Standing at a towering 1.99 metres (6-foot-5), WorldTour sprinter Max Walscheid casts an imposing shadow and during the 2020 PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi primer on Thursday, the 26-year-old German proved too much for the field to handle in the bunch sprint final of the Resorts World Genting Criterium International in Malaysia.
In his first race donning NTT Pro Cycling colours after spending the past four full seasons with Team Sunweb, Walscheid appears in the same fine form that propelled the powerful sprinter commonly known in pro cycling circles as “Mad Max” to five stage wins at the 2016 Tour of Hainan (UCI 2.HC) during his neo-pro season.
“My two lead-out men were a bit behind the peloton and I trusted that the two guys in front were probably the strongest in the group, so we had always worked hard and we played them well. Even when they came back from the breakaway they participated really well in the lead-out,” said Walscheid, who bested Malaysian Harrif Saleh (Terengganu Inc-TSG Cycling Team) and Australian Blake Quick (St George Continental Cycling Team) at the end of the 90-kilometre race held on a 5km circuit around Kota Kinabalu.
“We came here to collect some points, but it was good felling to finish the first race of the season with a victory here (in the Resorts World Genting Criterium International), even though it is not a UCI event. So, we want to continue in the coming days in the same way, but we will take each stage as its own race.”
The 25th edition of LTdL begins in Kuching on February 7, before a transfer across the South China Sea to Kuala Terengganu for the second stage, which will then take the peloton across to the West Coast of the Peninsula. The eight-stage UCI Asia Tour race ends on February 14 with another criterium set to cap the cycling extravaganza a day later in Langkawi.