Aidis Kruopis Sprints to Second on Tour de Langkawi Stage SixTue 4 Mar 2014
After twice finishing just off the stage podium in Malyasia, ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Aidis Kruopis sprinted to second on stage six of the Tour de Langkawi. The Lithuanian was narrowly edged out in the mad dash for the line by Kenny Van Hummel (Androni Giocattoli). With the points Kruopis accrued on the finish line as well as points picked up in the first intermediate sprint, he now sits in second in the sprint classification, one point away from taking the blue points jersey from Thomas Rabou (OCBC Singapore).
Despite the action-packed racing, the day ended with a bunch sprint in Pontian. Esteban Chaves finished safely in the bunch to protect his fourth place position overall. The young Colombian is 20” outside of the race lead.
“The points jersey wasn’t a goal at the start, but if there’s the possibility Aidis can take it, we’ll definitely go after it,” said Wilson. “Chasing the jersey doesn’t change much in our approach over the new few days. We’ll still go out there looking for stage wins and some seconds for Chaves.”
The second longest stage of the ten day Malaysian tour was also one of the most aggressive. With the breakaway contesting the stage win yesterday, most teams were eager to put riders up the road. Eventually Yannick Martinez (Team Europcar) and Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) received the nod from the peloton.
“It took a long, long time for the break to go today,” said Wilson. “We covered 70 kilometres until we saw the first breakaway. That shows that everyone is really confident that the break has a good chance of staying away. The stage was nearly 200 kilometres, so I guess no one wanted to spend the whole day chasing on the front. Everyone on our team attempted to get up the road. All the guys gave it a try or two.”
Martinez and Asadov failed to establish a healthy advantage, and Europcar eventually called Martinez back to the peloton to save his legs for the sprint.
Alone out front, Asadov managed to extend the gap to 4’20 before Yellow Fluo sent riders to the front to start the chase. Belkin contributed to the efforts, and Astana added a lone rider to the head of the bunch. The gap had fallen below the two minute mark ahead of the second intermediate sprint, and Asadov, sensing his fate, sat up to allow the bunch to overtake him.
“Things settled down for a little bit after the breakaway went,” explained Wilson. “Originally, it was a two man move, but once there was only one rider up the road, I think a few team had the idea that they should try to get a rider up there, so the attacks started again.”
Rabou, Yihui Ni (Giant-Champion System Pro) and Eric Sheppard (OCBC Singapore) jumped from the peloton to contest the second intermediate sprint. The trio gained a slight advantage as they sprinted and decided to see if they could parlay the initial gap into a race winning move. They gained barely more than a minute over the chasing peloton.
“We put Sam Bewley on the front,” noted Wilson. “He chased for the better part of an hour. The peloton caught the break with 20 kilometres to go – and from there it was getting ready from the sprint.”
Inside the final three kilometres, ORICA-GreenEDGE began to position Kruopis for the mad dash to the line. Kruopis sat on the back of his train as they moved him towards the front of the bunch.
“The guys brought Aidis to 500 metres to go,” Wilson said. “Androni came past, and Aidis jumped on their train. He came off of Van Hummel to open his sprint. Second – it was a close one!”