Malaysia’s most famous cycling export Loh Sea Keong has vowed to stick with early breakaway tactics synonymous with his style in Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2018, despite not entering the race in optimum fitness.
The Kelantan-born Thailand Continental Cycling team rider, who created history in 2014 as the first Malaysian to adorn the colours of a UCI WorldTour outfit when he spent a solitary season with Dutch team Giant-Shimano, has admitted that he hasn’t fully recovered from injuries suffered in a crash while training last August.
Sea Keong, 32, has not just been racing against time to be fully fit for LTdL 2018, he has taken time off to tie the knot with his Thai girlfriend Phijarin Thitibordin last month.
Despite being advised by doctors to sideline himself for eight months as he had to undergo surgery and recovery processes, Sea Keong said he could not imagine not racing in the 23rd edition of LTdL on March 18-25.
“The last time I raced was in June last year. After that, I met with an accident in training and had to undergo surgery. While recovering, I had to prepare for my weddding. But I could not accept the fact that I could miss the chance to represent my team to race in my home country, thus despite so many things on my plate, I still never neglected training,” said Sea Keong.
“Slowly my condition improved and I am regaining my form.”
He said with the line-up presented by Thailand Continental Cycling in this edition of the race, the team was confident of some good results because the team will comprise mainly of the riders that did well in the Tour of Indonesia last month.
“My heart and legs are always ready to continue with my trademark early breakaways. If the chance comes and the situation permits, I will definitely do it. Who knows, being a husband might even bring me more luck this year,” said Sea Keong.
Thailand Continental Cycling Team for LTdL 2018 will feature a line-up of French-Laotian rider Ariya Phounsavanth alongside Sea Keong and four Thai riders in Peerapol Chawchiangkwang, Turakit Boonratanathakorn, Phuchong Saidomsin and Sarawut Sirironnachai.
Peerapol enters LTdL 2018 having already bagged his first stage win of the year when he won Stage Four at the Tour of Indonesia, where Ariya bagged his first individual overall title in the UCI Asia Tour, having finished 17 seconds ahead of Peerapol in the general classification in a race where Thailand Continental Cycling truly stamped their mark as a force to be reckoned with in the UCI Asia Tour this season.
Sea Keong believes Ariya will be the team’s main bet in the general classification in LTdL 2018, while Turakit and himself share the same penchant for early breakaways, which brings added unpredictability to their menu.
“The team’s riders are at peak fitness having completed the Tour of Indonesia on January 25-28, so we have a good chance of displaying our true potential. I think our team has improved and is among the best in Southeast Asia and Asia,” he said.
With two UCI WorldTour teams and several continental professional teams, Sea Keong said each stage would present different opportunities for riders and teams and only those who are mentally and physically prepared, combined with the right strategy will stand a good chance of success.
“For sure each race has its own challenges and judging from the team list this time, it will be tough, but we will still try to cause an upset this time,” said SEa Keong, elaborating on the team’s chances this time around after an 11th overall finish in the team classification last year.
LTdL 2018, featuring eight stages, is scheduled to begin in Kangar, Perlis on March 18, two days after the team presentation in Langkawi on March 16, with the grand finish scheduled in Kuala Lumpur on March 25.
A total of 22 teams, comprising WorldTour, Continental Professional, Continental and national teams have confirmed their participation in this edition of the race, which will cover a total distance of 1,341km across eight states in Peninsula Malaysia.
This 2.HC status race is organised by Ciclista Sports with full support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.