Tour of Turkey preview

The 48th International Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey (Turkish: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Bisiklet Turu) is an eight-day stage race which runs from Sunday 22nd until Sunday 29th April. It started in earnest in 2002 and initially attracted little attention either from Europe’s major cycling teams or its best riders. However, the Tour’s recent elevation in ranking has attracted an increasingly competitive field. It 2006 it was ranked a 2.2 event, before being upgraded to 2.1 in 2008, and then again to 2.HC for the 2010 edition. This year sees 25 teams take to the start, including nine ProTeams, 14 ProContinental and two local Continental teams.

Cycling in Turkey has made much progress in recent years where it’s a rapidly growing sport, probably in no small part due to the Tour. In the last four years, the Turkish cycling federation has created seven international lower-level, four-day races. Two continental teams have been set up, both of which will taking part in this year’s race – Salcano-Arnavutkoy and Konya-Torku Seker Spor. In addition, for the first time since Montreal 1976, Turkey will field a team of three ex-mountain bikers in the London Olympic road race.

What kind of race is it?

Istanbul (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Istanbul (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Tour is typically a hard-fought stage race of eight largely sprinter-friendly stages, the longest over 200km. However, there’s something new in store for 2012. The organisers have decided to reverse their traditional route and finish – rather than start – in Istanbul, the 2012 European Capital of Sport. In addition, stage three will feature a summit finish which the organisers have likened to Alpe d’Huez.

Recent winners of this event include:

2007: Ivailo Gabrovski (Bulgaria Elite)

2008: David Garcia (Karpin Galicia)

2009: Daryl Impey (Barloworld)

2010: Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri)

2011: Aleksandr Efimkin (Team Type 1)

What happened last year?

Aleksandr Efimkin recorded his first victory since the Settimana Lombarda in 2007. The 29-year old Russian said afterwards that his Team Type 1 had worked like gladiators. Kazakhstan’s Andrey Zeits (Astana) and 20-year-old Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of FDJ completed the final podium.

The Tour started with a 114km circuit around Istanbul, racing from Europe into Asia and back again. Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) beat Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) and Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) in the bunch sprint. There was also controversy as veteran sprinter Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was relegated from eighth to last place for punching neo-pro Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ). Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who won five stages in 2010, punctured with 5km to go and was left out of contention.

There was a touch of Groundhog Day as stage two also finished in a bunch sprint, but with a surprise winner: Astana’s Valentin Iglinskiy, who also captured the overall lead. Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF Inox) took stage three in – guess what? – another bunch sprint, and in turn took over the race lead from Iglinskiy.

The queen stage four to the world heritage site of Pamukkale at the end of a hilly and wet day was won by another sprinter. After losing three consecutive bunch sprints, Petacchi came up trumps, with runner-up Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) taking the overall lead after turquoise jersey wearer Belletti retired with a fever.

Farnese Vini took their second win on stage five with neo-pro Matteo Rabottini, who attacked from the day’s break away group of ten under the red kite. Garmin’s Thomas Peterson took over the GC lead. Greipel finally won in Finike from another breakaway as Aleksandr Efimkin moved to the top of the timesheets to become the sixth GC leader in as many days.

Jersey winners at 2011 Tour of Turkey (image courtesy of offical race website)

Jersey winners at 2011 Tour of Turkey (image courtesy of offical race website)

The much-anticipated clash of the sprinting titans – Greipel versus Petacchi – was dashed on stage seven from Tekirova to Manavgat as Guardini took his second stage win, jumping Petacchi and Van Hummel to take the victory. For once, the leader’s jersey didn’t change hands and remained on Efimkin’s shoulders.

The last stage, finishing in Alanya, was yet another giant sprint battle. But this time, it was Van Hummel who emerged victorious, while Efimkin successfully defended his position to claim overall victory.

Alessandro Petacchi took home the points jersey, Luis Laverde (Cafe Colombia) was the mountain kingpin, while Caja Rural’s Arturo Mora waltzed off with the wonderfully named ‘Best Turkish Beauties Sprinter’ prize. A title which conjures up all sorts of possibilities!

1. Aleksandr Efimkin (Team Type 1)

2. Andrey Zeits (Astana) +1:13

3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +1:33

4. Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Cervelo) +1:50

5. Cameron Wurf (Liquigas) +2:17

6. Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) +11:12

7. Egoitz Garcia (Caja Rural) +11:17

8. Wesley Sulzberger (FDJ) +11:19

9. Riccardo Chiarini (Androni Giocattoli) +11:23

10. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) same time

This year’s race

The race remains essentially a sprint-fest book-ended by two circuits, even though the organisers have tried to mix it up a bit by reversing their usual progression along the Turkish coast so that this year they’ll start in Alanya and finish in Istanbul, leading to claims that they’ll be racing on two continents, Asia and Europe, on the same day. Race director Abdurrahman Açikalin said:

We are simply emulating the big Tours, usually ending in their emblematic city. Istanbul is the European capital of Turkey but it is also, in 2012, the capital of sport in Europe.

