BALING: Bolton Equities Black Spoke sprinter George Jackson survived four categorised climbs and the full spectrum of Malaysian weather before clinching his maiden Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) stage win today.
The third stage from Jeli to Baling (183.1km) today started off in wet and cold conditions in the hilly areas of Hulu Kelantan before turning into a hot and dry race once the lead group reached Gerik.
While a number of other big-name sprinters were dropped in the hills, Jackson was right up there when it mattered and secured the win in four hours, 14 minutes and 13 seconds.
Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizane's Enrico Zanoncello and Euskaltel-Euskadi's Carlos Canal settled for second and third in the bunch sprint.
Jackson, sporting a big moustache and classic mullet hairstyle, was visibly delighted with his performance.
"I am very happy to get it done after my team did so much work for me today," said Jackson, who won two stages at the Tour of Taihu Lake earlier this month.
"I had (teammate) Matt Bostock lead me out and I was fourth in the last corner. I just ran at the wheel a bit then went as hard as I could.
"It was super hilly and I'm a big guy, so I had to surf the wheels a lot and just look for cover. But then it rained and then it was hot, we had everything thrown at us.
"We will fight for another stage and we also have our guys competing for the general classification (GC)."
The Kiwi had finished 20th and 19th in the first and second stages.
Zanoncello's performance was enough to displace Tudor Pro Cycling Team's Arvid de Kleijn, who finished over 30 minutes down today, atop the GC standings (green jersey).
"Today was a very hard stage. I hoped to win, but George was just too good today," said the Italian.
"I am a bit disappointed not to win the stage, but the green jersey is kind of a consolation."
De Kleijn is tied on 27 points with Zanoncello atop the sprinters classification, but keeps the orange jersey as he has a superior stage placing aggregate.
But there were changes in the mountains classification which saw Tudor's Simon Pellaud taking the polka dot jersey away from Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team's Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki after bagging maximum points at Jeli, Puncak Titiwangsa and Sri Banding today.
Pellaud now leads with 20 points, eight more than second placed Luca Covili (Bardiani).
There was, however, good news for Malaysia in the Asian riders classification as national team rider Nur Aiman Rosli, who crossed the line sixth today, took charge of the white jersey.
Aiman has the same cumulative time as second placed Thanakhan Chaiyasombat (Thailand Continental Cycling Team), but has the superior stage placing aggregate.
The day, however, started on a serious note after Giant Cycling Team were involved in an accident which flipped their van.
They were on their way to the start line in Jeli at the time.
The three riders in the van — Lin Chuanyang, Wang Zichen and Huang Junlei — the driver as well as one team official sustained minor injuries.
The trio subsequently missed the start of the stage and will not be competing in the remaining stages. The National Sports Council are investigating the incident.
The fourth stage from Bukit Mertajam to Meru Raya tomorrow will see riders covering 140.2km.
With only one category three climb at Kuala Kangsar, it is likely to end in another bunch sprint.