Mark Cavendish won the battle of the sprinters, taking three stages, but it was the unheralded Kristijan Durasek who claimed GC honours in an exciting 51st edition of the Tour of Turkey.
Rider of the race
You might be forgiven for wondering who the race winner, Lampre-Merida’s Kristijan Durasek, is but he was a thoroughly deserving winner in a race which lacked marquee GC names but was packed full of up-and-coming talent and, er, 43-year-old Davide Rebellin, who would have finished second but for a dog-induced accident (it’s been a while since we’ve had one of those!) which forced him to abandon on the final stage.
The 27-year-old Croatian’s palmares to date is far from overflowing, although he’s a good performer when the road turns vertical. He won the prestigious climber’s one-day classic Tre Valli Varesine in 2013 – beating such talented riders as hilly classics specialist Alexandr Kolobnev, Rebellin and Fabio Aru – and was seventh on GC here last year.
He didn’t win a stage this week but he was strong when it mattered, finishing second to Rebellin on the Elmali summit finish on stage three and then coming in sixth, the first of the major contenders across the line, on the destructive queen stage atop Selçuk on stage six.
An honourable mention goes out to Luis Mas Bonet, who denied the sprinters to win today’s concluding stage with an audacious late attack. Mas Bonet and his Caja Rural team were frequent animators throughout the week, and were rewarded with two prestigious stage wins, the other being Pello Bilbao’s victory on the Selçuk summit.
Three things we liked
1. The scenery. Good weather, stunning coastal and inland views and history everywhere you look. The Tour of Turkey is certainly an easy race on the eye and, unlike certain other races we could mention a little further eastwards, the crowds are both numerous and passionate about cycling.
2. A happy Mark Cavendish. Giant-Alpecin were absent but Lotto-Soudal and Orica-GreenEDGE, among others, provided a sufficiently stern test for the Etixx-Quick Step sprint train that the Belgian team coped with well. They didn’t dominate but what they did was in many ways more impressive, picking their moments carefully to consistently put the duo of Renshaw and Cavendish exactly where they needed to be with 500 metres to go. A hat-tip to Tom Boonen, whose experience and feel for space in those skittish, elbows-out final kilometres were a key component in setting up Cav for his three wins. With Andre Greipel also bagging a stage, a hopefully fit-again Marcel Kittel and man of the moment Alexander Kristoff all raring to go come July, the flat stages of the Tour de France could be a treat.
3. Upsetting the odds. It was three years ago at this race when Iljo Keisse famously won a stage solo ahead of the closing peloton, despite dropping his chain and having to refit it almost within sight of the line. So when Luis Mas Bonet attacked on a steep cobbled section with 1.4km to go and held off Cav and the rest all the way to the line, it was hard not to celebrate. We love close, against-the-odds finishes like that, don’t we?
The race in numbers
0 – Career WorldTour points for overall winner Kristijan Durasek, who is in his third season with Lampre. This was only his second win of any description as a professional, after the 2013 Tre Valli Varesine.
7 – Total number of stages won by Mark Cavendish in two participations in this race: four last year, three this year.
34 – Finishing position of the highest placed Turkish rider, Torku Sekerspor’s Nazim Bakirci, who was 16 minutes down. You may recall that riders from this local team ‘won’ the 2012 ans 2013 editions, only to be subsequently disqualified after doping positives.
1. Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) 31:06:44
2. Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) +0:32
3. Jay Mccarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:56
4. Alex Cano Ardila (Colombia) +1:30
5. Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka) +1:32
6. Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) +1:58
7. Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) +2:01
8. Tomasz Marczynski (Torku Sekerspor) +2:02
9. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) +2:11
10. Javier Megias Leal (Novo Nordisk) +2:15
Link: Official race website