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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — On a scorching Sunday afternoon on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Andrea Guardini (Astana) out-sprinted Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Michael Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the eighth and final stage of theTour de Langkawi.
The win marks Guardini’s fourth stage win of the week, and gives the 25-year-old sprinter a record 18 wins, which is more than half of his professional total of 32.
“This was a fantastic race for us,” said Guardini, who only had two teammates on the day after Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, Daniil Fominykh and Andrey Zeits all withdrew due to illness. “We take second place in general classification with my teammate Valerio Agnoli and after that we take the win for me.
“This is the best way to finish LTLD 2015.”
The final classification remained unchanged with sprinter Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) holding on to the yellow jersey he surprisingly captured atop Frasier’s Hill in stage 7.
“This is the first race win for me professionally,” said Reguigui, whose team sports director, Michel Cornilesse, told VeloNews that the 25-year-old “didn’t sleep all night” due to his excitement from the victory on Saturday.
“Yesterday I was riding for my teammate Natnael Berhane (ERI), who was second on classification, but he was tired so I made the decision to win the stage and take the yellow jersey,” said Reguigui.
“Today, I did not want to take the risk of crashing so I rode to protect the jersey and the lead.”
Reguigui finished with a nine-second margin over runner up Valerio Agnoli (Astana) and Sebastian Henao (Team Sky).
The Tour de Langkawi prides itself for inviting a diverse group of riders from all the continents. In this 20th edition, 22 teams with 132 riders took the start, but only 106 finished the eight-day stage race. The eclectic podium featured winners from five continents, including stage winner Guardini (Europe), race winner Reguigui (Africa), points winner Ewan (Australia), mountains winner Kiel Reijnen (North America) and best Asian rider Tomohiro Hayakawa.
The final stage was a 96.1km route from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur with six 6.6km laps of a city circuit.
Midway through the race, a four-man break led by Portugal’s Bruno Pires (Tinkoff-Saxo), Colombian Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Australian Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Tunisian Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive Dubai) attacked to a lead of just over a minute before being reeled in and caught inside the final 2km.
“Today is really fantastic,” said Guardini, who has raced Langkawi for the past five years. “I have won on this circuit three times and I know all the corners in the last 1km by heart.”
Asked if he would return to the race for a sixth year in 2016, Guardini said he was undecided.
“I don’t know if I come back another year, but we will see who is my team next year,” he said. “Maybe Astana, maybe not. I don’t know because I’m at the end of my contract.
“I like Malaysia, but we will see who is my team in 2016.”
As for Ewan, the 20-year-old neo-pro finishes the week having spent four days in yellow with the blue jersey and two stage wins.
“We came here with the plan to win one stage,” said Ewan. “So to come away with two and the points jersey it exceeds expectations, so I’m really happy how the race went and how the team worked together.
“Because I hadn’t raced so much beforehand, I think it took me a while to get into it, but I’m happy with how my form is going into my next race in Catalunya next week.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews,