Local rider Mustafa Sayar, having finished third on the queen stage, produced a powerful display of climbing on the race-defining stage six to propel himself onto the top step of the podium, from where no one could dislodge him, to take the 49th Tour of Turkey. Queen stage winner Natnael Berhane finished in second place overall, with Yoann Bagot third.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) upstaged both German compatriot and Tour of Turkey record stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Ukrainian veteran Yuri Metlushenko (Torku Sekerspor) to take the first bunch sprint and record his fourth win of the season.
A five-man break formed after 40km and built a five-minute lead, helped by a tailwind. As they turned for home and into the wind the chasing pack, led by Blanco and the Argonauts, upped the pace and reeled them in, prompting Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) to have a go but he too was back in the bunch in the last 14km. The pace remained high all the way to the finish, where Kittel took possession of the leader’s turquoise jersey.
Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) nimbly avoided a massive pile-up in the last kilometres to win stage two ahead of Greipel, who took over the leader’s and points jerseys, and Marco Coledan (Bardiani). The crash was provoked by a clash of wheels as Blanco’s Mark Renshaw was leading out Theo Bos, both of whom hit the tarmac. Only a few riders were able to avoid the crash which spewed riders across the full width of the road.
The following day on this year’s queen stage saw a maiden professional win for Eritrean neo-pro Natnael Berhane (Europcar) atop the super-steep 1,850m climb of the Gogubeli Pass. He leapt out of the leading quartet 200 metres out to solo across the line. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana) won the slow-motion sprint for second, ahead of Mustafa Sayar (Torku Sekerspor), both six seconds behind. Berhane, African road race and time trial champion, moved into the leader’s jersey.
The break of the day on the 153.5km stage formed on the first climb, featuring a sextet who built a gap of just under five minutes before being reeled in one by one on the final climb, prompting further attacks, including that of the last, successful break initiated by Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Greipel easily outsprinted what was left of the peloton to take his eighth overall victory in Turkey on stage four from Gocek to Marmaris. The ‘Gorilla’ was one of the few sprinters to stay with the front of the peloton as it splintered on the final unclassified climb to finish ahead of two neo-pros, fellow German Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) and Moreno Hofland (Blanco).
Race leader Berhane also managed to stay with the front group, retaining the turquoise jersey. Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) attacked out of the day’s 13-man break with over 40km to go, to be joined by Mikhail Igantiev, who later dropped him to soldier on alone. But the peloton scooped him up within 20km only to find plenty of riders attempting to counter-attack. None succeeded and Sojasun led home the bunch with Greipel taking an easy win, which he dedicated to his grandmother who’d passed away the day before. I’m quite sure she was urging him from on high!
Greipel made it back-to-back wins on the following stage from Marmaris to Turgutreis as he sprinted to an easy victory at the head of a much-reduced peloton. He beat Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and the previous day’s runner-up Arndt to the line. After the day’s eight-man break had been caught, a flurry of attacks inside the final 10km followed, the last of which from Pippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) was caught a mere 100 metres from the finish.
Mustafa Sayar won stage six to the House of the Virgin Mary above Selcuk after powering clear in the big ring on the summit finish, which he ground up well ahead of Cofidis duo Yoann Bagot and Nicolas Edet. Not only did he become the first Turkish stage winner since the race was upgraded to 2.HC, but he also took the leader’s jersey from Berhane who finished 43 seconds down and dropped to second overall, 41 seconds back.
Heading towards the last climb, the Colombia and Orica-GreenEDGE teams set a fast tempo, then Astana took over for Seeldraeyers, who started the day second on GC. Edet attacked 3km from the top but Sayar’s acceleration was far more powerful. The remainder of the leading bunch shattered as Sayer took off, churning his way to the finish line.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) easily won his second bunch sprint into Izmir after a Vini Fantini pile-up on the final corner (the same place where Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) fell last year and remounted to win). Kittel went from 300 metres out to take the victory ahead of Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida).
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) claimed his third victory on the final stage, a 121km criterium around Istanbul, thanks to another impressive lead-out by his team to well clear of Guardini and Andrew Fenn (OPQS).
I’m very happy for myself and for my team that we won the biggest Tour organised in Turkey. This Tour was very hard. On the other hand, we were lucky that the profile of some stages were adequate, suited us and favoured us. Mustafa Sayar
Holder of the leader’s turquoise jersey since stage six, local boy Mustafa Sayar finished safely in the front of the bunch to become the first Turkish rider to win here since 2003.
One of Sayar’s Ukrainian team mates, Serhy Gretchyn, was top dog in the mountains, Greipel won the points jersey and Mikhail Ignatiev, who spent the most time out front on his own, won the Turkish Beauties sprints jersey. Cofidis were the top team.
Analysis & opinion
Despite the presence of nine ProTeams, the overall classification was dominated by riders from the lower divisions. That’s largely because the WorldTour teams don’t win points when they ride on the other circuits. They tend to support these races for other reasons such as refining form, nurturing younger riders and supporting political alliances. Of course, the sprinters don’t care, a win anywhere is a confidence-boosting victory to be savoured. It’s no surprise that the teams hoping for wild-card selection in the Tour de France performed well either in the overall or in animating the stages.
Significant surprise was expressed about the overall winner’s credentials but as he himself said, the team had worked for six months on this objective: a Turkish winner in their home tour. Anyone in any doubt should head over to Cycling Archives to check out his palmares. I don’t know about you but this race has worked its magic on me and it’s already on my provisional race schedule for 2014.
1. Mustafa Sayar (Torku Sekerspor) 29:13:13
2. Natnael Berhane (Europcar) +0:41
3. Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) +0:44
4. Maxime Mederel (Sojasun) +0:57
5. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) +1:00
6. Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:02
7. Darwin Atapuma (Colombia) +1:08
8. Florian Guillou (Bretagne-Seche) +1:09
9. Danail Andonov (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) +1:13
10. Rory Sutherland (Saxo-Tinkoff) +1:15