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By Shane Stokes
Just as Mark Cavendish did earlier this week, Elia Viviani used the confidence boost derived from his first stage win to clock up another in the Presidential Tour of Turkey.
The Italian, who beat Cavendish to take Friday’s sixth stage, repeated again on Saturday when he was first into Izmir. His British rival looked set for what would have been a remarkable fourth victory in the race, getting a gap after a crash in the finale plus strong work by his Omega Pharma Quick Step team.
Viviani had a big gap to close but managed to do so, speeding up to the wheel of a fading Cavendish and then blasting past him. Andrea Guardini (Astana) was moving even faster inside the final 100 metres, but ran out of time to overhaul his compatriot. He had to be satisfied with second, but will be a big threat on tomorrow’s final stage.
As for Cavendish, he was left rueing what might have been. He was gracious in defeat on the podium, shaking hands with Viviani and congratulating him, but otherwise looked like he would rather have been elsewhere. Like Guardini, he too will hope to beat Viviani and to top the podium on Sunday.
The latter is on a roll, though, and will carry his confidence into the final stage.
“I’m really happy about this second stage win. This is the confirmation of the last sprint stage,” he said, referring to Friday’s finish. “My condition is at the top now. This was my focus here for eight days, to get the best condition for my big focus which is the Giro d’Italia. This second stage win is the confirmation.
The finish was complicated, as shown by a large crash which took several riders down within sight of the line. This caused the split at the head of the group and the gaps which Viviani and Guardini had to close.
“The sprint started at the last turn as it was so dangerous with such a big group,” said Viviani afterwards, speaking in the video interview above.
“With two kilometres to the finish I lost so many positions to the Omega Pharma train. When Steegmans went in the front, a lot of riders behind Cavendish went out [were dropped]. He is a very strong man.
When Petacchi started the sprint, there were only two riders, himself and Cav. I saw a few metres to one rider, a few metres to another rider. I thought in one second, okay, I will go to the next rider and when I come to Cav, I will stay on his wheel. But when I saw with 100 metres to the finish that Cav didn’t have big, big speed, I thought okay, I can win. A bit more time on the pedals and I took this second fantastic win.”
Earlier Wesley Sulzberger (Drapac Pro Cycling), Piotr Gawronski (CCC) and Wesley Kreder (Wanty) attacked prior to the first intermediate sprint (km 9.4), and crossed the line in that order. Kreder would take the later Turkish Beauties sprint, while their mopping up of the available mountain points meant that Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare) will win the King of the Mountains award tomorrow.
The trio built a maximum gap of just under three minutes and held on to take the final intermediate sprint in Smyrna (km 122.1), where Sulzberger triumphed. They were then caught three kilometres later, after which the sprinters’ teams set about putting their fastmen in position.
Things were complicated by a number of crashes, but Viviani, Guardini and Cavendish all escaped falling and galloped home in that order.
Overnight leader Adam Yates (Orica GreenEdge) finished safely in the main bunch and preserves his one second lead over stage three winner Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).
The race will end tomorrow in Istanbul, where Viviani will seek further confirmation, Guardini will try to go one better than today and Cavendish will aim to bounce back and return to the dominance he showed at the start of the race.
Watch the video above to see Viviani discuss the victory and how it came about, his hopes for the Giro d’Italia and his ambition to beat Marcel Kittel.