Adam Phelan’s Tour of Turkey Diary: stage 4
The 50th edition of the Presidential Tour of Turkey is currently underway and Adam Phelan, of Australia’s only ProContinental team Drapac Professional Cycling, is writing daily reports for CyclingTips from within the race. Here’s Adam’s report from stage 4, a stage in which he got himself in the breakaway.
One second later and I would have missed the breakaway. Four riders had a small gap and the peloton began to spread across the road. I needed to go – and quick — so I moved along the outside of the bunch. An Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider hadn’t quite ‘shut the door’ properly on the left side of the road and there was still a small opening between him and the gutter. It wasn’t much of a gap, but it was enough.
I had the momentum. I took a deep breath and went. I made it through. It felt as if I had just avoided a guillotine sliding down towards my neck. Either way I was through and I sprinted across to the four other riders. My day in the breakaway had began. My companions for the day were Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Luis Mas (Caja Rural), Frederik Backaert (Wanty Groupe Gobert) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli).
The first 10 kilometres is one of the hardest points in a breakaway. We knew the peloton would be sitting up and allowing us to get a gap. We just had to make it to a time gap that the peloton would let us reach out to. The quicker you get to that point the better.
We went up a highway climb and kept the pressure on. Our time gap slowly reached out. One minute. Two minutes. Three. We got out to roughly three and a half minutes and realised this was ‘our point’. The peloton held us at that gap. We continued to roll through as deep black clouds hung above us.
We went up another small climb. It started raining and I felt my tires twitch. These were slippery roads. “We go easy on the downhill, yeah?” One of the guys in the breakaway looked across at me and moved his arm cautiously downwards. It was sign language for “I really don’t want to crash, so we should not be heroes down the descent, okay?” I couldn’t agree more.
Even at our slow pace the roads made us slide. But we took it easy and made it down incident free. Once we started picking up the speed again the race organisers car drive up next to us honking their horn. “Slow down. Slow down. We are stopping the race.” Really? What happened back in the peloton?
The answer was crashes, and a lot of them. Apparently it was carnage. So I sat in the team car in the middle of a stage (and in the middle of a breakaway) trying to get warm, waiting for the restart. It was an odd experience!
The plan was to ride further along the road as a whole group. Then once we got to the next descent we would start again and our break would get the same time gap as we had before. It was going to hurt. The guys in the break agreed: we needed to go hard from the gun and try to improve our time gap.
It hurt. I had lactic acid exploding through my legs. I took comfort knowing it would be the same for the other riders swapping off with me.
A breakaway is a weird companionship. You are all out there for the same goal, and you know your chances of getting a stage win are slim, but you all work tirelessly to give the break the best chance possible.
Out in the break you begin to get to know the other riders. You notice the way they get aero on their bike, their pedal stroke, or if they sit twisted on their seat. Over time you notice it all. It wasn’t until I was in the break with Maxim Belkov that I realised he bears an uncanny resemblance to my teammate Darren Lapthorne. They even have similar riding styles!
With 15km to go our gap was dropping rapidly. The peloton was hunting us down. It is at this point in a breakaway that companionship turns into rivalry. Attacks began. Belkov went and I followed. Then Luis Mas (Caja Rural) countered. He got a gap. Behind him we rolled through again and chased.
We were together heading into the final climb. The peloton was hot on our heels. Halfway up the climb Belkov and Mas had a gap on myself and the others. We were not going to make it.
The peloton shot by me close to the top of the climb. The breakaway was over. I gritted my teeth to stay with the group — I didn’t want to ride into the finish alone. It felt as though the sprint was messy, though I couldn’t really tell from the back of the bunch. Mark Cavendish won again, and not for the last time this tour I’d say. I had a fun day anyhow.
Another 180+ kilometre stage is on the cards for tomorrow. Let’s see how the legs go.