LANGKAWI, 15 Feb 2020 - Former world junior road race champion Johan Le Bon won from a two-man breakaway that barely held off a strong chase group to take the title in the MMC Langkawi Malaysian Classic today, taking home the RM10,000 top prize in the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2020 post-race event.
Frenchman Le Bon of the B&B Hotels Vital Concept team outsprinted Team Sapura Cycling's Jesse Ewart at the finish with Nippo Delko Provence's Lucas de Rossi taking third spot, as a chase group of 17 riders closed in on the winning pair.
Ewart took home RM5,500 for his second place, while de Rossi helped himself to an RM3,000 payday.
Pre-race favourite and LTdL green jersey winner Max Walscheid of the NTT Pro Cycling Team crashed as the group of 19 riders that had split from the main peloton battled the final sprint, ending his happy outing in Malaysia on a sour note, after winning the prelude Kota Kinabalu Criterium International and two stages in LTdL, including the final stage in Langkawi yesterday.
Vino-Astana Motors' Matvey Nikitin finished fourth and ranked the best Asian finisher, while Team Sapura Cycling's Moldovan national champion Cristian Raileanu took 12 points in the intermediate sprints to win the best sprinter's title and a RM1,000 bonus, while teammate Nur Aiman Zariff, 23, followed up his historic mountains classification victory in LTdL, by also taking the hot spot sprints title today and a bonus of RM1,000.
"Its a great pleasure for me to win this race. It's my first win of the year for the team and the first win for me in a very long time. I was quite tired because it was a tough race and also because we had just completed LTdL the day before, everyone was tired. But I attacked in the finale with the Sapura rider (Ewart) and the plan was to just stay ahead of the chasing group and luckily we managed to do that," said le Bon, 29, who won the world junior road race title in 2008.
"I don't know yet if I will be in the B&B Hotels Tour de France team, but that is five months from now. But I would be happy to return to Malaysia. Le Tour de Langkawi is a big race, very well organised and we take home good memories from here."
Ewart, 25, was not overly disappointed with the outcome, especially after being pipped at the line by Le Bon, after Sapura riders had dominated the front group.
"It was okay. We tried to make the race difficult. But in the last climb we saw a chance with the attack, but he just had a little bit extra," said Ewart.
Nur Aiman said he was happy to have registered another king of the mountains title, simply by taking his chance when the opportunity arrived.
"I'm happy to have taken another polka dot jersey. Today, I just stayed at the front but when the king of the mountains hot spots arrived, I saw there was a chance to take the points and went for it," said Nur Aiman.