DESPITE missing many major races in the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Team Sapura Cycling (TSC) remain optimistic about their chances of winning the yellow jersey when the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2022 starts on 11 October in Kuala Pilah.
TSC are pinning their hopes on 32-year-old former overall winner Danilo Celano who will be backed by five young riders in a bid to retain the title he won in 2020. Last year’s edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Team manager Sayuti Zahit said, despite going through hard times due to non-participation in international races in the last two years, TSC weathered through with riders currently being put on a regular training regime including pedaling up to 25 hours every week.
While praising team sponsors Sapura Group, CCN, N8 and Rudy Project for keeping their faith in the team despite not competing in many international races, Sayuti remains upbeat of the team’s chances, saying that his riders have what it takes to deliver positive results on home terrain this year.
“Our coaches have been working hard to ensure that the riders are in physically and mentally ready to face the rigorous challenge in this year’s LTdL, especially with the presence of six WorldTour teams and four Pro Conti teams,” said Sayuti.
“It’s still too early to delve into our strategies…we prefer to take it one stage at a time,” said Sayuti.
Good teamwork led to Celano’s success in the 2020 race with experience riders like Serghei Tvetcov, Pierpaolo Ficara, Cristian Raileanu and Ahmet Orken and local hero Muhammad Nur Aiman Zariff providing solid support to the Italian.
This time around, TSC are banking on five young local pros to back Celano for the overall title. This includes two Malaysian national champions, Muhammad Nur Aiman Rosli (individual time trial champion) and reigning road champion Muhsin Al Redha Misbah.
Akmal Hakim Zakaria, Muhammad Zawawi Azman and Muhammad Shaiful Adlan Shukri completed the 6-man team roster for the 2022 race.
As part of its final preparations, Sayuti said the riders will be put on a pre-race ride on the actual race route which includes Stage 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8 starting on 20 September before flying off to compete in Tour de Taiwan from 2-6 October.
The 1,096.9km LTdL 2022 starts with a 157.3km Stage 1 ride from Kuala Pilah ke Kuala Lumpur, followed by Stage 2 from Kuala Klawang-Raub (178.9km), Stage 3 Putrajaya-Genting Highlands (123.7km), Stage 4 from Sabak Bernam-Meru Raya over 137.9km, Stage Peringkat 5 from Kuala Kangsar to Kulim (172.0km), Stage 6 from Georgetown-Alor Setar (120.4km); Peringkat 7 Kuah-Gunung Raya (90.8km) and ends with a Stage 8 Langkawi Loop over 115.9km.
The 26th edition presents the most challenging race with the inclusion of six WorldTour teams — UAE Team Emirates (UAE), Cofidis (France), Lotto Soudal (Belgium), EF Education EasyPost (Amerika Syarikat), Movistar (Sepanyol) and Astana-Qazaqstan (Kazakhstan).
Drone Harper-Androni Giocattoli (Itali), Uno X-Pro Cycling (Norway), Alpecin-Deceuninck (Belgium) and Burgos-BH (Sepanyol) made up the four teams from the Pro Continental division.
Local Continental teams, Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team and Sapura lead the local challenge while Indonesia is represented by Mula Cycling Team and Roojau Cycling Team.
ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast (Australia), China Glory Continental Cycling Team (China), ProTouch (South Africa) and Kuwait Pro Cycling (Kuwait) made up the rest of the continental challenge.
Other Asian teams confirmed include Thailand Continental Team (Thailand), Team UKYO (Jepun), 7-Eleven Cliqq Air (Philippines) and the Malaysian national team.