ALOR STAR, 13 Feb 2020 - Terengganu Inc-TSG's Harrif Saleh won another bunch sprint to register his second stage win in Stage 7 the PETRONAS Le Tour De Langkawi 2020 and extend his record to three victories, the only Asian rider to have achieved that feat in the 25-year history of the race.
The 31-year old, who won the fifth stage on Tuesday, again launched a late sprint to surprise the pack and crossed the finish line of the 130.4km stage from Bagan to Alor Setar, ahead of Bardiani-CSF's Matteo Pelucci and ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast's Taj Jones, the winner of Stage 2.
Pelucchi, who had won the last time a stage finish was staged in Alor Setar last year, had targeted victory here again as the Bardiani-CSF train lined him up for the finish after the remnants of a five-man breakaway that comprised Masakazu Ito (Aisan), Ben van Dam (Team Bridgelane), Kim Kookhyun (KSPO), Cormac McGeough (Team Wildlife) and Malaysia national team's Danieal Haikkal Edy Suhaidee, that 10km into the stage, were reeled in with just 2km to go.
But Harrif again found a loophole to slither through and found himself charging for the finish line virtually unmatched, as the result also saw him moved up to third in the points classification with just the final stage in Langkawi tomorrow to contest.
NTT Pro Cycling's Max Walscheid now sees his points classification lead on 47 points coming under threat with Jones closing the gap to just two points, while Harrif is now five points behind and looking in hot streak of form.
"I don't know how to say. Maybe my condition was good now. That's why with good condition, I felt confident. My confidence level was ready for LTdL. I also expected that I could win because I already won a stage. Today I followed the lead and then saw my big chance to go for the win and I took it," said Harrif.
"Today the race was very fast. But when I saw the road to the finish, I confirmed that the sprint was for me, so I just went for it. When I passed Pelucchi, I thought my speed was fast enough and nobody could pass me. I feel very happy that Asian riders can also win stages in the Pro Series," he added.
The bunch sprint meant Team Sapura Cycling's Danilo Celano retained the overall lead with a 25 seconds advantage over Vino-Astana's Yevgeniy Fedorov intact, while teammate Nur Aiman Zariff also retained the red jersey as the leader of the mountains classification. Fedorov also retained the white jersey as the leader of the Asian riders' classification.
The final stage tomorrow will feature a 108.5km course around the island of Langkawi, ending with 6 loops around a circuit in Kuah town.
The stage will see 7 category 3 climbs and three intermediate sprints on offer, which should bring a dramatic end to both the mountains and points classification competitions, while it may also complicate Team Sapura Cycling's defence of Celano's yellow jersey.