KUALA LUMPUR: The 25th anniversary of Petronas Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) turned out to be a memorable affair for Malaysian cycling fans.
As usual, Terengganu Cycling Team’s Harrif Saleh entered the tour as one of the underdogs in a field peppered with world-class European and Australian sprinters.
Harrif, however, ended the competition as one of the greats of Malaysian road cycling after clinching two stage wins.
Including his second stage win in last year's tour, Harrif now has more stage wins (three) in LTdL than any other Asian rider in the history of the competition.
The fact that he had suffered an eye stroke in October last year makes the feat sweeter for Harrif.
The 31-year-old from Kampung Ladang, Kuala Terengganu is a firm fan favourite due to his down-to-earth and easy going personality.
Team Sapura Cycling, who won the yellow jersey via Australian Benjamin Dyball last year, successfully defended the Petronas yellow jersey (general classification) through Italian Danilo Celano.
It was the first time that a Malaysian team managed to win the yellow jersey twice in a row.
They also won the red jersey through Nur Aiman Zariff, who led the climbers’ classification from start to finish.
At 23, Aiman still has his best years ahead of him.
The Setiu-born rider considers himself a rouleur, and his ability to consistently place himself in the breakaway makes him a great asset to Sapura.
In terms of the race’s organisation this year, Human Voyage Sdn Bhd did a decent job overall.
To their credit, the race went smoothly including the challenging transfers (Kota Kinabalu-Kuching, Kuching-Kuala Terengganu and Alor Setar-Langkawi).
Live coverage of the race, which was also streamed online, however, was lacking in certain stages, most notably the Putrajaya to Genting Highlands.
Human Voyage must work to overcome this in next year's race as such shortcomings project a poor image of the race to viewers worldwide.
The organisers must also work towards increasing the number of WorldTeams in the race.
Only one WorldTeams in NTT Pro Cycling made the trip to Malaysia this year.
Human Voyage also executed a masterstroke by introducing the Malaysian International Criterium and Malaysian International Classic, a UCI 1.1 event, to support LTdL.
Human Voyage and title sponsors Petronas both have a year left on their contracts with LTdL and should be able to host an even stronger event next year with the experience they have gained over the past two editions.