ARVID de Kleijn of Tudor Pro Cycling Team charged strongly ahead of the other frontrunners in a close bunch sprint to take the opening stage of the PETRONAS LE Tour de Langkawi 2023 from Kerteh to Kuala Terengganu.
It was indeed a sweet victory for the 29-year-old Dutchman, fondly known as “Little Gorilla”, who is making his maiden appearance with the Swiss-based team in the 27th edition of Asia’s ProSeries race.
Today’s stage win saw De Kleijn emerging as overall race leader which earned him the PETRONAS Green Jersey as well as the KBS Orange Jersey as leader in sprints classification.
Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team got off to a promising start with climber and two-time KOM jersey winner, Muhammad Nur Aiman Zariff taking the TOURISM MALAYSIA Polka Dot Jersey as leader of the mountains classification.
Nur Aiman collected full points after winning the first KOM ahead of Thailand’s Sarawut Sirironnachai of Thailand Continental Cycling Team in the first KOM at Jerangau (74km) but took the second spot in the Cat. 4 second climb at Sekayu.
For de Kleijn, today’s stage win was his fifth of the season in five different races, and in five different months. Before coming to Malaysia, the Dutchman won stages in Milano Torino (1.Pro), Deutschland Tour (2.Pro), Boucles de la Mayenne (2.Pro), and ZLM Tour (2.Pro).
Russian sprinter Gleb Syritsa of Astana Qazaqstan came close to repeating his Stage 1 victory last year but in the end, settled for third, behind Human Powered Health’s Sasha Weemaes.
“Scrambling towards the finishing line, at one point, I thought I’d lose out to (Gleb) Syritsa due to his superior sprinting power. But being small, I managed to slip through, and I know I had a lot of speed with me…I’m happy to beat him,” said de Kleijn.
On his thoughts of winning more stages in the race, De Kleijn said: “Winning the two jerseys today, the Petronas Green and KBS Orange jerseys was simply great. But it would be even nicer if I can keep the Green jersey right up after Stage 8.”
For Muhammad Nur Aiman, being in the Tourism Malaysia Polka Dot jersey after the opening day was indeed a good start as he set his eyes on winning the LTdL KOM jersey for the third successive time.
“Yes, that is my aim, I’ll do my best to achieve the target. I’m in good shape and will give my all to win the KOM jersey for the third time in a row,” he said.
He reckons that Stage 3 hilly route from Jeli to Baling on Monday would be crucial if he harbours hopes of keeping the KOM jersey. “I’m keeping my eyes and focus on Stage 3, which will be hard but crucial for me and the team,” said Nur Aiman.
Meanwhile, Mongolian Tegshbayar Batsaikhan of Roojai Online Insurance took the BEAUTIFUL TERENGGANU White Jersey after emerging as the best Asian rider. The Mongolian was also picked as the BUBBLES 02 Most Combative Rider of the day.
A total of 128 riders with 34 different nationalities from 22 teams lined up at the start point in front of Mesra Mall in Kerteh, which is hosting the race for only the second time.
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 from Kuala Terengganu to Kota Bharu will see riders starting from Terengganu’s iconic Drawbridge for another day of hard riding on a relatively flat stage, with only three intermediate sprints and two Category 4 climbs. Expect another aggressive race and another fast bunch sprint finish in Kota Bharu tomorrow.
PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2023 with the theme ‘Beat The Heat’ is organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) through the National Sports Council (MSN) and the support of the National Cycling Federation of Malaysia (PKBM), will cover a total race distance of 1,278.1km.