Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 – Stage 7 – Usov benefits from crash as Sprick loses the yellow

KUANTAN (15 Feb, 2008) – A bad crash involving sprinters Danilo Hondo and Alberto Loddo just 25metres to the finish line gifted Alexandre Usov of AG2R La Mondiale Stage Seven of the Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 from Kuala Rompin to Kuantan this morning.

Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 - Stage 7

The surprise win for the Belarus-born Usov was the result of a frantic sprint to the end in which Mauro Abel Richeze (CSF Group- Navigare) was penalized for causing the crash. Richeze received a CHF 60 fine, a 30-second time addition, a deduction of 30 points and was relegated to last spot on the stage.

A jubilant Usov, who was grinning from ear to ear at the press conference afterwards, completed the gruelling 126.6-kilometre race in 2h52’56”. Mizan Hassan Maleki of the Islamic Azad University was second while Takashi Miyazawa of Meitan Hompo came in third.

“The crash influenced the final result and I must admit that I came in first without expecting it. Had it been a normal sprint finish, I would not have won it,” said the 31-year-old Usov.

“Having said that and even though I felt for the guys who were involved in the crash, I think that I deserved to win the stage because I had to have been in a good position to be able to cross the line first anyway.”

Matthieu Sprick, in the yellow from the start of the LTdL this year, was forced to give up the leader’s jersey to Mitchell Docker of Drapac Porsche, who now has a two-second advantage at the top of the General Classification.

Docker, who has been chasing Sprick all along the first six stages of the tour this year, said that it has not been easy to overtake Sprick even though the Frenchman only had a slender one-second advantage over him.

“We failed to take the jersey two days ago but now that we are successful, the ride into the mountains tomorrow (on Stage Eight to Fraser’s Hill), will be tough. It is good for the team that we have the yellow at this time though.”

There were several unsuccessful attacks before the first Sprint in Merchang which was won by Malaysia’s Anuar Manan and where the peloton remained together heading into the first 40km of the race.

With Aurelien Clerc (Bouygues Telecom) winning the second sprint in Kampung Tanjung, coming in second has allowed Docker to overtake Sprick at the top of the GC as 13 riders escaped just after the Royal town of Pekan which included Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole), Jose Serpa (Serramenti PVC), Serguei Klimov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Yukiyo Arashiro (Meitan Hompo) among others.

The breakaway group was caught with just 30km to go to the end and even though Koji Fukushima (Meitan Hompo) did attempt to go at it alone, there was no escaping the peloton in the last 4km as Drapac and Tinkoff pulled up for the finish.

“The team has done a good job in the last week where we have been holding on to the yellow in the last six days,” added sprint leader Clerc, who has chalked up 77 points against Anuar’s 56 points.

“I hope that we can regain the yellow jersey back tomorrow although I believe that all the riders who are in the front 19 in the GC can give a good fight for the overall title.”

Chris Meschenmoser (Team Ista) is still in the King of the Mountain jersey while Park Sung Baek (Seoul Cycling) maintained his hold of the Blue jersey for the best Asian rider for yet another day.

Tomorrow’s Stage Eight will be the penultimate stage of the tour this year where the peloton will ride 127km from Temerloh to Fraser’s Hill in a race which is likely to decide the overall winner.

“It will all be down to the right tactic. With Fraser’s Hill being very different from Genting Highlands, it has made it an open race for anyone,” added Meschenmoser.

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