BELGIAN Sasha Weemaes of Human Powered Health finally nicked his first pro win he was desperately looking for after edging out Arvid De Kleijn in another close bunch sprint at the end of Stage 7 at Dataran Centrio here.
Weemaes who came in second in Melaka yesterday behind de Kleijn, finally got the better of Arvid, lunging hard to hit the final line first in a time of 2:31.45s.
It was third again on the podium, the second time in a row for Gleb Syritsa of Astana Qazaqstan, who took Stage 2 win in Kota Bharu.
After two second placings in Stage 1 and Stage 6 and third in Stage 3, the Sint-Niklass-born Weemaes, who spent five seasons with Sport Vlaanderen Baloise since 2018, made a perfectly timed sprint in the last 25 metres before lunging his bike to the line to win his first ProSeries win of the season.
Going into the flamme rouge, the Human Powered Health train set Weemaes for the sprint, which the Belgian executed perfectly behind De Kleijn wheels and sprinted from the right side to deliver the win on the penultimate day of the Tour, which started in Kerteh last Saturday.
The race comes to a close tomorrow with another flat race, serving sprinters for a final shot at a win from Setia Alam in Selangor to the heat of Kuala Lumpur, KLCC.
Barring any unforeseen happenings, Briton Simon Carr of EF Education-EasyPost is poised for the LTDL 2023 overall champion crown, after safely keeping the PETRONAS Green Jersey on his back today.
The 25-year-old Carr is still tops in the general classification with a 49 second advantage over teammate Alexander Jefferson Cepeda.
Carr however is still 12 points behind mountains classification leader Simon Pellaud of Tudor Cycling Team (32 points), who, with no mountains left, is the 2023 TOURISM MALAYSIA Red Polka Dot jersey winner.
Weemaes was simply relieved with his first ProSeries win and was quick to credit the win to his teammates.
“I’m happy with the win, it was a really fast race around 47kph, but the boys never gave up and worked hard to set me up.
“It was a hard win for me, the tactic was to get behind Arvid’s wheel, move out to the right side in the last 25 metres, and timed my sprint perfectly. It was not a good season for me due to some health problems, and I’m happy to win here,” said Weemaes who is still without a pro contract for next season.
De Kleijn’s hopes of winning a triple here were dashed, after finishing a close second behind Weemaes.
“It was a fast and hot stage, a very hard race today with lots of attacks. Toward the final line, I think I went off a little too early and just exploded…I was just not fast enough today,” said De Kleijn.
De Kleijn remained in the KBS Orange Jersey for the seventh day, boosting his position at the top of the points classification after winning the first two intermediate sprints of the day. He now leads the standings with 63 points while closest rivals Weemaes and Syritsa are in second and third respectively with 48 and 43 points.
The Dutchman however remained in high spirits for tomorrow’s stage, determined to win the final battle and leave Malaysia with great results and impact on the Swiss team.
With 112 riders on the start line, the day started aggressively with Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team rider Jambaljamts Sainbayar and Masaki Yamamoto of JCL Team Ukyo at the front but was later reeled in by the peloton with eight kilometres to go.
For his efforts, Yamamoto took the BUBBLES 02 Most Combative award.
The race wraps up tomorrow with a flat 156.5km final stage which serves sprinters with the last shot to be on the podium.
The race starts from Setia City Convention Centre (1200 hrs), with two Cat 4 climbs at Puncak Alam (15.4km) and Meru (19,4km) and three intermediate sprints at Kapar, Sungai Buloh and Paya Jaras, before ending in from Petronas Twin Tower in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (est 1538 hrs).