February 4/01 10:09 am - Langkawi Prologue Story
Posted by Editor on 02/4/01
The Langkawi Classic, held earlier today, is not really part of the Tour de Langkawi. It is a holdover from when the TdL was actually held on the island of Langkawi, at the north end of Malaysia, near the border of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. Initially the TdL was a 3 day affair around Langkawi, a tax-free resort destination for Asia. However, the event has grown beyond the confines of the island to take riders over the entire Malay pennisula. The Classic is a 64 kilometre loop around the island - a warm up for the riders before the full 12 stage (1836 km) which begins on February 6th.
Despite the non-official status of the Langkawi Classic, the 25 teams put on a good show for the local spectators. Mapei-Quick Step, perhaps throwing down the gauntlet, were dominant, with Paolo Lanfranchi (1999 TdL winner) taking the win, and teammate Dario Cioni finishing third. Sandwiched between the two was another Italian, Francesco Secchiari (Saeco Macchine per Caffe).
Team Canada's Min Van Velzen summed up the race concisely: "it was slow, it was fast, then it was slow again". He was referring to the fact that the first 20 kilometres were slow, as the riders shook the travel kinks out their legs, then attacks started happening constantly until a group of 10 got away. A second chase group of 9 also dropped the peloton, but only two members were able to make their way across to the front group, before it also split up under Mapei pressure.
Four riders broke clear - Lanfranchi, Cioni, Secchiari and Australian Nathan O'Neill (Ceramiche Panaria Fiordo). Mapei, with two in the front, kept launching attacks until one succeeded, and Lanfranchi was able to hold on for the last 10 kilometres to eck out a 5 second victory over Secchiari. Cioni came in a further 12 seconds back, with O'Neill 26 seconds back of Lanfranchi. The reformed chase group came in 41 seconds down, with the remainder of the field staggering in twleve and a half minutes later.
The question is: was Mapei sending a message to rivals Mercury (the defending champions), or was it just a chance to scoop up some good cash before things get really serious. We will find out on Tuesday.