WITH 23 sprints and 19 mountain zones spread across the 1,105.1km route, riders need to be in top shape and fully prepared to endure eight days of racing under Malaysia’s tropical heat in this year’s PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2022 which starts in Kuala Pilah on Tuesday.
Expect the yellow and the sprints jersey to change hands in the first three stages as riders scramble for valuable points in the 12 climbing zones before charting their way to Hors mountain top finish in Genting Highlands, on Thursday.
It will be intense from the get-go as riders start their 2022 journey with a 157.3km-Stage 1 ride from Seri Menanti in Kuala Pilah, where 5 climbing and 3 sprints zones await before what could be an explosive bunch sprint finish in Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
Riders need to overcome two category 3 climbs in Bukit Miku and Mantin soon after the first sprint zone in Senaling (12.3km) and another two sprint zones in Rembau and Senawang.
The battle for the King of Mountains classification is far from over as riders have to get past two Category 2 climbing zones soon after crossing the Selangor boundary at Tekali and Look Out Point in Ampang, ending in a bunch sprint finish in front of the world-famous Petronas Twin Tower at Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
There will be no respite for general classification, KOM and sprint leaders who face some hard riding in Stage 2 from Kuala Klawang to Raub, which at 178.9km, is the longest stage in this year’s edition.
Riders must endure 3 sprint zones at Simpang Durian, Karak and Mempaga and another two Category 4 climbs in Petasih and Bukit Damar before completing their journey at Raub Square.
Next, a stage not for the faint-hearted as riders assemble at Dataran Putra in Putrajaya for the start of the race’s defining battle for the coveted yellow jersey.
A stage over a distance of 131.9km to the summit of Genting Highlands where customarily, the race is won or lost.
It will be a great opportunity for the green jersey (sprints) leader to consolidate their standings but the attention will be on the general classification and KOM leaders who have to first tackle two Category 3 climbs in Tekali and Ampang’s Look Out Point, before enduring another two torturous climb (Cat 1) in Genting Sempah and Goh Tong Jaya.
It’s all the way up with a torturous battle starting soon after entering Awana, where riders will give their all as they head for the summit, completing the stage at 1,640m above sea level.
Yellow jersey and the KOM’s polka dot jersey wearers will be able to enjoy some respite following a hard ride the day before with an easy flat route in Stage 4 which provides opportunities for sprinters to hog the limelight.
No changes as the GC standings, yellow jersey, and KOM jerseys are expected to remain at the back of the same leaders as they manouvre the flat Stage 4 route from Sabak Bernam to Meru over a distance of 137.9km.
Nevertheless, the leaders need to be wary of rivals who could unexpectedly jump out and break away from the leading group.
While general classification and KOM leaders are more than happy to ride safely towards the finishing line and avoid any untowards incidents, expect the sprinters to give their all as they head for bunch sprint finishes in Stage 4, 5 and 6.
The flat routes of Stage 5 from Kuala Kangsar to Kulim (172.0km) and Stage 6 from Georgetown to Alor Setar (120.4km) will have three sprint zones respectively and with only an easy Category 4 climb at Sumpitan to deal with, leaders are not expected to face any threats on their standings.
However, the last two stages in Langkawi present some opportunities for the rivals to turn the tables on the leaders and favourites.
The 90.8km penultimate stage from Kuah to Gunung Raya present the last chance for climbers or general classification contenders to challenge the jersey leaders.
Apart from the three sprint zones, there will be three climbing zones including a steep ascent up to the Gunung Raya summit (864m above sea level) which could possibly shake up the general classification standings.
With the conclusion of the Gunung Raya climb, Stage 8, a 115.9km Kuah-Langkawi loop, is expected to be a mere formality.
Nevertheless, expect some fast and aggressive action from sprinters as they try hard to end their 2022 LTdL campaign on a high note.