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by Shane Stokes
May 4, 2015
Unsure if he would be able to start the stage due to bad stomach problems and a high temperature on Saturday night, Lampre-Merida’s Kristijan Durasek persisted to win the Presidential Tour of Turkey in Istanbul on Sunday.
The Croatian rider finished safely in the main bunch and with his chief rival Davide Rebellin crashing out, he ended the race well clear of his opposition.
He was 32 seconds ahead of Eduardo Sepúlveda (Bretagne – Séché Environnement) and 56 seconds up on Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff – Saxo), who had started the day fourth but moved up after Rebellin fell and suffered a shoulder injury.
Alex Cano (Colombia) was a minute and a half back in fourth, while Serge Pauwels (MTN – Qhubeka) was a further two seconds behind in fifth.
The stage win went to one of the most aggressive riders this week in the race, namely Lluis Mas (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA). He attacked with just over a kilometre to go, making his move on a drag prior to the kite and then holding that gap all the way to the line.
Although the Etixx-QuickStep team of Mark Cavendish chased hard, he had enough strength to hold on and to reach the finish just ahead of Cavendish, Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA), Alessandro Petacchi (Southeast) and Daniele Colli (Nippo – Vini Fantini).
“My first job was to work for Barbero, our sprinter,” Mas said in the post race press conference. “We knew that he could win today. He was second the other day [on stage five to Pamukkale – ed.). But I was first around the last corner and my teammate said, ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop…!’ so I didn’t.”
Mas has been a regular sight off the front throughout the eight day race. His aggression had earned him the lead in the Turkish Beauties sprint and he capped that off with Sunday’s win.
“I feel fantastic,” he continued. “Today, I was thinking of my son, Lluis. I became a father in September, and this is the best present for him.
“It’s my first victory in a pro race. I won a race in Portugal three years ago, but this is my first, most important victory. I’m very happy. All the week, I worked every day to get into breakaways, and to win the Beauties of Turkey sprints competition, but this stage win is the best.”
Durasek took over the race lead on Friday when he was stronger than Rebellin on the climb up to Selcuk. He started the day with a 21 second advantage over the latter but when the Italian crashed out his win looked even more certain.
However he confirmed after the stage that there was a possibility he wasn’t going to be on Sunday’s start line at all.
“I was really ill with a temperature of 38, a bad stomach and everything,” he explained. “I didn’t know if I’d start today or not. In the morning, I said to myself, I have to try. It was hard for me yesterday and today.
“This victory means a lot. It’s my second victory for Lampre and I’m very happy with it.”
He showed remarkable composure and calmness in the post-race press conferences and said that this was part of his personality. “Normally I’m always calm, taking everthing easy. In the race it’s like that…always easy.”
Mark Cavendish had hoped to take the final stage and, in bringing his tally to four wins this year, to equal his tally from last year. However Mas Bonet’s move surprised him and his team, as well as the other sprinters, and it mean that he had to be satisfied with being second across the line.
Asked in the press conference to explain how things played out, he gave the shortest answer possible. He warmed up when asked about the green jersey he scopped with his runner-up slot, saying that taking that jersey for the second year running was important to him.
“I’m super happy. When Greipel won (stage four to Marmaris – ed.), I expected to get over the climb and keep the green jersey. I’m glad to get it back on he last stage. I’d have liked to have won the stage. We tried our hardest.”
Cavendish was glowing in his praise of the event, saying that he was impressed by it. “It was a really nice race. A lot of World Tour races can take organisational ideas from the Tour of Turkey and put them to use,” he stated.
“For me it’s one of the best organised races of the year, in a beautiful country. The riders come first here. It’s nice to come here. After my first time last year, I wanted to come back.”
He said that he will now fly to the Tour of California and then compete there before returning prior to the Tour de Suisse, the British championships and the Tour de France.
In contrast to the other seven stages, the final leg of the race began under cloudy conditions. The riders lined up close to the stunning Sultan Ahmed (or Blue) Mosque in Istanbul and then began what was a 124 kilometre battle.
Kevin De Mesmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk) initiated an early move on the Galata Bridge. Boris Vallée (Lotto Soudal), Eduard Grosu (Nippo – Vini Fantini) and Kenny De Ketele (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise) were also in the mood to try something and jumped across. Once they bridged, the pace increased and De Mesmaeker then slipped back.
His slot in the move was replaced by Carlos Quintero (Colombia), who was able to bridge across.
De Ketele took the Beauties of Turkey sprint at kilometre 34.2, and the allocation of points meant that Lluis Mas won the overall competition ahead of his rivals.
The break continued on and at kilometre 56, 68 kilometres from the line, they had two minutes 15 seconds. Their advantage started to fall from this point.
Grosu won the intermediate sprint at km 82.5. Then with 30 kilometres left the rider in second place overall, Davide Rebellin (CCC Srandi Polkowice) crashed. He was too badly hurt to continue and was later diagnosed with a shoulder problem.
The bunch continued to ride hard behind and with 14.5 kilometres to go the day’s move was only a minute ahead. The leaders were finally caught 4.9 kilometres from the line. That seemed to make a bunch sprint almost certain, but Mas timed his move to perfection to romp clear on the uphill second and was then strong enough to hold on to the line.