By Jean-François Quénet in Alanya, Turkey
Andreas Klöden was one of the stars of the Presidential Tour of Turkey. During the final stage he was seen working as a domestique when his young Kazakh team-mate Assan Bazayev had a flat tyre but eventually came third in Alanya and won the points classification. That was Astana's main achievement in Turkey after Gregory Rast won the inaugural criterium in Istanbul, which didn't count for the overall classification.
Milram with Alessandro Petacchi's two stage wins and Lampre thanks to Mirco Lorenzetto's rush at the end of Stage 2 were the better known winners in Turkey. But in general, the ProTour teams were overshadowed by Pro Continental opposition such as Karpin-Galicia, who claimed the overall classification with David Garcia Dapena, and CSF-Navigare, who came with the target of one stage win but went home with four victories.
There was, however, another purpose for experienced riders to take part in the Turkish race: eight days of racing in preparation for other events. That was certainly the case for Klöden. The 2004 Tour de France runner-up went south with the Tour de Romandie in mind.
"I'd never heard of this race before," he admitted about the 44th Presidential Tour of Turkey, which has been upgraded this year to UCI 2.1 status. "When my team told me about it, I wasn't too keen to come to Turkey but now I'm very satisfied. I have worked well. There have been some difficult stages and I've tried to break away sometimes but without any success."
The German was also full of praise for the Turkish organisation. "The courses were very interesting," he said. "The venues chosen for starts and finishes were wonderful. Hotels were world class and the weather has been great. It was perfect." His last duty in Alanya was to assist his friend Danilo Hondo who was involved in the final crash.
Most of the time, Klöden was seen with a smile on his face in Turkey while he often looks unhappy at many European races. The Astana rider obviously enjoyed racing away from the prying eyes of the German media, who have been relentless in their accusations of doping against him during his years with Team Telekom.
Not surprisingly, though, he's still bitter at his Astana team's non-selection for the Tour de France. His racing program now consists of the Tour de Romandie in May, the Tour de Suisse in June and the Tour of Austria in July. "I'm still convinced that I can win the Tour de France one year," he said. "Before the end of my career, I hope to be able to come back and take my chance."