By Cycling Malaysia,
Being the only squad upgraded from the Pro Continental ranks to the World Tour in 2014, French team Europcar will be under pressure to perform at Le Tour de Langkawi from February 27 to March 8.
After winning two stages with sprinter ace Bryan Coquard last year, they’ll have a different target with African super climber Natnael Berhane this time around.
“Natnael came to fame when he won a mountainous stage at the Tour of Turkey last year”, directeur sportif Andy Flickinger noted from a race his Eritrean protégé eventually won after the disqualification of the overall winner. “Le Tour deLangkawi suits him very well to step up in his cycling career. Clearly, his goal will be to ride GC.”
While South Americans are often under the spotlight climbing up to Genting Highlands,they might be challenged this year by an African who is one of the biggest prospects of cycling worldwide, having developed through the World Cycling Centre of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) like Tour de France winner Chris Froome and more recently Malaysia’s Sofian Nabil Omar Bakri.
“But we don’t neglect the other important part of Le Tour de Langkawi, which is sprinting”, Flickinger added. “We’ll bring our recruit Yannick Martinez who is a young sprinter who can also climb decently. Therefore, the course of LTdL is perfect for him. He hasn’t raced for ten days in a row yet, so this will be good for him to try and win stages as well as improving for the future.”
Martinezis poised to become the lead out man for Coquard at the Tour de France.
“It’s a great pleasure for us to welcome Europcar back in Malaysia”, LTdL chief operating officer Emir Abdul Jalal said as he received the entry form from the headquarters of the French team in Vendée. “They’re a Pro Team this year, which is a well deserved reward for the great job they’ve done in recent years with Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland who have both raced in Malaysia on several occasions.”
“But moreover, this team has been in our heart as Malaysian cycling fans because we don’t forget their participation in the first ever Le Tour de Langkawi back in1996. They’ve been faithful to our race organization as much as they could since then.”
Stillan amateur team named Vendée U in 1996, the squad managed by former Tour de France star Jean-René Bernaudeau returned to Malaysia as a professional out fitcalled Bonjour and won their first pro race in Sitiawan with Damien Nazon in2000. Under the appellation of Bouygues Telecom, they’ve also claimed stage victories with Matthieu Sprick and Yohan Gène in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Europcar for the 2014 Le Tour de Langkawi:
Natnael BERHANE (Eri), Antoine DUCHESNE (Can), Romain GUILLEMOIS (Fra), Christophe KERN (Fra), Morgan LAMOISSON (Fra), Yannick MARTINEZ (Fra)
Organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, via the National Sports Council (NSC) in association with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF). The 19thedition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from February 27 to March 8, 2014 is set to cover a total distance of 1,507.9km over 10 stages, the UCI 2.HC (horscategory) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI AsiaTour calendar.
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