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Langkawi stage 7: Guardini’s hat-trick

Astana’s Andrea Guardini did it again on Tuesday at Le Tour de Langkawi, winning his third stage of 2016 and bumping up his career total to 21 wins at the Malaysian race. The Italian out-sprinted Southeast’s Jakub Mareczko, and Skydive Dubai’s Andrea Palini in Parit Sulong after 202.3km of racing — stage 7 was the race’s longest day.

After Monday’s tumult, the GC standings remained unchanged, with Dimension Data’s Reinardt Janse van Rensburg holding the overall lead. But it wasn’t an easy day for the South African. Astana’s Miguel Ángel López attacked the first climb of the day, cresting Bukit Miku after 28 kilometers, aiming to take a time bonus at the intermediate sprint in Johol, 18 kilometers later. Janse van Rensburg, however, made the front group of 25 riders that neutralized López’s escape.

Once the sprint was over, six riders went clear, and eventually only Laurens De Vreese of Astana survived, but he too was caught, with five kilometers remaining.

“Astana had such a good tactic today with a strong rider [De Vreese] in the breakaway,” Guardini said. “Nobody wanted to pull strongly in the finale, but it turned out to be a bunch sprint, and it was a very good one for me. With 200m to go, I passed in a very small gap between two other riders, but a bit of luck is always needed for winning a bunch sprint. To reach 21 victories at Le Tour de Langkawi is really amazing. It’s never simple to win.”

The eight-day race concludes Wednesday with 119km of racing from Batu Pahat to Melaka. It is a mostly flat stage, but Janse van Rensburg only leads by 11 seconds, ahead of UnitedHealthcare’s Daniel Jaramillo. López remains third, 12 seconds behind.