Le Tour de Langkawi: Davids Back In The Mix In Malaysia

SA rider Brendon Davids finds himself back in the GC hunt at Le Tour de Langkawi and back in the saddle with Oliver’s Racing.

Aaron S. Lee |

An exhausted Brendon Davids (Oliver’s Real Foods Racing) assured Bicycling South Africa he has “more in the tank” with seven stages to go after spending more than 150 kilometres in a four-man break on Stage 1 of Le Tour de Langkawi (UCI 2.HC) on Saturday.

“I must have been working on my sprint, I managed to get the bonus. Last year I couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding in a sprint,” shared a smiling Davids. “I am pretty happy with how it went today.”

The 26-year-old Pietermaritzburg native won all three intermediate sprints and helped guide teammate and fellow break-mate Angus Lyons (AUS) to the top of the mountain classification over most of the 176.9-kilometre opening stage from Kuala Lumpur to Tampin.

“This race has been decided on bonus seconds in the past. Last year third to eighth was separated by eight seconds and I was on the tail end of it,” explained Davids, who finished seventh overall at last year’s race — 1 minute 2 seconds off overall winner Artem Ovechkin (RUS).

“When I saw opportunity today, I thought I would use my mountain biking skills on the descent and got a gap. The first descent ended real close to the first intermediate sprint, so I thought ‘why not?’ — it’s a 5k effort.

“Then we go get three seconds for free, and then it went out and got news we had three minutes. I heard on the radio Angus was coming across, so I sat up and had an easy ride for a while …when we got wind we could actually stay away, I really started driving it.”

Joining Davids and eventual mountains classification leader Lyons in the break, which launched on the descent of the first of four categorised climbs, were Soonyeong Kwon (KSPO-Bianchi Asia) and eventual stage winner Marcus Culey (AUS) of Sapura Cycling, who soloed across the line with five seconds remaining from a gap that once extended to nearly eight minutes midway through the race.

“Kudos to Marcus, he left it all out there and at the end of the day. I reckon he was the strongest out of all of us today,” admitted Davids, who sits second on points and general classification behind race leader Culey. “I think Angus and I maybe overcooked it a bit trying to get him those [KOM] points.”

The Australian returned praise on Davids, and credited the South African for helping him reach the finish victorious.

“Brendon Davids was so strong today,” Culey told Bicycling South Africa. “I wouldn’t have stayed away without the work he did. The heat just gets to everyone. He sort of blew up with 20k to go and I knew it was go then or never.”

The eight-stage race resumes on Sunday with a 200.6km sprint stage from Senawang to Melaka, however it is Tuesday’s mountain stage where Davids will hope his rigorous training and early race efforts pay off against a competitive field.

“Hopefully I can surf the wheels a bit before Genting,” he continued referring to the return of the infamous hors categorié climb on Stage 4 after four years off the race route. “I am more of a [time trial] type rider. I lost a bit of weight from last year and hopefully I can TT my way from the bottom to the top and limit my losses to the climbers and find other opportunities.”

Finding opportunities is something Davids does quite well. Aside from returning to the UCI Asia Tour in top form, the 2017 Jelajah Malaysia (2.2) race winner rejoins Oliver’s Racing after spending 2018 with Bennelong-SwissWellness, the ultra-successful Australian UCI Continental team which merged with Mobius-BridgeLane this season.

In the wake of the two teams combining, several riders — including Davids — were left searching for new home, and luckily the three-time African Continental XCO mountain bike champion was welcomed back into the Oliver’s fold with open arms.

“I had a turbulent start to the year,” claimed Davids. “The team I joined sort of went through a bit of rough patch and a lot of the riders moved elsewhere from that team.

“I have a really good relationship with [team manager Sam Layzell], I won Jelajah Malaysia with this team. Sam threw me a lifeline mid-January and I am really grateful to him.”

According to Davids, the move back to Oliver’s has been a refreshing change after an enjoyable, but challenging season away.

“It’s a bit more relaxed than the Bennelong setup was last year,” explained Davids, who claims he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the team. “The Bennelong boys, every single one of them was looking for that breakthrough ride and at times could make it pretty tough.

“We got wind halfway through the year things may not be carrying on,” he continued. “We tried to race best we could. None of us ever left anything out on the road, but subconsciously you don’t realise it does take it’s toll on you when you are not really sure of your future.”

With a new lease on life professionally, Davids is ready to prove the best is yet to come for both himself and his 10-year-old Oliver’s Racing Team, which made jump to UCI Continental last year.

“The sponsors for Oliver’s have committed to a couple more years and I think Sam is looking to go from strength to strength,” said Davids. “We didn’t have a start here [in Langkawi] up until two or three weeks ago.

“It’s a testament to the fact that the team is actually ready to take a step up to this level.”

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