a really intense and tough ride for sprinters due three hilly obstacles in Ampang, Bukit Putus and Bukit Tangga.

“As much as I can, I’ll avoid putting unnecessary pressures on myself, like setting targets in each stage. Each year, the race and stages pose different challenges.

“Furthermore, prior to flying in here, I accumulated only nine racing days and insufficient mileage. However, I regained my confidence after the recent win at the Trofi Istria …I feel good and ready for a good show in LTdL,” said Guardini who made his mark in 2011, winning three overall sprint titles including  last year’s Stage 1 and 8 in Kulim and Dataran Merdeka respectively.

Guardini reveals that Bardiani’s early strategy is to remain intact in the peloton and he is hoping that his lead out man will be in top shape to carry him through to the final line.

“The Genting climb definitely will be the hardest, but I’ll try as hard as I can to ensure that I have enough energy to keep me going right up to the hilltop,” said Guardini.

On his rivals, Guardini was quick to point to Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast rider Michael Freiberg who is here with impressive reputation as the Australian road champion.

On the local front, all eyes will be on Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) sprinter Hariff Saleh who is determined to end Malaysia’s drought after Anuar Manan feat in 2010 to emerge as the first Malaysian to win a stage in the 2.0 Hors race.

Hariff who flew home after concluding a three-week stint in Melbourne as part of the team’s preparation for LTdL 2019, was pretty upbeat about his chances this time around.

“Twice I was third in last year’s race…so this time around, I fancy my chances to do better,” said Hariff.

Teammate Youcef Reguigu will be TSG’s main man in the mountains and for the general classification and the team will be hoping on the Algerian to do well in Genting.

While all eyes are on defending champion Artem Ovechkin and Youcef Reguigui to do well in the climbs, Colombian Hernan Aguirre is expected to give the duo a run for their money if his past achievement, which include winning the Tour of Qinghai Lake early last year and fourth overall in the Tour of Rwanda, are anything to go by. 

All said, starting off with an intense opening ride from Kuala Lumpur right up to the final round island battle in Langkawi, fans and cycling enthusiasts are in for some great cycling action throughout the 1225.8km journey which takes riders across nine states in the Peninsula. 

Malaysian and European fans will be able to catch the action via a 90-minute live broadcast of the race and a 30-minute daily highlights throughout the eight-day event. Overall, LTdL is looking at a coverage of over 100 counties with 310 million viewers on television and 70 million viewers through Cycling.TV.

To enhance fan experience and to encourage the community to come out and support this event, accompanying activities will be held at the finishing location of each stage throughout the race.

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