Cycling: Rabou is tops in Algeria

He had to pull out of Le Tour de Langkawi after racing in seven of the 10 stages due to a severe case of stomach flu.

But that did not stop Thomas Rabou from competing for OCBC Pro Cycling Team, and winning, in another race right after — all the way in Algeria.

Dutchman Rabou found himself travelling over 10,000km from Malaysia to Algeria on Friday to compete in yesterday’s Criterium International d’Alger.

Still nursing an upset stomach, the team’s 30-year-old captain managed to battle through the pain barrier and capture the 96km single-stage race in Algiers in 2hr 14min 36sec, beating Moroccans Tarik Chaoufi and Essaid Abelouache.

It was the Singapore outfit’s first UCI stage win of the season.

The Dutchman told The New Paper yesterday: “I haven’t been feeling 100 per cent, but the adrenalin kicked in once we started to race.

SOLO ATTACK

“It was a very winding and technical course and, with about 25 kilometres left, I decided to go for it and made a solo attack. I was just fortunate to hold on until the finish.”

Rabou was supposed to link up with the team in Algeria after finishing Le Tour de Langkawi last weekend, but he and team principal Daniel Loy opted to not waste time and fly to Algeria earlier.

Said team manager Justin Cheong: “Thomas is one of the most experienced riders in the team and he can handle the back-to-back races, but the younger riders may not be able to cope with so much.

“Thomas just has an engine that just gets better the more he races, so we need a captain like him to lead the younger riders.” Cheong explained that they sent a team to Algeria mainly to give the younger riders more opportunities to race.

The Criterium International d’Alger is part of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Africa Tour, and is the first race of the Grand Tour of Algeria.

The victory marks a promising start to OCBC’s inaugural campaign in Africa — the farthest they have travelled to compete.

The victory is even sweeter, as they finally earned a place at the top of the podium in this year’s UCI Tour.

Rabou had finished second in Stage 5 of the Le Tour de Langkawi last week, while Rico Rogers also finished runner-up in last month’s Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne.

The OCBC team have now four UCI Tour stage wins to their credit — two courtesy of Malaysian Loh Sea Keong, now with Dutch-based Team Giant-Shimano on the UCI World Tour.

The Malaysian won the second stage of The Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Cup Tour of Thailand and the fourth stage of the Tour de Singkarak last year, while another former rider, Kiwi Jason Christie, won last November’s Banyuwangi Tour de Ijen.

Also representing the OCBC team in Algeria are Singaporeans Ang Kee Meng, Ryan Chan and Low Ji Wen, Malaysia’s Ahmad Haidar Anuawar and Hong Kong’s Ronald Yeung.

The Grand Tour of Algeria consists of nine separate races totalling 20 stages and runs until March 29.

redzwank@sph.com.sg


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