The Petronas Tour de Langkawi (opens in new tab) has hit the halfway mark, and while race leader Ivan Sosa (Movistar) had his first day racing in the yellow jersey on stage 4 after winning the pivotal Genting Highlands stage, there is still one rider who looks close enough to have a serious chance of taking it away from him and that’s Hugh Carthy (opens in new tab) (EF Education-EasyPost).
The British rider is 23 seconds behind Sosa in the overall classification ahead of a two-minute huge chasm between the pair who came first and second on the steep slopes of stage 3 and the rest of the contenders.
“There are still five stages to go,” Carthy told Cyclingnews in the humidity and heat of the small town of Sabak Bernam before the afternoon start of stage 4. “So that’s a chance to chip away and maybe try and take the overall lead. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
There wasn’t a chance to start the process of chipping away on stage 4 to Meru Raya, as the top spots, and 10, 6 and 4 second time bonuses that go with them were always going to go to the sprinters on this flat stage which was won by Jakub Mareczko (Alpecin-Deceuninck). Plus the breakaway also swept up all the intermediate sprint bonus seconds, with three seconds going to the best-placed rider in each, which was Jambaljamts Sainbayar (Terengganu Polygon Cycling) across all three.
That pattern of the bonuses being soaked up by either the break or sprinters is one that Carthy expects could continue for most of the remaining stages, with one important exception.
“There are bonus sprints, but in the finish is actually where the decent seconds are, and I’m not going to be up there in the finish in the top three of a sprint stage,” said Carthy. “So I’ll have to wait until probably stage 7 and see what happens there.”
Genting Highlands, with its double hit of climbing at the finish, was the queen stage, and historically the rider who wins there goes on to win the overall, though there are still a fair number of riders who have come second on that day and have also managed to make it to the top of the leaderboard. Carthy hopes he’ll be one of them with stage 7’s 90.8km route providing the best opportunity.
The penultimate stage of the race on Monday may be a short one but the course spirals around Langkawi to Gunung Raya riders climb over 800 metres in the final 13km, with the last 300 metres of the stage delivering a final sting with gradients of 15%.
“It’s a proper climb, it’s a short stage as well so it should be a proper all-out effort with no tiredness and the like,” said Carthy. “Still in the heat, you don’t know, I could have a bad day. I could have a good day. Someone else could have a good day, but we’ll see what happens.”
Whatever it is, there could be a yellow jersey riding on it.