2015 marked the 20th edition of Le Tour De Langkawi. 2 Decades on, the show has evolved, with many changes taking place. The Cycling Malaysia Team covered the LTdL, and bring you our thoughts and impressions.
A little over 20 years ago, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, then Prime Minister of Malaysia, mooted the idea of holding a stage race, to put Malaysia “on the world sporting and tourism map”, and help showcase Malaysia to the world. That idea gave birth to Le Tour de Langkawi, and it has succeeded in many ways. For many of the teams and riders, it is an excellent season opener to their racing campaign for the year, especially for the pro continental and continental teams. For blooding new riders, and testing riders returning from injury, LTdL, with all the heat and humidity of the tropics, is an ideal place to see if a rider will make it, or break.
As the peloton moves from town to town through the Malaysian countryside, spectators will note a long convoy of motorcycles, cars, vans and other support vehicles shepherding the riders. This is the Race Convoy, and one of the key components of the convoy are the team cars. At pro level racing, every stage is followed by team cars. Team cars perform a multitude of roles during a race, ensuring that the team stays in the race, and dealing with any problems and issues that might arise, as well as providing race direction and instructions. During the 2015 LTdL, Danny Feng, Directeur Sportif (DS) of Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG), invited Cycling Malaysia to ride shotgun in the TSG Team Car.
- STAGE 1 Sun, 8 March 2015 Langkawi (99.2km)
- STAGE 2 Mon, 9 March 2015 Alor Setar-Sungai Petani (185.0km)
- STAGE 3 Tues, 10 March 2015 Gerik-Tanah Merah (170.0km)
- STAGE 4 Wed, 11 March 2015 Kota Bharu-Kuala Berang (165.4km)
- STAGE 5 Thurs, 12 March 2015 Kuala Terengganu-Kuantan (200.0km)
- STAGE 6 Fri, 13 March 2015 Maran-Karak (96.6km)
- STAGE 7 Sat, 14 March 2015 Shah Alam-Bukit Fraser (180.8km)
- STAGE 8 Sun, 15 March 2015 Kuala Kubu Bharu-Kuala Lumpur Loop (96.1km)
We rode in the TSG team car for stage 3, from Gerik to Tanah Merah, taking the East-West Highway, and passing by the Belum rainforest, as well as the Temenggor dam. Getting into the car, the first thing you notice is that it’s packed, cramped even, with a giant cooler full to the brim with ice, ice packs, drinks and carbonated beverages. Aside from the 2 spare team bicycles riding on the roof, the back seat is also crammed with food, wheelsets and tools. In today’s seating configuration, Danny elects to drive, while the team technician takes the back seat, letting us ride in front to take pictures and watch the action in the peloton first hand.
The front of the car is equally as cramped, once we place our camera gear. The Race Manual is placed in a prominent position, as well as the Stage Starter list. The radio on the dashboard crackles with the voice of Radio Tour. Radio Tour gives instructions to all vehicles in the circus, including instructions for feeding, technical support, emergency instructions, permissions to over take and so on. Danny hands the race manual to us, along with the day’s starter list, so that we have an idea of where we’re going, the type of terrain the peloton is facing and who’s who in the peloton. The last is very important, as Radio Tour never mentions any rider by name, instead using only the race number.
As the race starts, Danny talks about how team cars are the ‘second peloton’. He explains, “you know, most of the DS’es are former racers. We can’t ride in the peloton, so we do our racing with the team cars.” He emphasises this point by executing a smart overtaking maneuver to bring the TSG car into its place in the order. Team cars are given a number every day that dictates their position in the race convoy based upon the team position in the General Classification.
Cars with low numbers are nearer to the tail of the peloton, letting the DS watch the action a little more closely. Low numbers are coveted, as they let the team car support the riders faster, without having to overtake the race convoy. A close position also means a rider that drops back to the team car for support doesn’t have as long a journey to make to catch up with the peloton. Due to the length of the race convoy, this can mean a sprint of as long as a kilometer.