Once again it was national rider Harrif Saleh (Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling) besting the bunch sprint for his second stage win — third all-time — at Le Tour de Langkawi on Thursday.
Even without a designated lead-out, the seven-time Jelajah Malaysia stage winner out-muscled the field in a frenzied Stage 7 bunch sprint, followed by last year’s stage winner Matteo Pelucchi (Bardiani CSF-Faizane) and Stage 2 winner Taj Jones (ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast), who closed the points gap to within two of Stage 3 winner Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) for the turquoise jersey after the German found himself blocked out back in 13th position on the day.
Saleh is third on points, just five down on Walscheid’s 47.
A five-man break dominated much of the 130.4-kilometre penultimate stage from Bagan to Alor Setar as the quintet covered 44.7km in the first hour of racing and extended the gap to 4 minutes 40 seconds following the second intermediate sprint less than 10km later.
However, the peloton reeled in the sole remnant of the break, Cormac Mcgeough (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling), inside the final 4km to begin preparations for the finale.
“The speeds weren’t high enough really,” Mcgeough told Eurosport. “Just going the last 20k, the gap was just faltering. We could either ride together and not make it for sure because we were only going 46-or 47km/h or I could go alone and maybe get a win. That’s what was going through my mind — getting a win and thinking about everyone watching — my family.”
With one final sprint stage remaining, the yellow jersey appears to be on lockdown. Queen stage runner-up Danilo Celano (Team Sapura) maintains a 26-second lead over Stage 1 winner and previous holder Yevgeniy Federov (Vino-Astana Motors) and 35 seconds on Artem Ovechkin (Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling) as the race ferries over to the eighth and final stage on the Langkawi Island.
Eurosport, 13 February 2020