CYCLING / JELAJAH MALAYSIA: Satisfaction for Crawford
MAKING UP: Australian wins stage, on course for title he missed three years ago
A DRAMATIC end to the gruelling 201.8 kilometre Stage Two of the Jelajah Malaysia saw Australia's Jai Crawford take the first step towards putting to rest the agony of losing the overall title three years ago when he registered the RTS Racing Team's first ever UCI Asia Tour victory.
Crawford, 29, pulled off a sprint to beat Japan's Yasuharu Nakajima of the Aisan Racing Team to the victory with Indonesian veteran Tonton Susanto trailing in third as a five-man breakaway brought an end to the Terengganu Cycling Team's short-lived grip on two jerseys after Tuesday's opening stage.
The long stage saw the yellow jersey on the back of Terengganu Cycling Team's Shinichi Fukushima come under attack from the start, until they allowed a harmless five-man breakaway go about 10 kilometres into the stage.
The breakaway comprised Suren's Azamat Turaev, Malaysia's Mohd Al Ghazali Abdul Hamid, Kuala Lumpur's Razif Salleh and Armed Forces Amirul Aswandey Amran, all of whom had a 14-minute deficit to make up before they could threaten Fukushima's lead.
It all went well with Turaev then attacking solo before the Category 1 climb up Bukit Sumpitan, about 70km from the finish, with the quartet of chasers following suit. But the Terengganu Cycling Team's control of the race was shattered up that climb.
An attack by Indonesia's Putra Perjuangan team duo Dadi Suryadi and Tonton Susanto as the peloton gobbled up the breakaway and began ascending Bukit Sumpitan saw all them joined by Crawford, his RTS teammate Lee Rodgers, Nakajima and Suren's Yusup Abrekov.
First, Terengganu Cycling Team's red jersey on the back of mountains classification leader Saufi Mat Senan fell to Dadi who topped the summit ahead of Abrekov and Crawford.
Then Dadi, Tonton, Crawford, Rodgers, Abrekov and Nakajima descended the treacherous winding road down Bukit Sumpitan into Kulim at breakneck pace and found themselves with a four-minute and nine-second advantage over the peloton with just 25km to go.
When the biggest question was asked of the Terengganu Cycling Team, they failed to respond and the chase to save Fukushima's yellow jersey never looked effective.
As Rodgers dropped back, leaving the five remaining escapees to prospect the stage win and the yellow jersey between them, thus it was left to a sprint which Crawford surprised himself by winning.
"The plan was always to attack on the climb and when it came we did just that. I looked around and I saw there was Tonton, Dadi, Nakajima and Abrekov, which was a good bunch to attack with. As we descended I was really thinking we were going to be caught, but we saw there was a good gap, so we just gave it all we had," said Crawford.
Abrekov pulled on the yellow jersey as the overall leader with a 21-seconds advantage over Crawford.
With no Malaysians making an impact in the second stage, the Malaysian riders classification lead remained comfortably on the back of Adiq Husainie Othman, who with 28 points also kept the points classification lead which now sees Aisan Racing Team's Kazuhiro Mori trailing him by just three points.
RESULTS -- Stage Two (201.8km from Kampar to Kulim): 1 Jai Crawford (Aus) RTS Racing Team 5:07.42s, 2 Yasuharu Nakajima (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team, 3 Tonton Susanto (Ina) Putra Perjuangan, 4 Dadi Suryadi (Ina) Putra Perjuangan, 5 Yusup Abrekov (Uzb) Suren Uzbekistan Team (all same time).
General classification (yellow jersey): 1 Yusup Abrekov 8:58.36s, 2 Jai Crawford +21s, 3 Yasuharu Nakajima +23s.
Points classification (green jersey): 1 Adiq Husainie Othman (Mas) Malaysia Development Team 28pts, 2 Kazuhiro Mori (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 25, 3 Jai Crawford 23.
Mountains classification (red jersey): 1 Dadi Suryadi 10pts, 2 Yusup Abrekov 7, 3 Jai Crawford 6.
Asian riders classification (blue jersey): 1 Yusup Abrekov 8:58.36s, 2 Yasuharu Nakajima 23s, 3 Tonton Susanto +28s.
Malaysian riders classification (white jersey): 1 Adiq Husainie Othman 9:02.08s, 2 Zulhilmie Afif Ahmad Zamri (Mas) Terengganu +06s, 3 Salahuddin Mat Saman (Mas) Royal Malaysian Police +9:40s.