Cycling: Goh Choon Huat in best finish by Singapore rider on UCI Tour at Langkawi

The 23-year-old came four seconds away from a podium finish in the 101.1-kilometre opening stage of the region's most prestigious road race.

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Here's the release from OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team in full:

Racing against the stiffest competition he had ever faced, the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team's Goh Choon Huat responded with the best result of his career - and the finest of any Singaporean on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Tour to date - in Thursday's Stage 1 of Le Tour de Langkawi in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The 23-year-old Goh captured fourth place in the 101.1-kilometre opening stage of the region's most prestigious road race, clocking a time of 2:21:55. Goh finished 15 seconds behind stage winner Duber Quintero from the Colombian national team and just four excruciating seconds away from a podium finish.

Goh's stirring performance propelled him to the top of the Asian Riders Classification, which means that an OCBC rider will get to wear the top Asian rider's white jersey in Stage 2 for the second year running at Le Tour de Langkawi. Fellow Singaporean Ho Jun Rong donned the white jersey last year after his own stellar Stage 1 showing.

Goh's fourth-place finish is the closest any Singaporean has ever come to fulfilling the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team's dream of seeing a Singaporean on the podium of a UCI Tour race. Goh was responsible for several close shaves last November when he finished sixth and fifth in Stages 1 and 2, respectively, of the Banyuwangi Tour de Ijen.

What makes Goh's latest result particularly noteworthy is the fact that it comes against Le Tour de Langkawi's strongest field in its 19-year history. This year's peloton includes a record six World Tour teams, not to mention top Professional Continental teams from the United States, Europe, South America and Africa, as well as the finest Continental teams from Asia.

In Thursday's opening stage, at least, the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team outclassed its big-name counterparts and sits in fourth place in the Team General Classification (GC) standings, above all six of the World Tour teams present.

"From start to finish, our boys turned in a marvelous performance, led by Choon Huat's gutsy and aggressive riding," said Justin Cheong, Team Manager of the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team. "We're really proud that Choon Huat will get to wear the best Asian rider's white jersey in Stage 2, and we're looking forward to going one better and finishing on the podium in the stages ahead."

Goh wasn't the only OCBC rider who excelled on Thursday. Teammates Rico Rogers and Ho captured top-20 spots themselves, with Rogers finishing 16th and Ho 20th for his first-ever top-20 stage finish on the UCI Tour. Rogers and Ho finished within the peloton, as did Dutch captain Thomas Rabou (45th), and they were credited with the same time of 2:22:58. Rounding out the OCBC lineup were Australians Eric Sheppard in 78th place and Cameron Bayly in 102nd.

The OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team began the race in aggressive fashion, with Ho attempting a breakaway right from the get-go. That was quickly reeled in, but three riders quickly counter-attacked, building a 15-second lead on the peloton and threatening to pull away. At this point, Goh took a chance and churned hard to bridge the gap, with Malaysian star Anuar Manan for company.

Together, the five-man breakaway opened up a gap of up to 7:45 on the peloton, which ultimately miscalculated its chances of reeling it in. With about 10 kilometres to go, the breakaway still held a lead of 3:20 and consisted of just four riders at this point, having dropped Manan.

Quintero launched his attack with about 3 kilometres to go, and defending Irish national champion Matt Brammeier and Jonathan Clarke from the United States-based UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team pipped Goh to the line.

Nonetheless, Goh's aggressive riding helped him take third place in the third King of the Mountains (KOM) climb of the day and fourth and third in the day's second and third intermediate sprints, respectively. Goh currently sits in fourth place in the Sprints Competition.

Goh will attempt to defend his white jersey when Le Tour de Langkawi continues with Friday's 132.5-kilometre Stage 2, which takes the field from Sungai Petani to Taiping in northwestern Malaysia.