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Langkawi back in Credit

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The overall classification of the Tour de Langkawi is usually decided on the penultimate stage, on the horrendous climb to Genting Highlands. A 25-kilometre mother of a climb, Genting is one of the toughest in bike racing, but this year it was to provide only a last gasp outside chance for the mountain goats, who nearly always take the GC honours in the race.

A long break that succeeded for Credit Agricole rider Anthony Charteau gave him a 4 minute lead following the stage to Cameron Highlands, and reeling that back was always going to be something of a tough task, even for super climbers such as Jose Rujano and Jose Serpa.

Following the Cameron Highlands stage the race moved east, and then headed back to Kuala Lumpur, resulting in yet another sprint victory for Selle Italia rider Alberto Loddo, and a popular solo win for Japan’s Sinchi Fukishima (Nippo), which was achieved in a similar brave style to the stage earned by his younger brother Koji in last years race. Coming into the final 3 days the race headed for the Genting show down, and the question everyone was asking was whether or not the Columbians could possibly pull 4 minutes back on Charteau, but it wasn’t to be.

The run in to Genting is short and fast, and from the base of the climb it was a free for all, with the Columbians shredding the field and working hard to eat into the deficit. It was close, as Serpa and team-mate Walter Pedraza steamed ahead, with Serpa eventually leaving his buddy behind to win the stage with fellow Columbian and ex team mate Jose Rujano (Unibet) coming in third. The clock was counting down for Charteau, but the Frenchman defended well, and finished the stage with just over a minute of his lead still intact, and the race all but won.

A lumpy stage 9 run in to Seremban provided the new Tinkoff team with their first stage win, thanks to Nikolai Trusov, while the final criterium stage around central Kuala Lumpur ended in a bunch finish, and a record breaking 6th stage win for the Italian Alberto Loddo (Selle Italia), and the overall title for Charteau.
This year’s race was something of a tryout for the Malaysian government and the national cycling federation, and it would seem that they passed the test with honours, recouping much of the credit lost in the past couple of years. In fact, it seems like they did such a good job that it is strongly rumoured that the race will, along with the Tour Down Under, form part of the 2008 Pro Tour, as part of a long haul plan to globalise the sport.

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