KERTEH, 8 Feb 2020 - The PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2020 is fast becoming a race for the emerging youngsters as Australian Taj Jones of the ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast team stunned hot favourite Max Walscheid to take victory in a bunch sprint that ended the 175.5km Stage 2 from Kuala Terengganu to Kerteh today.
Jones became the second 19-year old stage winner, following the equally stunning breakaway victory by Vino-Astana Motors' Yevgeniy Fedorov in Kuching yesterday, to register his first victory as a professional.
A bunch sprint was expected on the flat stage without any categorised climbs, but the plan was threatened by a fiva-man breakaway comprising Mattia Viel (Androni Gioccatoli), Alessandro Iacchi (Vini Zabu), Rylee Field (Bridgelane), Nur Aiman Zariff (Sapura) and Colby Lange (Wildlife) that went away 20km into the stage.
The quintet built up a maximum gap of up to 5 minutes, with Nur Aiman sweeping maximum points and time bonuses in all three intermediate sprints of the day, before the front back began to disintegrate with Field launching a solo attack ads the peloton driven by yellow jersey team Vino-Astana began to swiftly close the gap.
Field's courageous solo attempt ended inside the final three kilometres, with Walscheid's NTT Pro Cycling Team sensing a victory in the tour proper after the German's win in the prelude event - the Kota Kinabalu Criterium International on Thursday.
That was until Jones turned up at the finish line to spoil the lanky German's party.
"We started planning with about 10km to go and the team put me into a good position, so full credit to the team. We're feeling good for some more victories, so hopefully that can happen here this week," said Jones. "It feel pretty amazing and I'm stoked."
Jones moved up to joints second in the points classification level on 19 points with Walscheid while Federov still leads the classification with 21 points.
More importantly, Fedorov retained the yellow jersey as the leader in the general classification, still with Thailand's Thurakit Boonratanathanakorn in second, while Jones' victory moved him up to third with a one-minute and 23 seconds deficit to the Kazakh. Nur Aiman, due to his time bonuses from today, sits fourth in the general classification, just a second behind Jones, but is third in the Asian riders' classification with Fedorov and Thurakit the top two.
Terengganu Inc-TSG's Harrif Saleh was again the best Malaysian finisher of the day, in fifth, and looks like the only Malaysian sprinter hitting form in the race. He could yet challenge for his second ever victory in the race and become the first ever Malaysian to have two stage wins.
Stage Three tomorrow will likely not be where Harrif continues his hunt for a stage win, with the 162.5km stage from Temerloh to Kuala Lumpur opening the mountains classification battle with some tricky categorised climbs, the first one a category 3 climb after 36.9km in Bukit Damar, followed by a another one in Bentong after 74.5km and a warm-up to the queen stage up Genting Highlands on Monday with a category 1 climb up Genting Sempah after 120.2km.