Half a year is gone, welcome July！This group of riders has jetted all over the world to pit themselves against their peers, climb the hardest routes, and earn themselves devotion and feelings of pride to the country.
They are the TSG Riders, riding their way to triumph in several UCI tour races over the months.
Sri Lanka T-Cup
UCI 2.2 Tour Race | Date: 4th May – 6th May | Sri Lanka
This was first-time TSG participation in this 3-day event on the island of Sir Lanka – A total 331km race from Passikudah to Negombo. Five Malaysian riders represented TSG, three veterans, Harrif Saleh, Shahrul Mat Amin and Amirull Mazuki as well as two TSG rookies, Irwandie Lakasek and Afiq Othman.
Stage 1, the 124km rolling stage was full of attacks from the start with blistering pace as hot as the weather of over 44kph; a small group of 13 riders containing TSG’s Shahrul managed to escape from the peloton and stayed away to the finish. Sharul finished a respectable 5th meanwhile stage was won by Japanese veteran Nakajima of Kinan team.
Stage 2 was short but very hilly 85km stage with 2 categorized climbs, Kazakhstan’s VinoAstana Motor team set a furious pace up the hill, only 20 plus riders able to follow the pace including TSG’s Amirull. The leading group finished over 10 minutes ahead next chasing pack. Amirull narrowly missed podium finishing 4th on the day. This good performance in the mountains helped to move him to finish top 10 overall after gaining bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint the next day.
Stage 3 was a 122km flat stage, which was finally an opportunity for sprinters to shine. Harrif was an overwhelming favorite and he did not disappoint by winning the stage in style ahead of Astafyev of Astana Motor and overall race leader Nakajima. Especial note on the excellent performance by rookie Irwandie, who helped Amirull winning the IS as well lead out Harrif for the stage victory while still finishing 4th on stage 3. Overall it was a good TSG debut in Sri Lanka with a stage victory, 2 top 5 stage finishes, and top 10 GC result.
Tour de Filipinas
UCI 2.2 Tour Race | Date: 20th May – 22nd May | Philippines
After several years of missing Baguio City as the queen stage of the race, this year’s edition finale would be decided on the monstrous 40km climb from sea level to 1450 meters. TSG’s Maral Erdene, Goh Choon Huat, Metkel Eyob, Drew Morey and Artem Ovechkin represented Terengganu color in this year’s race.
Stage 1 had to be stopped halfway due to chaotic traffic out of Manila, so proper race started on stage 2. A group of 16 riders escaped from the peloton including TSG’s Metkel. The leading pack worked well together and finished 3 minutes ahead of chasing peloton. Metkel delivered his 3rd podium result under TSG by finishing 3rd on the stage.
Stage 3, Philippines’s Carino El Joshua did unbelievable ride finishing minutes ahead of other major GC contenders and taking over race lead after a very hard 188km stage. At the start of Stage 4 with a penultimate stage up to Baguio City, Metkel was highest ranked TSG rider sitting 10th overall and 2’48” behind Carino. For Metkel to overtake the race lead, he had to do it on the steepest slope up to Baguio.
The entire TSG team had this one goal in mind, Maral and Goh worked on the early slope of the climb, as the road got steeper, LTDL champion Artem took over the pace setting with Drew and Metkel on the toll. Artem’ pace had dislodged most of GC contenders but yellow jersey Carino refused to give up just yet.
It was down to Drew and he managed to drop everyone including the Carino into the final kilometers for Metkel to ride solo into Baguio City with his hand raised high in the air. Despite TSG’s amazing one two finish, Carino managed to limit his loss to 2 minutes and held on to yellow jersey by 40 seconds to conclude the exciting finale. TSG wrapped up another successful Philippine campaign with 2nd overall, 1 stage victory, 2 stage podiums, 3rd overall in the team classification.
Tour de Korea
UCI 2.1 Tour Race | Date: 30th May – 3rd June | Korea
Each year, Tour de Korea brings out some top teams from the Pro-Continental circuit, this year was no exception. Wilier Triestina from Italy, Nippo Vini Fantini of Japan/Italy, United Health Care Team from USA and Israel Cycling Academy along with other strong teams from Korea and Asia.
TSG lead by Zamri Saleh and Artem along with Harrif, Metkel, Maral and Choon Huat. With Zamri and Harrif not in top condition due to limited training during Ramadan, TSG focused on GC result for this category 1 event. The key stage for GC contender was stage 3 from Yeongju to Jeongseon, 192.4km stage with several categorized climbs.
Into the stage’s penultimate climb at 150 km, there were only 25 riders who were able to follow the pace including Artem, Metkel and Choon Huat. Artem made his trademark solo attack on the early steep part of the climb with 35k to finish to distant yellow jersey Choe Hyeongmin of Korea Geumsan Insam team.
Artem soloed over the climb with 40 seconds advantage over the chasing pack, but with 25km still to go to the finish 4 riders were able to bridge cross to Artem on the decent, UHC rider Serghei Tvetcov tolling Stepan Astafyew from Vino Astana Motor, Matteo Busato of Wilier and Metkel of TSG.
5 riders with 2 TSG represented made their way to finish, but Metkel cramped with only 5km to finish caused him another almost certain podium finish. Artem finished 4th on the day and maintained this GC position till the race conclusion, Metkel finished 12th and Choon Huat 17th overall. TSG completed the race with 3 riders in top 20 in GC and 3rd overall in Team overall classification just 29 seconds off UHC.
Late June and July, riders will be busy with the national championship. Due to lack of races in Asia calendar, the next UCI tour race for TSG will kick off in September with Tour of China.