The 7th stage was the longest stage of this year’s Tour de Langkawi at 202km and certainly the toughest for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. With Janse van Rensburg only leading the general classification by 11 seconds from Daniel Jaramillo (United Healthcare) and 12 seconds from Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), our African Team were attacked from the gun this morning.
Astana, Tinkoff and United Healthcare were relentless, attacking multiple times in the first hour of racing. The pace was so high that only 25 riders remained in the peloton after 45km of racing, our African Team was proving to be rock solid though by always bringing the dangerous moves back. Eventually we allowed a 3 rider break to go clear, Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Tanner Putt (United Healthcare) and Hyo Suk Gong (KSPO).
As the gap to the trio grew to just over 5 minutes, there was a general regrouping of the peloton. 2 riders from the Chinese Hengxiang team would then bridge to the 3 leaders with 70km still left to race and De Vreese, just 2 minutes behind Janse van Rensburg on GC, was now becoming a real threat to Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. Our African Team would up the pace in the peloton, and slowly began to chip away at the lead of the escapees.
Songezo Jim, Johann van Zyl, Adrien Niyonshuti, Nicolas Dougall and Jaco Venter were working like real troopers at the head of the peloton. When the race hit the 30km to go point, the break was still 3'40" up the road. Our African Team kept a consistently high work rate going and by 10km to go, the gap was just 44 seconds. It was only at this point that some assistance was offered by rival teams in setting the pace, as a sprint finish was now sure to unfold.
Venter did another great job to pilot Janse van Rensburg to just inside of 1km to go, when the sprint then opened up. Gaurdini sprinted to victory for the 21st time at the Tour de Langkawi while Janse van Rensburg crossed the line in 5th place. The result ensured our South African would keep the overall race leader’s yellow jersey, with just tomorrow's final 119km stage left to race.