After a transfer from Izmir on the Saturday evening, after the seventh stage, the riders will gather on Sunday morning on the European side of the Bosphorus for the last day of the race. After the start, they will ride across the monumental Bosphorus Bridge before reaching the final circuit, which they’ll cover eight times. The final stage will be honoured by the presence of the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul.

A similar stage was held as last year’s curtain-raiser and was won by Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini), who’ll be back to try and take multiple stage wins. This year, the stage will be the final showdown between the many fast men taking part: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Matthew Goss and Robbie McEwen (GreenEDGE), Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos (Rabobank), Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank), Jimmy Casper (AG2R La Mondiale), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Sasha Modolo (Colnago-GSF) and Valentin Iglinskiy (Astana).

Before that, riders have to tackle a proper mountain stage. On the third day, the finish is after a gruelling climb up to 1,850 metres in the hills of southern Turkey. This marks another move by the race organisers, seeking a spot in the 2014 World Tour, to broaden the race’s appeal. In 2010 and 2011, riders tackled an undulating course between Fethiye and Pamukkale but this didn’t prevent the sprinters prevailing. The stage simply wasn’t demanding enough.

Stage 3 profile

This year’s queen stage will cover 150km between Antalya and Elmali and according to race director Açikalin:

Starting from Antalya will not make things easier. Since before the final climb another hill will be on the menu, the first category pass Saksaganlibeli (79km) before heading for Elmali, and riding for 28.8 more kilometres before the finish, including 13 for the final ascent on a road not unlike l’Alpe d’Huez.

The stage looks set to play a major part in the race outcome and, for one day, to sideline the sprinters who gather each year for this race.

Who to watch

Everyone is anticipating a fascinating battle between two of the top sprinters in cycling, German riders Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who’ll be going head to head on most stages in the Tour.

Kittel, in only his second year as a professional, has shown huge promise, claiming a record 18 victories in his debut season and continuing this year with five wins. Thus far he’s taken one stage in the Etoile de Besseges and the Three Days of De Panne, plus two in the Tour of Oman, as well as the one-day Scheldeprijs. His Argos-Shimano team was recently given a wild-card for the Tour de France. Prior to going up against Greipel and others there, he has the chance to test himself in Turkey.

In contrast, Greipel had a superb start to the season but his last victories were back in February, when he clocked up two stages in Oman. He’s had a frustrating Classics campaign, with five punctures ruining his Paris-Roubaix, but he knows that a win or two will put him back on track.

Geoffroy Lequatre (image courtesy of Bretagne Schuller)

Geoffroy Lequatre (image courtesy of Bretagne Schuller)

However, these two won’t have it all their own way. There are plenty of others, as listed above, who will also be challenging for stage wins. While this year’s race includes the summit finish of the allegedly Alpe d’Huez-like Elmali, it does mean that the overall should go to an all-rounder, but many [shouldn’t that be all? – Ed] of the other stages will come down to big sprints. A number of those taking part will be using the race as preparation for the Giro d’Italia, so the sprints will be hotly contested while victories will be seen as both prestigious and significant.

In his quest for back-to-back wins, Aleksandr Efimkin (Team Type 1-Sanofi) will need to deliver a first-rate performance on the aforementioned queen stage, while his leading rivals might be riders such as former Vuelta winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), former Tour de France yellow jersey holder Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) or even gifted Eritrean climber Daniel Teklehaimanot (GreenEDGE).

From the lounge of VeloVoices Towers we’ll be keeping a close eye on our friend Geoffroy Lequatre who’s going to be sending us daily race reports after each stage finish – almost as good as being there ourselves!

Race details

April 22nd: Stage 1 – Alanya to Alanya, 148 km

April 23rd: Stage 2 – Alanya to Kemer, 185km

April 24th: Stage 3 – Tekirova to Elmali, 148km

April 25th: Stage 4 – Fethiye to Marmaris, 130km

April 26th: Stage 5 – Marmaris to Turgutreis, 170km

April 27th: Stage 6 – Bodrum to Kusadasi, 181km

April 28th: Stage 7 – Ephesus to Izmir, 118km

April 29th: Stage 8 – Istanbul (Europe to Asia), 114 m

The Tour of Turkey starts on Sunday 22nd and concludes on Sunday 29th. Live action and highlights will be shown daily on Eurosport. For other channels check

Link: Official website

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