After taking the lead today at the Presidential Tour of Turkey, Alexander Efimkin (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis) now has a prime opportunity to claim his first win since the Settimana Lombarda in 2007, also the year of his only Tour de France start while competing for Barloworld.
The 29-year-old Russian, in his first year with the US-based Professional Continental squad Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis, pulled off a big coup during stage 6 from Fethiye to Finike, where he dethroned former race leader Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Cervélo).
With two stages remaining, Efimkin holds a lead of 1:13 over Andrey Zeits (Astana).
Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis general manager Vassili Davidenko had taken the pressure off by saying that Efimkin was at 80 percent of his form. "It's true," the new leader of the Tour of Turkey told Cyclingnews at his hotel in Tekirova. "I started the season with no pressure and with the aim of peaking for the Tour of California. Now I've found the right move in this race and I want to benefit from it. We have a good team. We can keep the lead I believe."
Efimkin moved from the ProTour Ag2r-La Mondiale team to Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis at the end of 2010 but he doesn't seem affected by leaving the big league. "It's sometimes better to take one step backwards to make two jumps ahead," he said in Italian, a language he embraced more than English for now as he lives in Villongo near the lake of Iseo.
His twin brother Vladimir, who won stage 9 of the 2008 Tour de France after the disqualification of Riccardo Ricco, quit cycling in the middle of the season last year to settle down in Sacramento, California and work in a real estate business. "For now, he has quit cycling," Alexander said. "I can't say what he wants to do in the future but he has made his family a priority.
"His wife had some health problems and it wasn't easy for him to travel from Europe to America and back in this situation, so he made a deal with Vincent (Ag2r-La Mondiale's team manager Vincent Lavenu) who has been very helpful and friendly in the way of stopping the contract before the end. We are very thankful to him."
While Vladimir moved to the United States, Alexander remained based in Europe but joined an American team newly promoted into the Pro Continental ranks.
"I like the project of helping diabetic people to have a better life through the example of the sport," Efimkin said. "I was really wanted in this team. Last summer, every week I got a phone from Davidenko. Initially, he wanted me for the Giro d'Italia because I finished 19th last year despite losing more than half an hour in one of the stages. Team Type 1 thought there was a possibility to ride the Giro, but now we're doing other nice races. The Tour of California will be important for us and the Tour de Suisse will follow. I feel really good with the atmosphere we have in this team."
Efimkin will feel something special in Sacramento, the town hosting the finish of the Amgen Tour of California's second stage, where the Russian community numbers approximately 70,000 people. This is where his son was born with an English name, Anthony, although both parents are Russian, originally hailing from Samara.
"We've wanted him to be born in the best hospital," Alexander said. "Vladimir's wife has helped us tremendously for that."
So he expects to receive a warm welcome in Sacramento on May 16, especially if he arrives in the United States as the rider not only responsible for his new team's first win in the Pro Continental ranks, but one which came in Europe at an HC-rated national tour.