The present and future of British cycling shone at the Tour of Turkey as sprint ace Mark Cavendish returned from illness to take four stage wins, while 21-year-old Adam Yates won a mountain stage which propelled him to overall victory.
Cav’s confidence boost
Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish hadn’t competed since Milan-San Remo when he took the start-line in Alanya, but he wasted little time demonstrating that the illness which had laid him low had taken none of the edge off his speed, winning three of the first four stages and wrapping things up with the finale. His victory in the opener, where he had to accelerate off the back of the Belkin train and seek out a tiny gap to squeeze through, was the most impressive of all.
He had to give best to an impressive Elia Viviani (Cannondale) twice, raising questions about whether he’s quite back to his best yet. That’s somewhat unfair on the Italian, who boasts a formidable turn of speed and is a regular race winner himself.
But it’s also no surprise that, having been ill and not raced for five weeks, he’s not quite at 100% yet. The acceleration seems to be there, but the ability to sustain maximum velocity for those extra couple of seconds isn’t yet. If he is a fraction short of race sharpness, it’s no surprise if his form tailed off slightly in the second half of the race.
More importantly, after indifferent performances last year, OPQS’ lead-out train is now gelling, with their dominance growing in each of Cav’s wins. A special mention should go to Mark Renshaw for a marathon lead-out on stage two, where he went full gas for around 400 metres.
So hats off to the big diesel engine of Iljo Keisse plus the three quick men – Steegmans, Petacchi and Renshaw – who were so impressive all week. For the Tour de France, they will add Tony Martin to that already considerable arsenal. OPQS will be right up there with Giant-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol when we hit the roads of Yorkshire in July. It’s going to be one hell of a battle.
British twins Adam and Simon Yates (no relation to Sean Yates) caused a minor shock when they signed their first professional contracts late last year with Australia’s Orica-GreenEDGE rather than their ‘home’ team, Sky, but their decision has proven wise. WIth Orica, the pair have had plenty of opportunities to learn their craft in major races in a way that would not have happened at Sky.
Both 21, Simon had already made a name for himself last year with two stage wins at the Tour de l’Avenir and victory at the top of Hay Tor in the Tour of Britain. Adam, who finished second overall at L’Avenir, had made steady progress without notching up that all-important first win. But his 1km solo attack on the summit finish of six stage was impressive, as he rode away from race leader Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and gained – just – the seven seconds he needed to move into top spot.
Unfortunately, Simon broke his collarbone in a crash early in the race. But remember their names: we’ll be seeing more of both in coming years. The British Cycling production line shows no signs of slowing.
The comeback kid
I remember Rein Taaramae‘s 2011 season well. Then 24, he had already shown flashes of brilliance in the previous two seasons, registering podium finishes at the Tour de Romandie and Volta a Catalunya, but this was the year he started to show a consistent level of performance. He was fourth at Paris-Nice, rode impressively on to the podium at the Criterium International, then achieved 11th overall at the Tour de France and a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana. The Estonian looked set to become an elite-level racer.
However, his 2012 and 2013 seasons were blighted by injuries and breathing problems and it appeared he was destined to join the ranks of the never-quite-weres. But surgery this spring seems to have cured his respiratory issues and his winning attack on the final climb of the race’s queen stage (three) looked more like the 2011 model Taaramae.
He couldn’t quite hold on to Adam Yates on the race’s other summit finish, but second overall will give him encouragement for the future. Everyone loves a comeback story, and it’s good to see the talented Estonian back to his best.
Race in numbers
7 – British riders finished either first or second on seven of the race’s eight stages: Mark Cavendish won four times and was runner-up once, while Adam Yates had a first and a second.
0 – Career wins for Adam Yates before this race.
32 – Months elapsed between Rein Taaramae‘s victory on the queen stage here and his previous international race win at the 2011 Vuelta.
1. Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) 30:26:22
2. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +0:05
3. Romain Hardy (Cofidis) +0:39
4. Davide Formolo (Cannondale) +0:40
5. Davide Rebellin (CCC Polsat Polkowice) +0:44
6. Juan Jose Cobo (Torku Sekerspor) +0:45
7. Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) same time
8. Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) +0:51
9. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) +0:58
10. Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) +1:04