Turkish delight for veteran Ivailo Grabovski, who rides for local Continental team Konya Torku Seker Spor. Winning the queen stage, Grabovski successfully defended his lead to take the biggest win of his 12-year career. Astana’s Aleksandr Dyachenko finished second, 1:33 down on the winner, just five seconds ahead of Danail Petrov (Caja Rural), making the podium a Bulgarian sandwich [Sounds like hold in wrestling – Ed].
Consistency in the sprints saw Matt Goss (GreenEDGE) take the points jersey, mountain kingpin was Marco Bandiera (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Maxim Belkov won the Turkish Beauties sprints (intermediate sprints past places of interest) and Astana were top team. Here’s how the race unfolded.
Stage 1: Alanya to Alanya, 148 km
Theo Bos (Rabobank) won the sprint on the crash-marred run-in on the first stage and took the race lead ahead of Matt Goss (GreenEDGE) and Daniele Colli (Team Type 1).
Stage 1 was eight laps of a 16.9km circuit in the holiday resort of Alanya. By lap two an eight-man break had been established and they rapidly built a healthy lead before the chasing pack, led by Farnese Vini and OPQS, brought everyone back into the fold with 22km to go.
Lampre were at the front for the final lap hoping to deliver Alessandro Petacchi to his first win of the season. The narrowing road, however, caused an almighty pile-up, affecting about half of the peloton and throwing the sprinters’ teams plans into disarray.
Stage 2: Alanya to Kemer, 185km
As in previous years, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) resumed his winning ways to take his seventh stage victory in the Tour after impressively powering across the finish line from 200 metres out ahead of Matt Goss (GreenEDGE), who took over the leader’s turquoise jersey. Europcar’s Matteo Pelucchi was third.
The racing was hectic from the start with a number of unsuccessful breakaways. It wasn’t until nearly 50km into the race that a group containing Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) managed to get away and stay away, building a gap of around five minutes.
The peloton, however, was having none of it and with five kilometres to go had reeled everyone back in and the sprinters’ teams were setting up the bunch sprint finish.
It was good to see Vino going on the attack – he later confirmed that he was finding some form – and he was probably buoyed by Maxim Iglinskiy’s victory in last Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Stage 3: Tekirova to Elmali, 148km
Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Spor) won the overall here in 2007, albeit the race was smaller and lower ranked at the time. The 34-year-old Bulgarian was back to winning ways when he took today’s queen stage in some style. Now riding for a local continental squad, he surprised everyone with his attack with 8km to go on the 1,850 metre Gogubeli mountain pass in Elmali – the Turkish equivalent of Alpe d’Huez – to finish well ahead of Aleksandr Dyachenko (Astana) and fellow countryman Danail Petrov (Caja Rural).
As expected, Matt Goss (GreenEDGE) lost the leader’s jersey while defending champion Alexander Efimkin (Team Type 1 – Sanofi) came in sixth, 2:13 down.
This was the Tour’s first ever summit finish and it gave GC contenders a chance to nail their colours to the mast. The stage started with a flurry of attacks until a group formed about 30kms into the stage. The break included Marco Bandiera (OPQS), Tony Hurel (Europcar), Florian Vachon (Bretagne Schuller), Karol Domagalski (Caja Rural), Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini) and Juan Pablo Suarez (Colombia Coldeportes).
The sextet worked well together until the Cat. 1 Saksaganli Beli climb when the gap back to the fragmenting main bunch started to fall and everyone started the final ascent to Elmali together. Gabrovski took his opportunity to slip away and quickly opened a lead, crossing the line 1:29 ahead of the runner-up, Dyachenko.
Stage 4: Fethiye to Marmaris, 130km
Fittingly Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) took his maiden victory for his new team on ANZAC Day, the 97th anniversary of Australia’s landing on the Gallipoli Penninsular during World War I, just a few hundred kilometres to the north of where today’s stage finished. He beat compatriot Matt Goss (GreenEDGE) by a cigarette paper while Daniele Colli (Team Type 1-Sanofi) came in third on today’s lumpy stage.
The break formed after 50km and included Assan Bazayev (Astana), Vladimir Gusev and Mikhail Ignatiev (both Katusha), and Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini). As anticipated, Gabrovski – almost single-handedly – had to counter numerous attacks from his rivals.
Finally, Konya Torku Seker Spor with assistance from OPQS, Europcar, and Colnago, closed down the breakaway in the final kilometres. However, the attacks continued, including an audacious move from Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), who benefitted from a slingshot from teammate Andre Greipel.
However, he was halted in his tracks by the headwind and GreenEDGE drove along a much diminished peloton. Further attacks were controlled by the sprinters’ teams so that Gabrovski finished safely in the bunch and lived to fight another day in turquoise.
Stage 5: Marmaris to Turgutreis, 170km
Neo-pro Andrea Di Corrado (Colnago) soloed to victory, having attacked out of a six-man breakaway, finishing 40 seconds ahead of fellow escapees Jonas Jorgensen (Saxo Bank) and Jerome Cousin (Europcar). Matteo Pelluchi (Europcar) led home the peloton who had reduced the day’s 15-minute gap to a mere 1:27. Race leader Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Spor) remained in turquoise.
