Italian Alberto Loddo has won the first stage of the Tour de Langkawi in a bunch sprint, beating a pPIC BY BRUNO BADE Loddo wins Langkawi's first stage Italian sprinter Alberto Loddo has won the first stage of the 12th Tour de Langkawi, an 81 km leg on Round Island. Loddo managed to beat Panaria pair Ruben Bongiorno and Maximiliano Richeze in the bunch sprint, something of a turnaround from recent editions of the race where the orange team have dominated the sprints. It was Loddo's second win this year after taking a stage in the Vuelta a Tachira, and he will also wear the first leader's jersey of the race. "Winning stage 1 in a stage race is the best because it gives the leader's jersey," said Loddo. "I was confident it would be a bunch sprint finish here today. But I don't have a big train since our team is built for the overall classification. So I stayed constantly at around the 20th position in the bunch, and one of my team-mates brought me back to the front at 1km to go. I found Bongiorno's wheel and I came out of his wheel with 150 meters to go. "One year ago I came to Le Tour de Langkawi after one year break because I was left with no contract in 2005. But fortunately Gianni Savio gave me the opportunity to come back with Selle Italia and I got six wins last year. With two already this, it's a good start. I'll even try to improve my condition for the Tour of Italy in May." The flat, fast stage was dominated by a solo breakaway by Japanese Koji Fukushima, who spent 50 km out in front before being caught. "I knew that it was going to be difficult with so many great riders and teams participating in this year's Tour," he commented. "I managed to break away and was afraid of being caught, but eventually that is what happened and I failed to keep the lead. "However, I will stick to my normal game plan tomorrow and start attacking from the start. We are concentrating on winning one stage and hopefully it will spur us on. It will be great for us." Results 1 Alberto Loddo (Ita, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia) 1:49:23 2 Ruben Bongiorno (Arg, Ceramiche Panaria Navigare) 3 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg, Ceramiche Panaria Navigare) 4 Brad Huff (USA, Team Slipstream) 5 Nikolai Trusov (Rus, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 6 Ahmad Haidar Anuawar (Mas, Letua Cycling Team) 7 Nicholas Sanderson (Aus, SouthAustralia.com) 8 William Bonnet (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 9 Rupert Rheeder (RSA, South Africa) 10 Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn, Nippo-Meitan Hompo) General classification after stage 1 1 Alberto Loddo (Ita, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia) 1:49:13 2 Koji Fukushima (Jpn, Nippo-Meitan Hompo) 0:00:01 3 Ruben Bongiorno (Arg, Ceramiche Panaria Navigare) 0:00:04 4 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg, Ceramiche Panaria Navigare 0:00:06 5 Md Rizuan Zainal (Mas, Nor Letua Cycling Team) 0:00:09 6 Sung Park (Kor, Baek Korea National Team) 7 Yan Xing (Chn, Dong Discovery Channel) 8 Brad Huff (USA, Team Slipstream) 0:00:10 9 Nikolai Trusov (Rus, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 10 Ahmad Haidar Anuawar (Mas, Letua Cycling Team) Official website: www.ltdl.com.myUCI threatens Paris-Nice Paris-Nice, designated by the UCI as the first ProTour race of the season, has been threatened with cancellation by the UCI itself. But organisers ASO say they will be holding the race regardless of what the UCI says. According to Reuters, the UCI sent letters to all the ProTour teams taking part in the ASO organised Tour of Qatar. The letter indicated that ASO's decision not to invite ProTour team Unibet.com to Paris-Nice was in breach of ProTour rules. Thus, the UCI threatened to ban the race altogether unless it was held under UCI rules. But ASO is standing firm. General director Christian Prudhomme told AFP, "I want to reassure the team: we will do everything to ensure that Paris-Nice takes place. We will organise Paris-Nice while respecting the sporting and technical regulations as well as French law. Our vocation is to organise races, allowing the athletes to do them. I find it somewhat paradoxical that the UCI is putting so much energy into preventing us from doing it." ASO, together with the organisers of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espa¤a, have been opposed to the ProTour since its inception two years ago. The battle over Paris-Nice could be a crucial one in determining who holds the power in cycling. If the UCI threatens to ban Paris-Nice, then the classics and the grand tours will also be in danger. So far, the teams and riders have supported the ProTour, but will they forego the opportunity to ride in the greatest races? It hasn't come to that yet, as the UCI is apparently still discussing a solution to the "Paris-Nice situation". The race is due to start on Marc 11th. Murcia back on The Vuelta a Murcia will go ahead this year, despite previous reports that it had been cancelled. The race organisers were facing a €120,000 shortfall after TVE chose not to broadcast it. But the local government has stepped in to ensure that there is enough money for the tour to go ahead. It will take place between March 7-11, and be screened on La 7 TV. Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel), Iban Mayo and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) are all expected to take part. Australian track championships start Monday Sydney's 'Dunc Gray' Velodrome will play host to the Australian track cycling championships next week, between February 5th and 11th. Almost 200 riders will take part in the championships, with elite, junior U19 and AWD (Athletes with a Disability) categories all represented. Dual Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Ryan Bayley will headline a powerful West Australian line up, which also includes 2006 triple junior world champion, Cameron Meyer, who this year steps up to the senior ranks. At the recent Los Angeles round of the World Cup, Meyer won gold in the points race, defeating several elite world champions in the process. Commonwealth Games kilo champion and world championship silver medallist Ben Kersten (NSW) is continuing his comeback from back surgery and will be defending the four titles he won in 2006 (kilo, sprint, keirin and team sprint) and add the omnium to his resume. It is the first time the omnium will be raced at the Australian titles after it was added to this year's world championships. It's designed for the most versatile track cyclists and consists of five events held on the one day, the kilo, flying 200m TT, 5km scratch race, 3km individual pursuit and 15km points race. The Victorian team will feature newly crowned Australian road champion Katie Mactier, who is aiming for her fifth straight 3km individual pursuit title. Mactier won silver at the Athens Olympics, gold at the Commonwealth Games Champion and at the 2005 world championships. She is also aiming to win the pursuit at the world's in Spain in March. Olympic and Commonwealth champion Anna Meares will be back in Sydney in a bid to add to her collection of 13 Australian titles on the track. In Sydney in November last year, she posted a world record for the 500m TT to beat her own mark set in Athens two years previously. The AWD competition will see a trio of reigning world champions in Michael Gallagher (Vic), the current world record holder for the 4km individual pursuit and kilo time trial in the LC1 division. Also lining up is tandem pairing of Lindy Hou (visually impaired) and Toireasa Gallagher (sighted pilot), who last year won the 3km pursuit and the road race at the World Championships in Switzerland. Competitors from Great Britain, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand and the USA will also compete in Sydney. More information: www.cycling.org.au Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.