BUKIT JALIL, MONDAY – Armed with a quartet of experienced hands and two promising youngsters, the Malaysian national team for the 18th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from February 21 to March 2 has been announced today with renewed hope of an impressive showing.
Trained by coach Aminudin Sulaiman since October 1, the team has shown marked improvement both in the local and international scene in their buildup to Asia’s biggest race which is set for a ceremonial start in its legendary birthplace of Langkawi Island.
Aminudin has named experienced riders Amir Mustafa Rusli, Mohd Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi, Mohd Nor Rizuan Zainal and Muhamad Rauf Nur Misbah to lead the charge of the national team with youngsters Ahmad Fakhrullah Alias and Mohd Ekbar Zaman Huri to beef up their challenge.
The 24-year old Amir, who has been turning out for Australian professional team Drapac Cycling for the past three seasons will be making his fourth appearance in the race, this time teaming up with fellow-policeman Fauzan, 26, who is making a return to the race after three years.
Mohd Nor Ridzuan, 26, from the Armed Forces will be making his fifth appearance in the race, as is Mohd Rauf. Ahmad Fakhrullah, 23, will be having his second shot at the race, while Mohd Ekbar, 21, from Negri Sembilan will be making his debut.
The team was announced by president of the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) Datuk Haji Abu Samah Wahab, who stated his confidence in the ability of the riders to show marked improvement this time around.
“We are confident that the team now has been able to focus on their objectives and hopefully produce improved results, although we will have one of the strongest fields ever for the LTdL this time around,” said Datuk Abu Samah.
Officiating the function, in which Malaysian cycling apparel supplier Ciclista Sdn Berhad was also presented as sponsors of the national team and LTdL event partners, Ministry of Youth and Sports secretary general Dato’ Mohid Mohamed expressed his confidence in the capabilities of the team.
“We are proud of the achievements of our cyclists. Although our road cyclists have yet to reach the heights of our track cyclists, there are some notable achievements like those of the Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) who recently emerged overall winners of the UCI Asia Tour,” said Dato’ Mohid.
“We certainly hope that the riders in our national team are capable of giving us a surprise or two in the race this time, even if the field will comprise a very strong line-up of professional riders from around the world.”
Much attention will be on Fauzan this time around, with the former national road champion having impressed in the MNCF National GP Series, where he closed accounts in the season with by emerging the overall time trial champion and finished it off with a dominant show in the final round in Melaka in December 30 and 31, where he won both the road race and time trial.
“I’m glad to be back in this race. For us Malaysian riders, this is the one race that we all look forward to. It is the biggest event for us. I have had to work hard to get back into this kind of form to enable myself to be considered for the national team. I am glad it has paid off, but this is just the start,” said Fauzan.
“We don’t want to enter the race just to make up the numbers and just to be there as representatives of the country. I am confident that our form has improved and this time we can provide a better performance.”
Aminudin said the momentum has been good and with plans for an altitude training camp in Kunming, China, the preparations of the team would be complete.
“So far all the riders have shown marked improvement in their form. The drive is there and the momentum is there. I believe we have a good team this time around with a good balance of experienced riders and some young riders,” said Aminudin.
The LTdL 2013, which carries the slogan “The Heat is On”, will officially begin in Kangar on February 21 and the race comprises 10 stages, covering 1469.7 kilometres.
The race is sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a 2.HC (hors category) race on the UCI Asia Tour calendar, organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, via the National Sports Council (NSC) in association with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF).
The 18th edition of the race is marked not only by its return to its legendary birthplace, but also a challenging route which features two tough climbs up Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands.
THE MALAYSIA NATIONAL TEAM FOR LE TOUR DE LANGKAWI 2013:
Amir Mustafa RUSLI, Mohd Fauzan AHMAD LUTFI, Mohd Nor Rizuan ZAINAL, Muhamad Rauf NUR MISBAH, Ahmad Fakhrullah ALIAS AND Mohd Ekbar ZAMAN HURI