The Presidential Tour of Turkey – now a UCI 2.HC race and possibly part of the World Tour in 2014 – will this year feature a hilltop finish for the first time since the race entered the big league of cycling. Stage 3 of the 48th edition will end up at Elmali – literally the “apple town” in Turkish language – in the province of Antalya.
The 13km final climb there has raised the ambitions of the South American team Colombia-Coldeportes compared to last year, when some of their riders took part under the banner of Colombia-ès-Pasion. The 2011 winner of the Tour de l’Avenir, Esteban Chavez, didn’t hide his motivation when he spoke to Cyclingnews.
“I’m seriously coming into good form," the 22-year-old born in Bogotà said in Alanya. “I was in the first group at the Flèche Wallonne when I got a puncture with 20km to go.” He explained his misfortune to Romain Bardet from Ag2r-La Mondiale who was a very aggressive rider at the Amstel Gold Race one week ago. “We got to know each other at the Tour de l’Avenir," said Chavez of the Frenchman who won stage 5 of the Nations Cup final event last year.
“We have three guys who can win the Tour of Turkey," said Colombia-Coldeportes’ captain Victor Hugo Peña, who remains the only Colombian cyclist to have worn the yellow jersey at the Tour de France when he rode alongside Lance Armstrong at US Postal in 2003. Still a pro rider at the age of 38, Peña doesn’t include himself in the three Colombians designated for leadership. “[Fabio] Duarte, Chavez and [Juan Pablo] Suarez have a good chance to go for the win," he said. “But the overall classification might not be decided only on stage 3. We know this race. Sometimes it’s a little crazy. Breakaways can happen at other stages as well.”
The morale of the Italian-based Pro Continental team has been hugely boosted by Darwin Atapuma’s stage win at the Giro del Trentino last week. Stage 4 in the Dolomites marked the big return of a Colombian squad at the highest level of international cycling.
“We have a much better team than last year," added Peña.
Under the management of Claudio Corti who previously directed Gatorade, Saeco and Barloworld, Colombia-Coldeportes got invites for World Tour events like Tirreno-Adriatico and Flèche Wallonne. “Atapuma’s win came right on time to answer the negative comments we received from Colombia after the creation of this team, but this project is more professional than the previous one [Colombia-ès-Pasion]," Peña added. “We ride with good form and motivation now.”