American Travis McCabe (Floyd’s Racing) made it look easy as he saluted the crowded Stage 3 finish in Putrajaya, Malaysia two seconds ahead of his nearest bunch sprint rivals to lift the yellow jersey from Australian Marcus Culey (Team Sapura Cycling) on Monday.
The victory marks his third stage win at Le Tour de Langkawi (UCI 2.HC), which also includes two in 2017 while riding for UnitedHealthcare. McCabe now holds a two-second advantage over Culey and 13 seconds over reigning Australian road race champion Michael Freiberg (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), who moved up a spot after finishing 10th on the 192.6-kilometre day.
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"I'm very happy with this win,” said the 29-year-old sprinter for Floyd’s Racing, so named after founder and former Tour de France provisional winner Floyd Landis. “We knew how technical the finish was going to be, so my teammates worked very hard coming into the last corner, so we were able to jump early for a comfortable win.”
Although McCabe’s stewardship of the leader’s jersey may be brief as the gruelling Genting Highlands mountain stage is back after a four-year hiatus. But according to Culey, Sapura’s ambition to reclaim the overall lead will not depend solely on his own efforts over the short, but steep 114.2-kilometre queen stage on Tuesday.
“It actually works out really well for us if,” the opening stage winner told Eurosport after losing the overall lead. “We didn’t come here for me to win the [general classification]. There has been a lot of added pressure on us over the last couple of days.
“For Travis to take the jersey is perfect for us,” continued Culey. “We can take more of a backseat tomorrow on the way to the climb, and then hopefully pick it up again for Stage 5.”
‘The Genting’ as it is commonly referred is a 27km hors catégorie climb ascending to nearly 1,700 metres (1645m) in elevation, with the final 10k ramping up to the summit finish.
Sapura’s ace in the hole comes in the form of another Australian, Ben Dyball.
“We drove the climb a few days before the tour,” said Dyball, who finished third on GC last year after taking second on the Cameron Highlands queen stage behind eventual race winner Artem Ovechkin. “I know it’s quite steep. There will be big time gaps. I think the last five or six kilometres are quite hard, it will be a good stage.”
The 29-year-old New South Wales native is on a hot streak of sorts, claiming both the road race and individual time trial titles at the Oceania Continental Championships mid-March, as well as a prologue win at the Tour de Tochigi (2.2) later that month in Japan. With last year’s performance and his most recent results, Dyball admits he is feeling a slight bit of pressure, but mostly from within.
“We already got a stage win and in yellow for three days, so pretty happy already,” Dyball told Eurosport. “[I’m feeling] a little bit, but most of it’s just from myself because this is what I’ve been aiming for all year, so hopefully I can deliver tomorrow.”
For full stage and race results, click here.
Aaron S Lee
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