KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (TSG) rider Nur Aiman Zariff promised to make an impact and he did not disappoint in the opening stage of Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) today.
Aiman, who is the defending champion in the mountains classification (polka dot jersey), was part of a four-man breakaway group which went up the road just before the 40 kilometre mark.
The 25-year-old crossed the line third in Dungun (intermediate sprint). He was first past the line in Jerangau and second at Sekayu behind Tegshbayar Batsaikhan (Roojai Online Insurance), both of which were category four climbs.
Aiman said he sat up and rejoined the peloton after the Sekayu climb, deciding against chasing down Tegshbayar who went solo.
His efforts, however, were enough to put him in charge of the polka dot jersey with three points to his name. Tegshbayar is second in the standings on two points.
"I wanted to take maximum points at both climbs but Tegshbayar unexpectedly went early at Sekayu," said Aiman after the race.
"I decided not to chase him because I did not want to waste too much energy. We still have a lot of racing to do in the tour.
"I just focused on marking those in my breakaway group.
"I will try and collect more points tomorrow (stage two) but the big one will be on Monday (stage three) so I will have to conserve some energy."
The second stage tomorrow will start in Kuala Terengganu and finish in Kota Bharu covering 186.2km with a brace of category four climbs at Setiu and Pelong.
The third stage from Jeli to Baling (183.1km) will feature four climbs at Puncak Titiwangsa (category one), Jeli and Seri Banding (both category two) and Sungai Rui (category three).
Meanwhile, national team sprinter Izzat Hilmi Abdul Halil, who placed fourth in stage one today, is looking to build on his performance.
"I went slightly too early in the sprint and it cost me a spot on the podium," said Izzat.
"I have learnt from the experience and will look to improve in the next stage. Overall, I am still happy with my performance today."
Izzat expressed his gratitude to teammates Zulhelmi Zainal and Nur Aiman Rosli who led him out in the sprint.