Well-spoken Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) has been a man of few words in Malaysia over the past week as he is opting to let his actions do the talking in 2020.
The two-metre tall German sprinter is off to a fresh start with a new team this year and already things are looking up. The former Team Sunweb standout out-muscled the field in a frantic bunch sprint at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur to claim the Stage 3 (162.5km) victory and assume the turquoise point’s jersey at the 25th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi on Sunday.
“I have to admit, I had to fight pretty hard for this victory,” Walscheid told Eurosport after besting Italian Riccardo Minali (Nippo-Delko One Provence), Turkish Olympian Ahmet Örken (Team Sapura Cycling) and Greek Giorgos Bouglas (SSIOS Miogee Cycling Team) on the line.
“It’s not easy, we come here as the only WorldTour team and there is a lot of pressure on winning, so we started off very well in the criterium. I think the whole group did great.
In the next two days we also saw how hard it is to actually bring it to a sprint, so today we did the best team effort possible and now we are on the top step.
Walscheid, who is long recovered from the training accident in Spain that left him and five of his then-Giant-Alpecin teammates in need of emergency medical attention, is not taking anything for granted in his first start for the team formerly known as Dimension Data — NTT Pro Cycling — not even the significance of a pre-race criterium win will be overlooked — despite it not being recognised as a UCI victory.
“It was amazing, I didn’t even care if it is an official UCI race or not, what counts is the feeling,” explained Walscheid. “I felt good, the team felt good and now I also have the sprinter’s jersey which also shows the consistency of our work and we can be happy for this moment.”
With the decisive Genting Highlands stage up next, NTT Pro Cycling will turn its attention to general classification specialist Louis Meintjes, who Walscheid praised for his selfless efforts on the day to reel in a break threatening to steal the stage.
“It makes me really proud to see Louis Meintjes also investing at the front to bring back the breakaway, because he is our GC leader," said Walscheid. "So he used as much power to help with this victory, so tomorrow I will do the same for him.
“I hope there’s another stage win coming, but first we go tomorrow in a support role for the GC. We are very confident that we have a good team here, so we will go for the win."
Meintjes, who will be looking to become the fifth South African overall winner in the race after Ryan Cox, David George, Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg and Ryan Gibbons, first has to contend with making up a one minute and 18s deficit on 19-year old leader Fedorov, with the Vino-Astana Motors team also looking formidable in their defence of his lead thus far.