2002 - Stage 9 (Penultimate Stage)Greetings
again folks! As mentioned earlier, this journal will also revolves around the
Tour de Langkawi, 2002 but this time it's the penultimate stage - Stage 9 (Menara
Telekom - Genting Highlands). Everything began at PJ Hilton on that memorable
day. I arrived the hotel at about 9:30 to meet up with the guys and get ready
to go up to Genting Highlands. The atmosphere was simply magnificent. The whole
lobby area was congested with cyclist and bikes all over!
We were among the last few to depart the hotel for the starting line, which is
at Menara Telekom. This was because the manager had to layout the exact plan so
that his riders can execute it accordingly! If there was a day which the Colombia
- Selle Italia team can pull a win. It was that day! A day with high altitude
that suits the Colombians and Italians perfectly! I was in the second team car
together with Michele and Libardo.
quite a while before all the cyclist were being called up to the line. So, during
that period of time, I took the opportunity to have a quick word with some of
the guys as well as capturing some of the Kodak moments with them! No doubt, they
can only speak Italiano. Thank goodness for electronic translator that I had with
me along the Tour. Life was so much more wonderful as I can understand them a
little and they roughly knew what I was trying to say!
Things weren't so smooth from the start line to the zero kilometre mark. There
was a crash in Taman Tun, which include 2 Team Telekom Malaysia riders, and Mapei's
Davide Bramati. Fortunately, no one was badly injured. All of em' got up and try
put themselves back into the main pack again.
field was pretty intact for the first 90km, although there was a winding section
with millions of potholes, which I found the team cars struggling hard to avoid
them. As soon as the "KOM START" sign was seen by the roadside, riders were being
dropped off like flies from the peloton. Among the first few casualties was M.
Khalilov (Colombia-Selle Italia). He had done his job for the day by pushing it
hard during the flatter section of the stage. We went up to him and replinished
his water bottle with some isotonic drinks but now he has to work his way up the
mountain all by himself. He told us to drive on and assist the other teammates.
The next person that we saw was A. Nauduz with some other riders from different
teams. We passed him a can of Coke and moved on. We overtook most of the riders
at the back of the peloton and then decided to pull over and wait for them. I
had a quick "pit-stop" =) while waiting for the guys to pick up their drinks.
However, before we can even give them a second round of boost. There were few
guys from the Acqua Sapone's team car shouted out in Italiano that out first team
car has paged for us on the walkie-talkie but because all of us were out there,
we didn't get the message. Apparently, Ruber Marin has launched an attack and
it's the second team car's responsibility to assist him cos' the first team car
was with the potential yellow jersey winner - Hernan Munoz! We sped our way through
to the head of the pack and then towards him.
was looking fit and in a very relax climbing position. His cadence was high and
every stroke that he pedalled, the gap got bigger and bigger. Ultimately, he had
a strong 2 minutes lead over the chasing pack which includes his teammate - Hernan
Munoz. In the final 5km, team crews were not allowed to give the riders anymore
drinks. Otherwise, the entire team will be penalized as the commissioners were
everywhere to keep an eye on the teams.
The three of us in the car were cheering and trying to boost up his mental as
well as physical strength. My favourite word was "Andare! Andare! Andare!" which
means "Go! Go! Go!". It wasn't that long before Hernan Munoz throws down the hammer
and made a breakaway together with South African's David George. Both of them
was neck to neck and they managed to pick up Ruber Marin in the final 2km and
dropped him right away!
As soon as Hernan Munoz and David George cleared the way, the first team car overtook
us and went to be by his side. We had to continue assisting Ruber Marin till the
finish line. The car radio was reporting non-stop about the time gap between Hernan
Munoz and Mapei's Robert Hunter. When the news broke out that the gap has grown
to 2 minutes, all of us rejoiced! Knowing that the chance of taking over the Maillot
Jaune is huge!
When we reached the finish line at the First World Hotel, Marco - the team manager
had the biggest smile ever. Then, we knew that Hernan Munoz has got himself a
stage victory and most probably taking the overall lead. However, things were
still uncertain because Robert Hunter might close up the gap during the final
Nevertheless, the moments of truth arrived when Robert Hunter crossed the line
with more than 2 minutes deficit over Hernan Munoz! The entire team celebrates
in awe! This year is the third year of participation and the results is simply
incredible! All of us put up a night at Resort Hotel and then returned back to
Grand Blue Wave Hotel, Shah Alam early in the morning to get ready for the final
day at Kuala Lumpur.
In summary, words are just not enough to express the entire situation and atmosphere
during that period of time. The tension and jubilation is just breath-taking!
I look forward to having them and being with them again next year. Until then,
enjoy life and happy riding!