Australia Stronger Than Ever for LTdL

Kuala Lumpur – On the record books, the Australian national team has never won a stage or the general classification at Le Tour de Langkawi but since the early win of the late Damian McDonald back in 1996 under the colours of trade team Giant-Australia for the inaugural event, Australia has played a major role in the success of the Malaysian event.

“We stopped taking part in Le Tour de Langkawi for several years because the 12-day race was too long for our young riders”, national road coach Brian Stephens explained. “We came back in 2007 with our trade team Southaustralia.com and now the 7-day format suits our program at perfection.”

shayne-bannan_the-driving-force-of-australian-cycling-wince

With the number of Continental teams increasing drastically in Australia and more of them bidding for LTdL than the race organisation could realistically host, the team invitation committee chaired by Datuk Naim Mohamad opted for inviting the Australian national team providing the opportunity to the coaches from down under to select the best Australian riders available in February.

“Our group of three selectors looked at which would be the best riders for the Tour Down Under and those for Le Tour de Langkawi”, explained the technical director of Cycling Australia Shayne Bannan.

It appeared to them that LTdL would suit Richie Porte even more than the Tour Down Under where he finished 10th last year among all the Pro Tour teams. The Tasmanian rider is again in a fantastic shape as he claimed the bronze medal at the Australian national championship for time trial behind three-time world champion Michael Rogers and Cameron Meyer who will also take part in LTdL with Pro Tour outfit Garmin-Slipstream. In 4th position was Cameron Wurf who is another motivated rider on the Australian national team.

“I was offered a contract with Silence-Lotto and I only found out in December that it wouldn’t happen”, said the former member of the Austrian team Volksbank now renamed Vorarlberg-Corratec and set to debut at LTdL this year. “I’m delighted that at least I can use Le Tour de Langkawi to show the Pro Tour teams that I’m able to ride for them as I’m looking for a contract”, Wurf continued.

“Our national team is a mix of experience and up-and-coming riders together with riders like Porte and Wurf in search of a contract in a big team”, Bannan underlined. The young ones are the very promising Tim Roe and Adam Semple while the old ones would be Gene Bates, 27, and Jai Crawford, 25. “We count on Bates’ long experience of Le Tour de Langkawi for the the leadership and we picked Crawford for his good history in Asian cycling. Bates came close to a stage win with LPR in 2007, Crawford finished 5th overall that same year. Crawford won stage 3 and finished 8th at the Tour of Wellington in New Zealand last week. It says a lot about his current physical condition.

“We take Le Tour de Langkawi very seriously and we are sending the best Australian team ever”, Bannan promised.

The 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi will feature 20 teams from February 9 to 15, starting in Putrajaya, the home of Malaysian government, and finishing in the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur with the traditional criterium at Dataran Merdeka.

The Tour is organized by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Malaysian Government via the Ministry of Youth and Sports and sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC).

The Australian national team for Le Tour de Langkawi (February 9-15): Gene Bates, Jai Crawford, Richie Porte, Tim Roe, Adam Semple, Cameron Wurf.

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