Contributed by Bruce Hildenbrand
On a beautiful day bathed in hot sunshine in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, eight riders escaped at about the 30km mark. “At first it was looking good as the best guy in the break was at 5 minutes of the race leader. I thought we could make it to the end,” said Broeckx.
The octet worked smoothly until about 30km from the finish. “The guy from Baku [Cycling Project] wouldn’t work anymore so we had to ride or we wouldn’t stay off the front. I attacked with 30km to go and then there were only two,” said Broeckx.
The day’s break makes its way through the stunning Azerbaijan countryside.
“We made a great effort, but in the sprint I made a mistake to go a little bit too late. I must attack earlier. Maybe it was a little lack of experience. I don’t think I will sleep well tonight,” added Broeckx.
Synergy Baku Cycling Project Director Sportif, Jez Hunt, confirmed that he ordered his rider to stop working in the breakaway. Hunt had Christoph Schweizer back in the main field and after Schweizer’s impressive win on stage 1 and with a similar uphill finish in stage 3, it was a
good bet that Baku could pull off it’s second stage win.
It was not to be as the duo stayed away to the finish, but Hunt’s hunch proved correct as Schweizer easily won the sprint for third and gave Synergy Baku Cycling Project its third podium in three days.
So why come to Azerbaijan to do a bike race? Well, a bit to the west is the country of Turkey which has it’s own national tour, the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey. It began in 2006 as an UCI 2.2 race, the same category as the Tour of Azerbaijan. The Presidential Tour of Turkey is now a UCI 2.HC race, on the same level as races such as Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse and one level below the grand tours.
But, that’s not why I am writing about racing in Turkey. It is pertinent to mention this race, because in 2010, a neo-pro from America came there looking for an event to help hone his rapidly developing racing skills. Not only did Tejay van Garderen get a chance to improve, he rode into a podium position taking second place overall.
A a few month later, with a bit more confidence in his pocket, Tejay finished third overall in the Criteriuim du Dauphine and the rest, as they
say, is history.
Tejay’s experience racing in Turkey demonstrates the importance of races like the Tour of Azerbaijan. Such events can provide a springboard for
young riders looking to find their way to the front of the pro peloton.
And speaking of van Garderen, I ran into the director of the Rabobank U-23 squad, Richard Groenendaal, at the Tour of Azerbaijan. Groenendaal is the 2000 World Cyclcross Champion so he knows a bit about going fast on a bike. Tejay spent two years on the Rabobank U-23 team before signing with his current squad the BMC Racing Team.
As Groenendall is quick to point out, maturing as a professional isn’t just about going faster on the bike and this is another reason to come to Azerbaijan. “They have to learn how to handle difference circumstances than we have in Holland and in Europe. Different food. Not our own cars. Everything is different from racing in Europe.”
Stage 3 Results
1 Vitaly Popkov ISD ISD Contine 03.57.03 00.00
2 Stig Broeckx, Stig BEL Lotto Belis 03.57.03 00.00
3 Christoph Schweizer BCP Synergy Bak 03.58.36 01.33
4 Jasper Bovenhuis RBB Rabobank De 03.58.36 01.33
5 Maksym Averin ARH Atlas Perso 03.58.36 01.33
6 Miyataka Shimizu BGT Bridgestone 03.58.36 01.33
7 Theo Reinhardt RNR Rad Net Ros 03.58.36 01.33
8 Fabio Silvestre LET Leopard Tre 03.58.36 01.33
9 Lars van der Haar RBB Rabobank De 03.58.36 01.33
10 Maksym Vasilyev ISD ISD Contine 03.58.36 01.33
General Classifciation After Stage 3:
1 Sergiy Grechyn TRK Torku Seker 12.13.51
2 Oleskan Surutkovych BCP Synergy Bak 12.14.42 00.00.51
3 Bakhtiya Kozhatayev AS2 Continental 12.14.42 00.00.51
4 Damien Monier BGT Bridgestone 12.14.44 00.00.53
5 Ricardo Vilela EFG Efapel-Gla 12.15.13 00.01.22
6 Lars van der Haar RBB Rabobank De 12.18.10 00.04.19
7 Zhandos Bizhigitov AS2 Continental 12.18.10 00.04.19
8 Sho Hatsuyama BGT Bridgestone 12.18.10 00.04.19
9 Anatoliy Pakhtusov ISD ISD Contine 12.18.10 00.04.19
10 Joni Silva Brandao EFG Efapel-Gla 12.18.10 00.04.19