Harrif on a roll with history-making third win

Afif Abd Halim

TERENGGANU Inc TSG’s Harrif Saleh won another bunch sprint to register his second stage win in Stage 7 of the Petronas Le Tour De Langkawi (LTDL) 2020, extending his record to three victories, the only Asian rider to have achieved the feat in the race’s 25-year history.

The 31-year old, who won the fifth stage on Tuesday, again launched a late sprint to surprise the pack and crossed the finish line of the 130.4km stage from Bagan to Alor Star, ahead of Bardiani-CSF’s Matteo Pelucci and ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast’s Taj Jones, the winner of Stage 2.

Pelucchi, who had won the last time a stage finish occurred in Alor Star last year, was targeting for victory again as the Bardiani-CSF train lined him up for the finish after the remnants of a five-man breakaway, comprising Masakazu Ito (Aisan), Ben van Dam (Team Bridgelane), Kim Kookhyun (KSPO), Cormac McGeough (Team Wildlife) and the Malaysian national team’s Danieal Haikkal Edy Suhaidee, some 10km into the stage, were reeled in with just 2km to go.

But Harrif again found a loophole to slither through and found himself charging for the finish line virtually unmatched, with the result moving him up to third in the points classification with just the final stage in Langkawi left tomorrow. 

NTT Pro Cycling’s Max Walscheid leads with 47 points, but is coming under threat with Jones closing the gap just two points behind and Harrif only five points behind.

“I don’t know what to say. Maybe my condition is good now. That’s why with this good condition, I felt confident. My confidence level was ready for LTDL. I also expected that I could win because I already won a stage. Today, I followed the lead and then saw my big chance to go for the win and I took it,” said Harrif.

“Today, the race was very fast. But when I saw the road to the finish, I confirmed that the sprint was for me, so I just went for it. When I passed Pelucchi, I thought my speed was fast enough and nobody could pass me. I feel very happy that Asian riders can also win stages in the Pro Series,” he added.

The bunch sprint results sees Team Sapura Cycling’s Danilo Celano retaining the overall lead with a 25-second advantage over Vino-Astana’s Yevgeniy Fedorov intact, while teammate Nur Aiman Zariff also retained the red jersey as the leader of the mountains classification. Fedorov also retained the white jersey as the leader of the Asian riders’ classification.

The final stage tomorrow will feature a 108.5km course around the island of Langkawi, ending with six loops around a circuit in Kuah town. 

The stage will see seven Category 3 climbs and three intermediate sprints, which should bring about a dramatic end to both the mountains and points classification competitions, while also complicating Team Sapura Cycling’s defence of Celano’s yellow jersey. – February 13, 2020.

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