Launched on the cycling calendar as the Marmara Tour in1963, the Presidential Tour of Turkey boasts its “50 years of cycling passion” materialized in the form of eight stages from Alanya to Istanbul for what remains the only international cycling race linking two continents – and in one stage, the last, crossing the magic Bosphorus. Along the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas, two competitions will be taking place – the most prestigious one, between the sprinters and chiefly Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, and the more open race for the general classification.
Among the team directors to have made the trip to Alanya, several outpointed the excellent level of the sprints with a level of competition potentially higher than on the Giro d’Italia, starting from Ireland a week later. Former teammates and yet rivals inside the defunct HTC-Columbia team, Cavendish and Greipel both return to competition after a forced break, caused by a cold after Milan-San Remo on March 23 for the Briton and by a fractured collarbone in Ghent-Wevelgem on March 30 for the German. Now rivals in the two Belgian sprint machines – Omega Pharma Quick Step and Lotto Belisol –, both start the TUR uncertain about their condition but full of ambition in the build up of their 2014 season culminating with the Tour de France in July.
Cavendish’s motivation is obvious from the line-up of his lead-out train in Turkey: Mark Renshaw, Alessandro Petacchi, Gert Steegmans, Gianni Meersman and Iljo Keisse. A dream team for any sprinter. But the complication, both for Cavendish and Greipel, comes from the fierce competition from other teams as well. Sacha Modolo (Lampre Merida), already won six times this season, as much as Greipel, who holds the record of nine stage wins on the TUR in four participations, while Theo Bos (Belkin), who raised his arms four times in 2014, is also familiar with Turkish sprints with two victories in 2012. Andrea Guardini (Astana), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Marco Haller (Katusha), Aidis Kruopis and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge), Francesco Lasca (Caja Rural), Wouter Wippert (Drapac), Youcef Reguigui and Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Francesco Chicchi (Neri Sottoli), Robert Foerster (Unitedhealthcare) and Yuriy Metlushenko (Torku Sekerspor) can also be contenders in case of a bunch sprint.
Among the eight Pro Teams and 11 Continental Pro teams siding along the only Turkish Continental team, Torku Sekerspor, prospects to take over from Eritrea’s Natanael Berhane (Europcar) on the roll of honour are many and varied from his compatriot Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka), 20 and 2nd in the Tour of Langkawi last month, to veteran Davide Rebellin, 42, very convincing in the finales of last week’s classics Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race. Frustrated last year, France’s Cofidis are back with serious hopes for Yoann Bagot, runner-up a year ago and eager to go one better thanks to his experience of the two key stages, the third to Elmali and the 6th to Selçuk. Kazakh Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana), crowned in 2012, Australia’s Cameron Wurf (Cannondale), 5th in 2011 and helped by promising Italian climber Davide Formolo, as well as Kevin Seeldrayers (Wanty-Groupe Gibert), 2nd in Elmali and 11th overall last year, are in the same frame of mind as Bagot.
The TUR, by contrast, will be a discovery for another star of world cycling, Luis-Leon Sanchez, a four times stage winner on the Tour de France. In his new colours or Spanish team Caja Rural, the Spaniard had a good start to the 2014 season by finishing second in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo behind Berhane while he recently played second fiddle in recent stage races in his country, the Tour of Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country. Another question mark hangs over another Spaniard, Juan Jose Cobo, winner of the 2011 Spanish Vuelta head of Chris Froome. The Torku Sekerspor recruit is erratic and has seldom raced in the last year.
Presidential Tour de Turquie stages
April 27, Etape 1 : Alanya – Alanya (141 km)
April 28, Etape 2 : Alanya – Kemer (172 km)
April 29, Etape 3 : Finike – Elmali (185 km)
April 30, Etape 4 : Fethiye – Marmaris (132 km)
May 2, Etape 5 : Marmaris – Bodrum (183 km)
May 2, Etape 6 : Bodrum – Selçuk (183 km)
May 3, Etape 7 : Kusadasi – Izmir (136 km)
May 4, Etape 8 : Istanbul-Istanbul (121 km).
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