THEY may not be in the same standings as the WorldTeam but UCI ProTour outfits Alpecin-Deceuninck and UNO X Pro Cycling are capable of turning the tables on top-ranked WorldTeam challengers in the upcoming PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2022 (LTdL 22) which starts on October 11 October.

Based on Alpecin’s current ranking position and the quality of riders listed in its LTdL 2022 roster, the French-based team are seen as among the teams capable of giving the big guns a run for their money in the 26th edition of the race.

Alpecin, now 11th in the world ranking with 7,528 points (up to 29 September), are eyeing stage wins in the 8-stage race which commences in Kuala Pilah on October 11.

Led by Sports Director Michele Cornelisse, sprint specialist Jakub Mareczko who is no stranger to LTdL heads the six-man team and is expected to be among the frontrunners on flat routes and sprint finishes.

The 28-year-old Polish-born rider who currently holds Italian citizenship has accumulated three stage wins in LTDL – Stage 6 of the 2016 edition (Putrajaya-Rembau, 147km) when he was with Willier Southeast and two wins on Stage 3 (Serdang-Pantai Remis 118km) and Stage 7 (Melaka-Rembau 148km) of the 2017 edition (Willier Triestina-Selle Italia).

Mareczko has won numerous races in Asia and this year, was crowned the Sprint King title at the Tour of Antalya in Turkiye.

Watch out for Austrian Michael Gogl, a former NTT and Trek-Segafredo rider who brings with him wealth of experience racing in Grand Tours which include five appearances in Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

Four others included in the Malaysian mission are Jason Osborne, Ayco Bastiaens, Sjoerd Bax (Netherlands) and David Van der Poel (Netherlands), elder brother to world champion Matthieu Van der Poel.

Meanwhile, Norwegian team UNO X Pro Cycling Team are making their maiden appearance in LTdL, taking along riders who have made names in the Mountain bike and Cycle-cross scenes.

Kristoffer Halvorsen, 26, formerly with EF Pro Cycling (2020) and Sky (2018-2019) is a sprint specialist currently ranked world number 22 whose Palmares include winning the World Under-23 title in 2016 and sprints winner in Tour de l’Avenir in 2017.

Soren Werenskjold, 22, is another young rider and among the bright prospects following his exploit in the 2017 Under-23 World Championships in the time trial competition apart from coming out third in the Road Race.

Fredrik Dvernes, Anders Halland Johannessen and two other climbers heading to Malaysia are former Trek-Segafredo (2018-2021) rider, Niklas Eg who has seen action in the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta Espana while Torstein Traeen will also be among the ones to watch following his King of the Mountains title won at the Tour of the Alps apart from finishing ninth in the Volta a Catalunya.

This year’s 26th PETRONAS LTdL 2022 starts with a 157.3km Stage 1 ride from Kuala Pilah to Kuala Lumpur before continuing with Stage 2 from Kuala Klawang to Raub (178.9km).

The gruelling climb up to Genting Highlands comes early on Stage 3 from Putrajaya (131.9km) followed by Stage 4 from Sabak Bernam to Meru Raya, Ipoh (137.9km), Stage 5 Kuala Kangsar to Kulim (172.0km), Stage 6 from Georgetown to Alor Setar (120.4km), another climb from Kuah to Gunung Raya (Stage 7, 90.8km) in Langkawi and ends with a 115.9km Langkawi Loop the final Stage 8.

The PETRONAS LTdL 2022 is set to be among the most competitive editions in recent years following confirmation by six WorldTeam outfits — UAE Team Emirates (UAE), Cofidis (France), Lotto Soudal (Belgium), EF Education EasyPost (USA), Movistar (Spain) and Astana-Qazaqstan (Kazakhstan).

Four other ProTeam outfits, Drone Harper-Androni Giocattoli (Italy), Uno X-Pro Cycling (Norway), Alpecin-Deceuninck (Belgium) and Burgos-BH (Spain) will add more excitement and colour to the Tour.

Continental teams Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team and Team Sapura Cycling of Malaysia are among the front runners while the other entrants confirmed were Mula Cycling Team and Roojai Cycling Team of Indonesia, ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast (Australia), China Glory Continental Cycling Team (China), ProTouch (South Africa) and Kuwait Pro Cycling (Kuwait).

Regional teams slated for the Tour include Thailand Continental Team (Thailand), Team UKYO (Jepun), 7-Eleven Cliqq Air (Philippines) and the Malaysian National team.

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