Long second stage in Langkawi ends in sprint finishMon 19 Mar 2018
Mitchelton-BikeExchange were out of the running on stage two of Le Tour de Langkawi after a long and hot 208kilometre stage wrapped in a fractured bunch sprint with Niu Yikui our best placed rider in 20th on the day and currently within the top ten overall.
A scrappy and hectic finish on stage one saw Jacob Hennessy caught up in a crash with only one-kilometre to go with the 21-year-old Briton fortunate to escape without injury and able to start today’s second stage.
The Chinese outfit held a decent position going into the closing kilometres, but with Hennessy caught in a group further back the they didn’t have an option to contest the sprint.
Ran on wide and open roads the sprint started early as Riccardo Minali (Astana-Pro-Team) took the initiative and jumped with 75metres to go, splitting the head of the bunch and holding on for the stage win with Niu Yikui finishing with the leaders
The stage opened with a flurry of attacks ahead of the first climb, the cat 4 ascent up to Gerik with six-riders managing to go clear to form the breakaway.
Over the top of the second climb, the first category Titiwangsa and the group had developed around three minutes advantage over the peloton, but it didn’t last.
They were caught with some 60kilometres remaining with the sprinters team’s intent on bringing the race back together for a sprint finale.
Mitchelton-BikeExchange’s northern Chinese rider Niu Yikui clipped off the front to take the intermediate sprint points with 40kilometre to go, before easing back into the peloton ahead of the finish in Kota Bharu.
The final ten kilometres saw the sprinters team’s jostle and fight for position as the pace increased dramatically with Minali of Astana proving to be the strongest and taking the stage win.
Niu Yikui – 9th GC:
“The first climbs of the stage were harder than I expected. I got dropped near the top of the second climb, fortunately there were many riders willing to work together and we chased back soon after the KOM.”
“I knew Jacob was further back, so I thought I had to go for the result. At the third sprint I attacked and managed to get the bonus seconds which could help me move up on the GC.
"I felt good in the final kilometres and I was in a good position with one kilometre to go, then with 500metres to go there was a sharp right turn and a wheel I could follow but I was a bit wary after yesterday's crash, so I hesitated for a second and lost my chance for the top 10.
“I'm now three seconds down on the best Asian rider's ranking, tomorrow I hope I can get more bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint and try to challenge the two Asian riders ahead of me.”
Tour of Langkawi stage two results:
1. Riccardo Minali (Astana-Pro-Team) 05:18:20
2. Manuel Belletti (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) ST
3. Paolo Simion (Bardiani-CSF) ST
20. Niu Yikui (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) ST
General classification after stage two:
1. Riccardo Minali (Astana-Pro-Team) 08:47:13
2. Seo Joon Yong (KSPO-Bianchi) +0:05
3. Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) +0:05
9. Niu Yikui (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) +0:08