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by Shane Stokes
March 13, 2015
Jumping clear of the day’s long-distance breakaway and then holding off the chase behind all the way to the line, KSPO rider Seo Joon Yong grabbed victory at the end of stage five of this year’s Tour de Langkawi on Thursday.
Seo took what was the biggest win of his career two days before his 27th birthday. He reached the line in Kuantan 13 seconds ahead of Jamalidin Novardianto (Pegasus Continental Cycling), Mohammad Adiq Husaini Othman (Terrengganu Cycling Team) plus three others, with the remainder of the break scattered 15 seconds and 35 seconds back.
The peloton took things relatively easy on what was the longest stage, trailing in 13 minutes 38 seconds behind. Caleb Ewan led the group in and with nobody of danger to his overall lead up the road, the Orica GreenEdge rider defended his yellow jersey.
“Today at the beginning there was a very fast peloton,” said Seo, who became the second Korean stage winner in the race’s 20 year history. “I tried to escape but with no success. Finally I tried to follow the group and then we were working together and making a good gap.”
He admitted he was very surprised when the race blackboard showed that the lead was a very considerable one. “I was scared they would try to chase like yesterday,” he said, “but in the last 15 kilometres I realised it would be a good chance for a stage win.”
Race leader Ewan said that his Orica GreenEdge team made a decision not to chase. There was no rider of danger in the move and the team was content for it to stay clear until the finish.
“Today we didn’t want to do the same as yesterday and commit all our guys to the front to bring back the break. If other teams wanted to bring it back for the sprint, we might have helped them,” he said. “But nobody was really keen to chase. As there were no GC riders in the front, none of the GC teams really wanted to chase either. So everyone was kind of watching each other and no-one really committed.”
He said that he was fine with that; his team have been riding hard and he said that digging in on the 200 kilometre stage would have worn them out for the rest of the race.
“As I said, if someone else wanted to commit, we probably would have helped. But no one was really too keen to bring it back.”
The mainly flat stage had a very aggressive start, with numerous riders trying to get clear but nothing remaining out front for very long. The elastic finally snapped 55 kilometres after the drop of the flag when eight riders slipped away.
They were Juan Molano Benavides (Colombia), Mohammed Adiq Husaini Othman (Terengganu Cycling Team), Yasuharu Nakajima (Aisan Racing Team), Patria Rastra and Jamaladin Novardianto (both Pegasus Continental Team), Seo Joon Yong (KSPO), Meher Hasnaoui (Skydive Dubai) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia National Team).
China Games champion Ma Guangtong missed the move and chased for a while, but the Hengxiang rider realised it was impossible for one rider to get across and sat up.
However he joined up in another chase with Liam Bertazzo (Southeast) and Wang Bo (Hengxiang), with the trio knuckling down to a long pursuit.
The break was six minutes 50 seconds up by the time they reached the first intermediate sprint in Dungun (km 66.8). Novardianto beat Adiq Othman and Loh Sea Keong there. The three chasers were four minutes back.
The second intermediate sprint at Kerthi (km 97) went to Seo, who crossed the line ahead of Novardianto and Loh. They then raced onwards to the day’s sole categorised climb, the cat four Kijal (km. 127.5), where Hasnaoui took top points from Seo and Othman.
The time gap back to the peloton was 14 minutes 20 seconds there, with the three chasers still lingering in no man’s land.
Just over ten kilometres after the climb the final intermediate sprint of the day was held at Chukai (km 139). Novardianto was again to the fore, taking first, with Seo and Loh filling the next placings.
The peloton was finding it hard to get back on terms and was sitting 14 minutes back, while the three chasers were making little inroads. They were four minutes 45 seconds down and looking increasingly unlikely to bridge.
Jacques Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang) and Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai) were frustrated by the bunch’s lack of progress and jumped clear, but were hauled back soon afterwards.
Inside the final 25 kilometres Seo Joon Yong attacked and opened a ten second lead over the rest of the break. He increased that to 16 seconds, then the lead slipped back down again to ten seconds.
He didn’t panic, though, continuing to push hard and reaching the line 13 seconds clear of Novardianto, Othman, Nakajima, Rastra and Hasnaoui.
The three chasers eventually finished over five minutes back, while the bunch itself was 13 minutes 38 seconds down.
Seo had a long day out front but believed the result was fully worth it. “Three years ago I got second place here in Kuantan,” he said. “In every Tour de Langkawi I try to win a stage. Today I got the win and I am so proud of myself.”
The day had further good news for Korea as Ewan, the Australian with a Korean mother, protected his overall lead and continues to wear yellow. He predicted that the sprinters would be back in action tomorrow, with a short 96.6 kilometre stage from Maran to Karak likely to stay together and see a big gallop to the line.