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by Shane Stokes
May 2, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Davide Rebellin’s expected march towards final Tour of Turkey victory appeared to be foiled on the second summit finish of the race Friday when the Italian rider suffered on the final climb to Selcuk and slipped out of the turquoise leader’s jersey.
Spanish rider Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) was best on ascent, attacking towards the summit and catching the Astana rider Miguel Ángel López. He then jumped hard and dropped the 2014 Tour de l’Avenir winner, hitting the line three seconds clear.
Bilbao’s team-mate Heiner Parra (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) rolled in 11 seconds down for third, some three seconds ahead of Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Alex Cano (Colombia).
Kristijan Durasek (Lampre – Merida), who had started the day second overall, was next in. He dropped 18 seconds but, crucially, finished one place ahead of third-placed contender Eduardo Sepúlveda (Bretagne – Séché Environnement), four up (and 16 seconds) on Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), who had started the day fourth overall.
Even more importantly, he was 43 seconds ahead of Rebellin, who cracked on the climb and was only 19th.
“Today we came here with a clear strategy to do a good final climb,” said stage winner Bilbao. “We knew that the team was in a really good moment, and in the past couple of stages we saw that in the climbs we were very strong.
“We wanted to use that power of the team to do a good job today. They guys were incredible and I won the stage, finally.”
He had originally hoped to go for the general classification but suffered a puncture on the crucial third stage and lost his chance. He changed his focus instead to hunting a stage and succeeded in that goal Friday.
Another who was smiling at the finish was Durasek. The rejigged general classification saw him end the day 21 seconds ahead of the former race leader. Sepulveda and McCarthy, who are at 32 seconds and one minute 14 seconds respectively, are facing an uphill battle in the hunt for the overall race win.
Asked if what probability he gave himself prior to the stage of taking the leader’s jersey, Durasek said that he believed he could do it.
“[I’d] a big chance. I knew it was the last GC stage, and I knew that I had to try because I had nothing to lose. I did the best I could and it went well,” he said.
Although Rebellin had looked stronger than him on stage three, he said it was not unexpected that he slipped back.
“I was surprised when he won the first [mountain] stage,” he said. “I thought it was too hard for him. I wasn’t sure if I could beat him today, but I had nothing to lose, and it was successful.”
The 184 kilometre stage began in Denizli and ran past a range of historical sites, including the stunning ancient site of Ephesus, and concluded atop the climb of Selçuk. Located less than a kilometre from the house reputed to be the final abode of the Virgin Mary, the area has a special religious and touristic significance.
On Friday, it was also the location for the finish of one of the biggest events on the current cycling calendar.
Two riders did not take the start, namely the 2012 King of the Mountains Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli) and Sebastián Molano (Colombia), who had been fourth on Monday’s second stage.
The race started at a very rapid pace, with 52 kilometres being covered in the first hour. Multiple attacks were fired off but the CCC Sprandi Polkowice team of race leader Rebellin kept things under control.
The Etixx-QuickStep team tried at one point to create echelons and break things up, but this was unsuccessful.
Four riders pushed ahead at kilometre 55, namely Malcolm Rudolph (Drapac Professional Cycling), Jarl Salomein (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise), Roy Jans (Wanty – Groupe Gobert) and Ahmet Akdilek (Torku Sekerspor).
Rudolph took the intermediate sprint at kilometre 76, while behind Genki Yamamoto (Nippo – Vini Fantini) was persisting in what was an unsuccessful chase.
He was one minute 50 seconds back with 81 kilometres covered, while the peloton was four and a half minutes in arrears.
A number of riders worked to reduce this, including the Tinkoff-Saxo duo of Juraj Sagan and Nikolay Trusev.
Salomein took the Beauties of Turkey sprint at km 122.1, but the five points picked up were no threat to the 13 amassed thus far by the white jersey wearer Lluis Mas (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA).
Jans then took the intermediate sprint at kilometre 144.3.
Akdilek decided to go back to the bunch with 28 kilometres to go, perhaps realising that the break wouldn’t stay clear. He took a large feed bag from the team car just before easing back, using the opportunity to give bottles to his team-mates once he was in the bunch.
Salomein attacked a kilometre from the top of the category three climb at kilometre 162.4 but was unable to stay clear. Instead, the break was caught and Kenny De Ketele (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise) picked up the three points ahead of Juan Pablo Valencia (Colombia), the King of the Mountains leader.
Once onto the final climb, Nazim Bakirci (Torku ?ekerspor) attacked with 5.3 kilometres left. He was trying to make up for a quiet race by the team but was caught 800 metres after making the move.
A number of other riders then pushed the pace, including Brice Feillu (Bretagne – Séché Environnement) and the 2013 Presidential Tour winner Natnel Berhane (MTN – Qhubeka).
With 2.8 km to go, Colombian Miguel Angel López (Astana Pro Team) surged clear. He was marked by Jay McCarthy (Tinkov -Saxo), the rider in fourth overall, but the latter was dropped with 2.4 kilometres to go.
Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) then took up the chase closely followed by his team-mate Heiner Parra.
Bilbao bridged across to the leader and then jumped clear inside the final kilometre, taking the stage.
Lopez took second and Parra third. Importantly, Durasek took enough time out of Rebellin to assume the turquoise jersey of race leader, and will wear it on Saturday’s 166 kilometre stage from Selcuk to Izmir.
He said he was confident of holding on. “Tomorrow is a hard stage, but not so hard that it will be possible to make a difference in GC.”