Langkawi: Guardini ends two-year drought with opening stage win
Le Tour de Langkawi’s all-time stage winner Andrea Guardini claims first victory since 2016 following fellow Italian former teammate Vincenzo Nibali’s Milan-San Remo win on Saturday …
Second time was the charm in Kulim, Malaysia, for Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF), who won the opening stage of Le Tour de Langkawi (UCI 2.HC) five years after finishing third behind Bryan Coquard and winner Theo Bos in 2013.
Guardini came off lead-out Paolo Simion’s wheel to take the win over Korea’s Joonyong Seo (KSPO-Bianchi Asia) and last year’s Cameron Highlands stage winner Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data) of Eritrea after a sweltering 147 kilometres with temperatures reaching the mid-30s (Celsius).
“It was a confusing sprint, in the final it was so hard to be in the first positions,” explained Guardini, who credited his lead-out after the stage. “My teammates played our cards really good, we don’t take the font of the race because I knew the finish was a long way away, but with Paolo we caught the wheels of the other trains and we take the front position at 500 metres to go.
“He left me in a powerful place at 200m and I started my sprint.”
“If you are so close to the victories, you do second, third it’s not the same,” claimed Guardini. “In Abu Dhabi I was feeling good, I was second. But every time you are so close to the victory you miss something.
“Cycling is improving and every year and it is so hard to win races,” he continued. “Everywhere you can find stronger riders. Like here in Langkawi, I can see the difference from 2011 to now because the race is improving and riders are improving.”
The 2012 Giro d’Italia stage winner, who has his sights already set on a Tour of Italy return in May, also matched his record total of wins with the number of race editions at 23.
One more day in the yellow leader’s jer will also tie Guardini has also spent nine days in the yellow leader’s jersey and one more will tie him with Andrea Tafi — although he is not focussed on matching his countryman and has never won general classification in his previous six attempts.
“Now I need to think day by day, stage by stage, sprint by sprint,” he explained. “It will be hard tomorrow, but we try to keep the jersey and after the climbs we will see where we are.”
"I watched last night Milan-San Remo because it is a special race and it’s so nice to watch it," Guardini told Eurosport.
" I saw the final and I am really happy for Vincenzo because he is a really wonderful guy. I was his teammate and I am really happy for him."
As for second runner-up Debesay, who entered as pre-race favourite following his win last year and the absence of teammate and last year’s overall winner Ryan Gibbons (RSA), is optimistic following his sensational sprint performance proving he is more than capable of handling all course conditions in Malaysia.
“Today’s stage was quite fast because it was a little bit short with a lot of sprinters and it was completely flat,” the recently crowned African Continental time trial champion (February 15) told Eurosport. “For me I can’t win sprint but this is a huge victory for me — third place with these kind of sprinters today — I am happy.
“Cameron Highlands are in my sights and today with third-place I can try my best for top 10.”
Photo: Mokhriz Aziz/LTDL2018