The race started at 10 am and took a while to ignite. But, by 20km, a sextet had over two minutes on the main bunch. Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Jorgensen, Sebastien Duret (Bretagne-Schuller), Di Corrado (Colnago), Cousin and Alfredo Balloni (Farnese) built up a 15-minute advantage before the pack took up the chase.
The gap came down so rapidly that everyone was anticipating another bunch sprint. Argos-Shimano were leading the charge to set up their sprinter Marcel Kittel. With 15km to go, the gap was just over three minutes and the breakaway riders started attacking one another. At 10km to go, Di Corrado took a flyer, the others hesitated, the main bunch continued to motor, but their efforts were in vain.
Stage 6: Bodrum to Kusadasi, 181km
Sacha Modolo (Colnago) helped his team to consecutive stage wins and, with his maiden win of the season, intensified the fight for a spot on their Giro team. He benefited from the work done by GreenEDGE and Rabobank – to set up Matt Goss and Mark Renshaw respectively – as they chased a late attack from Modolo’s teammate Enrico Battaglin. Modolo launched his sprint perfectly to finish well clear of both Australians.
This was the longest stage in the race and it started with a tricky, crash-marred descent, which took out Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini) and Assan Bazayev (Astana). The wind forced the formation of echelons along the coast road on the way to the climbs. Marco Bandiera (OPQS) seized the opportunity to take the red King of the Mountain jersey away from overall leader Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Spor), who was concentrating on defending his lead.
Halfway into the stage, there was a leading group of around 20 riders, including Gabrovski and his top ten opponents, plus what appeared to be nearly all of the Bretagne Schuller squad, including VeloVoices friend Geoffroy Lequatre. Three riders escaped from this group and spent most of the stage off the front before being absorbed with under 10 kilometres to go. Young Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) tried once again to drop Gabrovski but he proved unshakeable as he headed towards the most unlikely career win.
Stage 7: Ephesus to Izmir, 118km
Six-day kingpin Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma Quickstep) won one of the most dramatic stage finishes ever, having survived a crash and a chain slip on the final bend just as he went under the flamme rouge. But don’t take my word for it, watch it yourself:-
Keisse left his six breakaway companions 6km from the finish, holding a 40-second advantage when disaster struck as he kissed the tarmac on a sharp bend. Keisse calmly picked himself up, put his chain back on, remounted and sped to the finish line with the thundering peloton behind him. He finished ahead of Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) for his biggest career win on the road.
Keisse attacked with six others not long into the stage and soon gained an advantage of over three minutes so that Konya Torku Seker Spor, Rabobank, Lotto-Belisol and Lampre were forced to give chase. However, they were careful not to close it down too soon – a tactic that worked to Keisse’s advantage. With just under a minute and 5km to go, Keisse attacked, went clear, recovered from his mishap and soloed to victory.
Going into the final stage, Bulgaria’s Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Spor) still led the GC, 1:33 ahead of Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) and a further five seconds ahead of compatriot Danail Petrov (Caja Rural).
Stage 8: Istanbul (Europe to Asia), 114km
Former trackie Theo Bos (Rabobank) finished how he started, outsprinting the leading pack on the final stage of the Tour to record Rabobank’s third stage win. He finished ahead of fellow-Brummie and neo-pro Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Stefan van Dijk (Accent.jobs-Willems Verandas).
Due to a crash within the final three kilometres, the entire peloton was awarded the same finishing time, confirming Ivailo Gabrovski’s (Konya-Torku Seker Spor) victory.
The stage started in Istanbul’s stunning Sultanahmet Square and young Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was immediately on the offensive but Konya-Torku Seker Spor team chased him down. A quartet then went clear, building a lead of over three minutes before the sprinters’ teams gave chase.
Bardet, intent on moving up the GC, attacked again with four kilometres to go and was closed down again. Shortly thereafter, a crash took out – among others – green jersey wearer Matt Goss (GreenEDGE). Lotto-Belisol led into the final two kilometres only to be overtaken by the Rabobank train.
The sprinters typically use this race to tuned up for the Giro so we can expect further exciting clashes amongst some of those who took part in this race. Sadly, this won’t include veteran sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who’s been left out of defending Giro champion Michele Scarponi’s Lampre squad. Having recorded their first wins of the season, sprinters Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos (Rabobank) have received an important confidence boost, while Matt Goss, who didn’t win a stage, revealed his consistence by taking the points jersey. It won’t be long before he wins a race.
The Italian Pro-Continental teams will go away pleased with the performance of their relatively young squads while AG2R-La Mondiale will be thrilled with the agressiveness and never-say-die attitude of young Romain Bardet. On a personal note, it was lovely to see Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) returning to his former attacking best and I for one will be looking forward to seeing him in his final Tour de France. Fittingly, he lead his young team to victory in the team prize.
Sadly, Bretagne-Schuller’s Geoffroy Lequatre after animating a number of the stages was forced to retire from the race on Friday with digestive troubles. We wish him a speedy recovery.
1. Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Sport) 28:48:10
2. Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) +01:33
3. Danail Petrov (Caja Rural) +01:38
4. Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) +01:44
5. Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) +02:01
6. Alexander Efimkin (Team Type 1-Sanofi) +02:23
7. Florian Guillou (Bretagne Schuller) +02:29
8. Enrico Battaglin (Colnago CSF) +02:58
9. Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) +03:02
10. Will Routley (Spidertech Powered By C10) +03:14