KUALA LUMPUR, 25 Jan 2020 - South Africa's NTT Pro Cycling are the first UCI World Tour team to confirm their participation in the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2020 from February 6 to 15.
However, the 25th edition of the race will not feature the defending champion, as NTT Pro Cycling have not named Australian Benjamin Dyball, signed from Team Sapura Cycling, in their provisional 6-man squad led by the formidable figure of South Africa's Louis Meintjes.
Instead, NTT Pro Cycling will have Meintjes who, with an impressive palmares of general classification achievements in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, will be among the favourites for the title, backed by a young squad of the team's promising riders.
Meintjes, 27, twice finished 8th in the general classification at the Tour de France in 2016 and 2017, with a 10th place in the Vuelta a Espana in 2015 and seventh spot in the Olympic Games road race in 2016 ranking high among his achievements.
But the South African enters the 25th edition of LTdL on the back of a lukewarm 2019 season with a third place in his national championships time trial as the highlight in a season where he finished his only Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, 51st in the general classification, otherwise riding in aid of the team's leaders.
Thus, he comes to Malaysia with what should be a rare opportunity to go for the results himself, making Meintjes among the main protaginists for the overall title when he takes the startline in Kuching on February 6.
NTT Pro Cycling will also feature 30-year old Japanese national champion Shotaro Iribe, who will be making his UCI World Tour debut this season, having spent the earlier part of his career in the UCI Asia Tour with the Shimano Racing Team in his home country.
Australian Dylan Sunderland, 23, will be looking to begin making an impact in his second year with the team and carrying one of the most famous surnames in Australian cycling. He is the nephew of former professional Scott Sunderland, who was among the few Australians riding the big European races in the 90s.
The 24-year old Dane Michael Carbel will also be making his debut with the team, having signed from Danish UCI Continental Team Waoo in the off season.
For the sprints, NTT Pro Cycling will be banking on 26-year old German Max Walscheid, who enters the season on the back of a 2019 campaign that saw him step onto the podium 11 times, although his only victory coming in the Omloop van het Houtland Lichtervelde in Belgium, then riding for Team Sunweb.
The team is completed by 21-year old Italian Samuele Battistella, who could also pose a threat in the bunch sprints.
Going by history, the team for which LTdL holds a special place, having made their debut in the race as a professional team in 2011 then known as MTN-Qhubeka and then as Dimension Data, they have three previous overall victories through Algeria's Youcef Reguigui in 2015, Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg in 2016 and Ryan Gibbons in 2017, meaning they always come to Malaysia with big intentions.
PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2020 will open its doors with a Team Presentation ceremony in Kota Kinabalu on 5 February, before Stage 1 begins in Kuching, Sarawak on 7 February and ends with Stage 8 in Langkawi Island, covering an overall distance of 1,114.9KM across nine states.
In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2020, Human Voyage will also be hosting the International Criterium race in Kota Kinabalu on 6 February and the Malaysian Classic on Langkawi Island on 15 February.