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SA outfit eighth
- Updated: February 27, 2012
South African outfit MTN-Qhubeka held on to their eighth spot in team classification after the fourth stage of the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia on Monday, writes Mark Etheridge.
The SA team finished fifth on Monday, and are still 4min 20sec down on leaders Garmin-Barracuda as the 169.4 kilometre stage ended from Batu Pahat to Muar.
Best of the team’s individual cyclists was Eritrean Jani Tewelde in ninth spot as Andrea Guardini won his third stage win of the tour, clocking three hours 57min 11sec.
In fact the first three MTN riders across the line were Eritrean as Tesfai Habtariam and Meron Russom took 24th and 25th spots, while Dennis van Niekerk in 26th was the first of the two South Africans in the line-up. The other, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, was 44th.
The remaining member of the team, Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti, was 125th on Monday, 2:37 off the pace after puncturing with just under 5km to ride and losing just over two and a half minutes.
“Our six riders are all still feeling good and even Meron Russom seems to have recovered from his stage two tumble,” team manager Kevin Campbelll said after the stage. “The four riders in the break steadily built their advantage to just under six minutes but as the big guns on the sprinter’s teams started to increase the pace in the last 50km┬áanother bunch print looked inevitable.
“Nobody, however, told this to the riders out in front as they battled to maintain their lead. With 2km remaining they still hung onto a lead of just under 30sec and did not look like surrendering without a fight. The strong driving of Teams Astana and Farnesi ViniSelle Italia finally paid off as the escapees were caught with only 200m remaining allowing Guardini to clinch his hat-trick of stage wins on this tour.
“Jani┬ámaintained his excellent form and continued to contest the sprints well. Dennis, Tesfai and Meron all finished together in the top 30 without losing any time on the stage.”
Speaking of the next two days’ racing, Van Niekerk told Road to London 2012: “Tomorrow [Tuesday] is a day for us to keep a close eye on the race there are three climbs that we need to be sure we get over with the front guys.┬áJacques and I will focus on Wednesday with the big climb to Genting Highlands. Last year I finished fourth on that stage and that secured fourth overall on the tour. Jacques finished sixth overall in the 2009 edition.
“In the sprints on all the other stages me and Jacques try to help the better sprinters on our team to give them a good chance of finishing in the top 10 of the stage.”
In the GC (General Classification), Russom is best of the team, slotting in at 22nd place (+2:23), one spot ahead of Janse van Rensburg
Tuesday’s fifth stage is a 187.2km ride from Ayer Keroh and is followed by the tough climb up to the Genting Highlands on Wednesday.