Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Razali leads Malaysia's comeback in tour d'ISSI

Syaiful Amin, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Malaysian riders bounced back on Friday in the Tour d'ISSI with Shahrulneeza Razali winning the sixth stage from Semarang to Yogyakarta.

The Malaysian team also saw Suhardi Hassan take third place, while Rochmat Nugraha of Jakarta finished second. Razali crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 23 minutes and 34 seconds to become Malaysia's fourth rider to win the stages.

Hassan and Muhazir Hamad triumphed in the first and second stages, respectively, while Musairi Musa made his mark in the fourth stage. Tsen Siong Hong is the only other Malaysian team member yet to win a stage.

Eighty-four riders joined the start of the 161-kilometer sixth stage, which incorporated ascending and winding routes, especially on the portion of the race traversing Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu.

Crossing the finish line at the city's Post Office, the riders were split into several groups with Razali, Rochmat, Hassan and Nunung Burhanuddin of West Java heading the pack.

Ferinanto, the two-stage winner from East Java, struggled far behind in 26th place, as did Suwandra and Kaswanto, respectively runner-up and third-place winners in the fifth stage.

Hassan retained the yellow jersey with a total time of 21:44:41, followed by Amin Suryana of West Java (21:45:01), Burhanuddin (21:45:25), Razali (21:45:30) and Nugraha (21:45:55).

The Malaysian team has stayed on top of overall standings at 65:18:02, with West Java in second place with 65:18:53, followed by Jakarta (65:34:12), Yogyakarta (65:45:17) and Lampung (65:55:00).

While the Malaysians basked in their stage win, the West Javanese dominated the climb race, measuring 92 kilometers from the starting line, with Burhanuddin taking first place and Amin at third, and Rochmat the runner-up.

Razali admitted to the difficulty of the Semarang-Yogyakarta route, the pinnacle of which was a steep climb between Cepego and Selo in Boyolali regency.

"On riding up, I bunched myself off. If I had insisted on attacking, I might have lost. However, when the route went down, I sped up to rejoin the group," he said.

Team manager Zulaihi Sri lauded his riders' successful strategy.

"Our riders are not experts at climbs. I warned them against forcing themselves forward during the ride-up. Only on the ride- down, should they up the gear," he said.

Runner-up Nugraha also praised the Malaysians' riding skills.

"They are very tough out there. I'd already begun attacking them 1.5 kilometers before the finish line, but they were absolutely unshakable," he said.

The riders have a one-day break on Saturday before resuming the race for the 180.4-kilometer seventh stage on Sunday from Yogyakarta to Madiun in East Java.