HARRIF Saleh has become the first Asian to win two stages of the Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi, after the Terengganu Inc-TSG rider won a bunch sprint to bag Stage 5 of the race from Kuala Kubu Baru to Ipoh today.
The 31-year-old Malaysian beat Stage 3 winner Max Walscheid of NTT Pro Cycling Team with a powerful final kick inside the final 200m, with Bardiani-CSF’s Matteo Pelucchi taking third spot.
Harrif, who registered his first-ever win in the race in Stage 2 from Senawang to Malacca last year, said he was confident and determined to bag a stage win despite having to contend with the powerful Walscheid.
“I am in my best form, and I came to this race with good preparation and support from all my teammates, the team staff, my family – everyone helped me get to this form.
“I knew Walscheid, with his large figure, would be a challenge, but I had no problem getting into position and launching my sprint. The sprinters know me, so I was given space, and my teammates helped me get into a good position for the sprint,” said Harrif, who recently recovered from a nerve injury that affected sight in his right eye.
“It was quite a serious injury. It affected the nerve in my right eye, and I had trouble seeing through that eye. Even now, it isn’t fully healed, and the doctors have told me I won’t be getting back to 100%. The vision in my right eye is still blurry, but it isn’t too much of a problem.”
The result moves Harrif up to third in the points classification with 27 points, behind Walscheid, who still leads with 46 points, and Australian Taj Jones with 36 points.
Stage 6 tomorrow is trickier, covering 150.9km from Taiping to Penang, where the race will head westward upon entering the island to complete a round-island tour before the finish line in George Town. – February 11, 2020.