SPRINTER Harrif Saleh (pic) is expecting the competition to be stiffer at this year’s Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) but is determined to take his chances and sneak himself onto the podium.
In addition to new faces in the peloton, the Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) rider believes the inclusion of WorldTeam NTT Pro Cycling could also see the overall pace pick up this season.
“This is the first tour of the season for most teams, so it is a little difficult to anticipate. I believe there are a few strong sprinters this time,” said Harrif.
“Of course, I would like to win again this year, but we will be up against a different set of riders, so it could be tougher for me.
“We have a WorldTeam (NTT) in the mix this season. They (WorldTeam) will usually focus on the general classification and pick up the overall pace (on non-climbing stages) which makes it tougher for other sprinters.
“But the team and I are in good shape after spending three weeks in Chiang Rai and I will do my best to take any opportunities and hopefully make it onto the podium again.”
Harrif became only the second Malaysian to win a stage in LTdL after Anuar Manan in 2010 when he took the second stage from Senawang to Malacca last year. He also finished third in the sixth stage from Bagan to Alor Setar.
TSG also comprise Artem Ovechkin (Russia), Carlos Quintero (Columbia), Metkel Eyob (Eritrea), Drew Morey (Australia) and Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki.
However, Harrif will be without the support of TSG road captain Zamri, who is also his elder brother. The 36-year-old suffered heart issues late last year but has made a positive recovery following surgery.
“Obviously, I would have wanted him to be here, but LTdL is a high-level race, so we did not want to risk him too soon,” Harrif added.
Harrif disclosed that Quintero could take over as his lead-out man in bunch sprint situations.
New Straits Times, 6 February 2020