Guardini beats Mareczko and Ewan to land 17th career stage win in Tour de Langkawi

by Shane Stokes

Returning to the fore one day after being distanced on the climbs and losing out on the stage three bunch sprint, Andrea Guardini bounced back to the top of the podium when he won the big gallop into Kuala Berang.

The Astana rider beat Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) and Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEdge) to the line, with the latter saying afterwards he found himself boxed in and was unable to really challenge.

The success is Guardini’s seventeenth career stage win in the race, further extending a remarkable record.

“It is another time my team works really good,” he said immediately after the finish. “The Kazakh young riders caught the breakaway and lead out me in a good position in the last kilometre. [They were] really good, nothing to do!”

Having been put in the perfect position, he said that he also got the best out of himself too.

“I am really happy with my sprint because I saw the SRM and I made a good power. Okay, the final was really fast in the last 50, 60 kilometres, because the breakaway was so far [ahead] and a bit stronger than the other days as there were six good riders. We caught the breakaway with Orica and some other guys…as there were others in classification.

“After we had a good leadout with Southeast. I took good wheels and I made a really good sprint.”

Ewen rode the stage in the yellow jersey of race leader, having taken over from Guardini on Tuesday when the latter was dropped and when the young Australian won the stage.

He said that his team used matches up in trying to defend the lead and that this had an effect in the finale. “It has been a pretty long day. It was pretty tough out there. The breakaway seemed stronger than we thought. They really stuck it to us in the end and we were going full gas from about 60 kilometres out. It really burned a lot of our guys. We didn’t have many guys at the end, which made it extra hard.

“Coming into the finish, we got a bit swamped in the last kilometre and it got really messy behind their wheels as obviously everyone is trying to fight for Guardini’s wheel. It was a bit messy behind and I came from a bit too far back. I got a bit boxed in so I couldn’t really start my sprint until about 100 metres to go. It is obviously too late when you are racing against guys like Guardini.”

Still, he remains at the top of the general classification, extending his overall lead via bonuses to 17 seconds. He also holds onto the points classification lead.

As expected, the 165.4 kilometre stage was another where a break got clear. Just after the 30 kilometre point Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretange Seche Environnement), Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku), Jamalidin Novardianto (Pegasus Continental Cycing) and Vladimir Gusev (Skydive Dubai) pushed ahead.

They were joined soon afterwards by Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang Cycling Team) and Nazim Bakirci (Torku Sekerspor), making it seven against the peloton.

Perichon beat Novardianto and Bakirci at the first intermediate sprint at Pasir Putih (km. 36). At that point the leaders were one minute 15 seconds ahead but the gap rose very rapidly after that. Despite Périchon being just 22 seconds back overall, the break inflated its advantage to over five minutes.

The Frenchman was aware that his presence in the move would lead the peloton to try to bring them back and so, after beating Asadov and Novardianto at the second intermediate sprint at Jertih (km 54.7), he voluntarily sat up and drifted back to the main group.

Despite that, the gap didn’t go out significantly again. It was four minutes 20 seconds when Novardianto beat Asadov and Wang at the third and final intermediate sprint at Permaisuri (km 93), and down to just over three minutes at the king of the mountains climb at Sg. Tong (km. 123).

Novardianto was first there, edging out Wang and Clarke.

The gap continued to fall due to the driving of Orica GreenEdge, Astana and the Androni Giocattoli team and with seven kilometres left the break was just 30 seconds clear.

Things were back together five kilometres later and, inside the final kilometre, Guardini played things perfectly to triumph.

It was his third stage win in four days and showed that he is in superb form.

Still, he said that he didn’t want to take anything for granted in relation to taking on Ewan. “I know that maybe on paper I am faster than him, but on the road we need to make it,” he said. “I think always every stage is different. But I think he is so strong in all the other parcours, not only in the flat stages.

“I am not a climber and Caleb is much stronger than me on the climbs.”

The latter said that he would keep on trying, wanting to hold yellow as long as possible and also to try to clock up another stage win.

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