Since his Stage 2 victory in Kerteh, ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast sprinter Taj Jones has been knocking on the door of the points classification lead at the 25th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi.
First, the 19-year-old Queenslander came to within two points of then-race leader Yevgeniy Federov (Vino-Astana Motors) and has been steadily climbing back into the immediate hunt following Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) extending his lead to 16 points on Stage 4 after taking the turquoise jersey from the Kazakh a day earlier with a stage victory of his own.
Now Jones finds himself back in second place trailing Walscheid by just two points thanks to a well-timed fifth-place finish on Stage 5 and a third-place result on Stage 7 — both won by Malaysian sprinter Harrif Saleh, who trails five points behind Walsheid’s 47 and three down on Jones (45).
“As I’ve been told, yesterday was a classic old school Langkawi sprint,” Jones told Eurosport on Friday before the start of the eighth and final stage. “It was a long, straight run in which the speed was kept high, so it was very hard to control. But I feel as if my team did an amazing job to deliver me towards the front — maybe a bit early — but there are a lot of other teams that couldn’t make the run so that was a good start for us.”
When asked of the importance of the points jersey, Jones was cautiously optimistic given the uncertainty of how the race may unfold over the final 108.5-kilometre Langkawi loop. But the former footy player-turned triathlete-turned-cyclist made it clear of just how much the turquoise jersey means to both himself and the team.
“Heading into today’s stage only two points behind Max, it’s hard to tell if it will be another bunch sprint or a select group due to the hard course, but my team and myself will be aiming for the stage result and hopefully the jersey follows,” he explained.
“We came here with a sprint team, so to win the jersey would be like winning the [general classification].”
Euro Sport, 13 February 2020