But this was the Tour of Langwaki and Chinese unknown Wang Meiyin had just discovered that he was better than all the rest during the undulating stage three to Cameron Highlands.
Already wearing the white jersey of best Asian rider, 25-year-old Wang crossed the line with a pump of the fist (he looks so inexperienced that a double-handed salute could well have back-fired) to take a first stage win for any Chinese rider in Malaysia.
White Wang not only moved into the leader’s yellow jersey, he assumed possession of a whole new wardrobe: the blue sprinter’s jersey for the points classification and the red climber’s jersey for king of the mountains.
And every time he was called up onto the podium to pick up his next piece of fancy dress, there was good old Tina on hand to remind Wang that he was simply the best, that she was stuck on his heart, that she hung on to every word that he said, that in his eyes she gets lost, washed away, and that just as long as she’s there in his increasingly-colourful arms, she could be in no better place.
So unexpected was Wang’s win and so unheralded is the pint-sized package from the Hengxiang Cycling Team, that Wikipedia still informs its readers that: “Meiyin Wang is an American theatre director, playwright and producer. She is currently the Associate Artistic Producer of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and Symposium in New York.”
Meanwhile, a reviewer on the website nytheatre.com informs us that “besides making a mean pork dumpling,” Meiyin Wang “is one of the best artists I know.”
Well, his culinary skills aside, the real Wang certainly did go under the radar as one of five Asian Continental breakaway artists in stage three of the Tour of Langkawi on Saturday.
With 40km remaining, Wang channelled his inner Chiappucci with a big dig on the final climb of the day, riding alone for 40km and up a vertical rise of 1,500m before taking the biggest win of his career. None of the WorldTour teams in the chasing peloton – which at one point trailed the leaders by 12 minutes – expected any of the unknown quintet would have had the gumption or power to have soloed to something so audacious.
Even Wang himself admitted after the stage that he was only getting into the break in a bid to show-off Chinese cycling. Five hours later, he became the first man in the Tour of Langkawi’s 18-year history to hold the lead in all four of the classifications. If there was an orange jersey for, say, best smile, he’d certainly have won that too.
Wang held onto the lead through Sunday’s fourth stage, won by Francesco ‘Good in February’ Chicchi (Vini Fantini), but his chances of becoming the first Asian rider to claim the Langkawi title took a pummelling on Monday when little-known Colombian Julien Arredondo (Team Nippo-De Rosa) soloed to victory at the top of the Genting Highlands to take the yellow jersey and an overall lead of 1:22 going into the halfway stage of the sweltering 10-day race.
Twenty-four-year-old Arredondo is about as small a fish as Wang: he rides for a Japanese team whose star rider is a 38-year-old Italian who once finished second in the Giro d’Italia mountain classification.
While these cycling minnows were stealing the limelight in a hot and humid race for which the sponsor’s tagline is ‘The Heat Is On,’ the riders of the European circuit were having to deal with the other end of the meteorological spectrum.
There was more snow in Europe than a Saturday night out with Tom Boonen, with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the GP Lugano both cancelled because of the white stuff.
A day earlier, a peloton of chilly riders sporting gloves, gilets, and leg-warmers battled the odds in the cobbled classic of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with an unexpected win going to Luca Paolini, the veteran journeyman Italian with considerably more stamps on his passport than Oscar Pistorius wishes he’ll have by the end of the month.
Paolini pretty much hitched a lift from the two-metre man, Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), to take Katusha’s first win since the Russian Global Cycling Project’s readmission into the WorldTour following the CAS acceptance of their appeal.
The weather was so cold that Jurgen Roelandts eyelids reportedly froze together – damage that will require a few days of recovery for the Lotto Belisol man. Andy Schleck was rumoured to have suffered an acute case of frostbite to his big toe, severely jeopardising his next attempt at a DNF.
Sunday’s cancellation of KBK means fans will have to wait until Tirreno-Adriatico for the first head-to-head between this season’s early stand-out sprinters, Mark ‘The Oman Camel’ Cavendish and Andre ‘The Electric Gorilla’ Greipel.
Elsewhere, Mark Renshaw won only his second race since transitioning from being Cavendish’s lead-out man with victory in the Clasica de Almeria for Blanco.
It was a happy day for the 30 year old – but had you told Renshaw his winning record over the first year and a bit after joining Rabobank would be matched by the combined scalps of Messrs Wang and Arredondo over one weekend in Langkawi, the Australian would probably have looked at you in a rather bemused manner.