Giro-motivated Guardini ready to extend Langkawi reign

Giro-motivated Guardini ready to extend Langkawi reign

16/03/2018 at 15:49Updated 16/03/2018 at 15:50

Le Tour de Langkawi’s all-time leading stage winner Andrea Guardini returns after last year’s absence to reclaim crown and get back to winning ways …

Perpetual pressure to perform on the WorldTour no longer weighs on the shoulders of the still young 28-year-old Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini. Le Tour de Langkawi’s all-time leading stage winner returns after missing last year while fulfilling just one of his two-year contract with UAE-Team Emirates after four years with Astana.

Guardini opted out of his final year and instead stepped down to Italian-registered UCI Professional Continental team Bardiani-CSF — a move that seems to have lightened the mood so to speak.

“I look relaxed because I am relaxed here in Malaysia,” he told Eurosport at the pre-race media conference. “Maybe here [the pressure] is a bit less because we have a more days before the start, but this race is really nice. Happy to be here with the weather, with the people, lots of stages for sprinters and lots of opportunities for victories.”

Making his seventh career start at Langkawi since 2011, the 22-time LTdL stage winner hopes to score a win or more at the eight-stage 2.HC Asia Tour road race in hopes to regain some much-needed confidence heading into his first trip back to the Giro d’Italia since 2012 when he outmuscled the likes of Mark Cavendish, Roberto Ferrari, Robert Hunter, Lucas Sebastián Haedo, Giacomo Nizzolo and Alexander Kristoff.

“In the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, I was there and after the finish I just thought: ‘Wow, I’m here and there was Kristoff coming from behind of me.’ But I was so close to taking victory,” explained Guardini. “I was there and I want to try and win as soon as possible, because two years for me is too much waiting for victory.

“One victory can be really good for confidence and my motivation to be in really good shape for Giro d’Italia.”

According to the former multi-stage winner from the Tour of Turkey, Tour of Denmark and Tour of Qinghai Lake, the decision to join Bardiani has already been a positive career move.

"I joined [Bardiani] because it is one of the biggest Italian professional teams and they received wildcard invitation for Giro d’Italia and I am really happy for this. It has been since 2012 since I last raced the Giro d’Italia and for me it’s a really big motivation for this year."

Although Guardini posted a podium result in his first WorldTour race of the season, he returned to a cold, wet Italian winter and is not certain of the form he brings with him to Malaysia.

“I was feeling good, but two weeks training in Italy, it was so cold, with snow and rain and I don’t know if I’m in the same condition now. I think it will be good in next stages, but I don’t know [until Sunday].”

Being led out by Michael Bresciani and Paolo Simone, Guardini will test his mettle against Anuar Manan (Forca Amskins Racing), Mohd Hariff Saleh (Terengganu Cycling Team), Riccardo Minali (Astana), Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia), year’s stage winner Scott Sunderland (Bennelong-SwissWellness) and Guardini’s former UAE teammate Marko Kump, who now rides for CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice, as well as Kump’s current teammate Szymon Sajnok, who is fresh off an Omnium world title last week in the Netherlands.

"I know for Bardiani here in Malaysia is an important race,” he said of the Langkawi’s all-time winningest team with 35 victories in 10 starts. “It’s a big race and I will try to give us as much success as I can. There are a lot of good opponents here and we need to fight for victories."

Team sports director Roberto Reverberi is confident in his team’s chances with Guardini to add to Bardiani’s win total in 2018.

“We’re moving to Langkawi with great morale and aiming to leave our mark,” Reverberi said on the Bardiani’s website. “We’ll have a solid team at the start, built to support Guardini in the sprints.

“We have one of the strongest sprinters of the race, we know we’ll have a leading role during the eight stages.

“This will be our main goal, but we want to do well also in the queen stage with Sterbini, who did encouraging performances so far,” he continued. “In Greece we get the first win over, now we’ll look for new ones to reap the benefits of the good work did during the first months of the season.”