On a day that was expected to belong to the climbers, the sprinters once again stole the show on Stage 4 of the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia on Thursday, with South Africa’s Nolan Hoffman securing yet another impressive podium finish.
Hoffman finished third on the hilly 221km stage from Melaka to Bangi, beaten by single-named Indonesian sprinter Samai and race leader, Italian Mattia Gavazzi in another exciting dash. Hoffman’s consistency (3rd, 2nd, 4th, 3rd) in the first four stages so far sees him move back to second place overall, 23 seconds behind Gavazzi and still second in the Points Competition behind the Italian.
Hoffman’s South African teammate, Christoff van Heerden, was a member of the day’s most prominent breakaway move and was one of only two survivors from that group at the summit of the Category 2 climb with 50km to go. But with a predominantly downhill run to the finish from there, the peloton, which still included most of the sprinters, swallowed up any remaining opportunists, topping the long day off with a fourth consecutive mass gallop.
“It was a day full of attacks and we had a South African in every one of them,” remarked Barry Austin, the South African team manager. “Christoff had a great ride in the hills, especially considering he’s not a climber. And Jacques Janse van Rensburg was super-strong on the climbs, which bodes well for tomorrow’s big mountain stage.”
Due to the breakaway ahead, Janse van Rensburg lost his lead in the King of the Mountains competition on Thursday, with New Zealand’s Jeremy Yates and Van Heerden pushing him down to third. Van Heerden moved up to eighth in the General Classification. South Africa is still listed as the leading team.
Friday’s 102km stage from Petaling Jaya to the mountaintop entertainment resort of Genting Highlands, sees the riders climb more than 1600 metres on one of the most vicious ascents in international cycling. Janse van Rensburg and team captain, Ian McLeod will fly the South African flag in an attempt to secure the race leader’s Yellow Jersey.