A regular feature in PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi, pro continental outfit Drone Harper-Androni Giacattoli are eyeing to make an impact in the upcoming 26th edition of the race, which starts on October 11.

Team manager, Gianni Savio said, despite being a regular since the team’s first participation in 2000, he foresees this year’s challenge would be among the toughest due to the quality of teams coming in for the race.

Armed with a mixture of experienced and young riders, Savio expressed his excitement for being able to see action in LTdL 2022 after last year’s cancellation due to the global covid-19 pandemic. 

“We always have high regard for LTdL as among the best and well-organised races in Malaysia and Asia. After last year’s cancellation, we are excited to be back again in Malaysia,” said Savio.

Top on the team’s roster for PETRONAS LTDL 2022 is 31-year-old Argentinian  Eduardo Sepulveda, who Savio hopes will be able to deliver the desired results in the general classification. 

Formerly with Movistar, Sepulveda was roped into the team last year and has impressed Savio with his high work rate and commitment after emerging second in the King of Mountains challenge and third overall in the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye early this year.

In 37-year-old Alessandro Bisolti, Savio believes the experienced Italian is ready to mount a strong challenge with his all-round strength, especially in the hills and highlands apart from helping out team sprinter Eduard-Michael Grosu on flat routes and in the sprints. 

With his wealth of experience riding in many major pro races, Bisolti a four-time participant of the Giro d’Italia with various big teams including Tinkoff Credit System, CSF Navigare, Farnese Vini before signing for Androni in 2018, will be among the ones to watch.

Grosu, currently in top shape and free of any injuries, will be relied upon to challenge other rivals based on his previous achievement with Nippo Delko One Provence.

“We had just completed the Tour of Romania two weeks ago. Grosu won a stage and the points competition, a great morale booster for him leading up to LTdL 2022,” said Savio.

The 30-year-old Grosu, who hails from Zarnesti, Romania, is no stranger to Asian races as he successfully secured six stage wins in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, China.

Three other youngsters in the six-men team include Italian Gabrielle Benedetti, 22, a regular in European races including in Tour of Sicilia, Sirkit Sarthe-Pays de la Loire and Tour de Limousin.

Colombian-born rider Didier Noberto Merchan Cardona, 23, had won the yellow jersey at Vuelta a Antioquia, apart from winning the third overall spot and a stage victory in Vuelta a Tachira. He will be among the team’s main men in the hills.

Brandon Alejandro Rojas, 20, is another young Colombian sprinter capable of turning the tables on the Tour’s well-known sprinters. Before coming to Malaysia, Rojas competed in the Classica de Almeira, Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye and GP Industria early this year.

Formerly known as Aguardiente Nectar-Selle Italia when they participated in the 2000 race, the team, established in 1996, picked up their first win through Jamie Drew.

The team grabbed the attention of many and made waves following their six yellow jersey victories by Hernan Dario Munoz in 2002, Fredy Gonzalez (2004), Ruslan Ivanov (2008), Jose Serpa (2009 and 2012) and Jonathan Monsalve (2011).

In the last edition in 2020, the team’s climber Kevin Rivera won the gruelling Stage 4 up to Genting Highlands.

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 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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