Turkish rider Mustafa Sayar is back in contention at the Presidential Tour of Turkey, a race he won in 2013 before being disqualified for failing an anti-doping test for EPO at the Tour of Algeria earlier that same year. But this time around, he won't threaten race favourites Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) as he lost almost eight minutes in stage 2 in Cappadocia after crashing at the beginning of stage 1 in Istanbul.
"I don't know how my form is and I'll need two days of racing to figure it out," Sayar told Cyclingnews on the first starting line in Besiktas on the shores of the Bosphorus. "Since I finished my penalty last year, I only took part in the [2.2] Tour of Mersin last week [he finished fourth overall while his teammate Nazim Bakirci won it]. It was an international stage race but not of the level of the Tour of Turkey."
He showed up at the start of stage 2 with lots of bandages. "But I'm ok, don't worry," said the friendly Turkish rider who only returned two weeks ago to the Torku Sekerspor Continental team he rode for when he stupefied the world of cycling. "I didn't want to go back to Torku," Sayar explained. "I joined a Chinese team [Jilun Shakeland] in October last year but I never got to race with them. After the TUR, I may go to China if Torku has no race program. I think it's better that Torku focuses on developing young Turkish riders now, but I just want to race."
For the first time, Turkey's only continental team takes part in their national Tour with Turkish riders only, including up and coming Ahmet Örken who made the final cut of 15 breakaway riders on stage 2 in Cappadocia. They've used the experience of Ukrainians Yuriy Metlushenko and Sergey Gretchin for a few years.
Poland's Tomasz Marczynski now with Lotto-Soudal and Belgium's Kevin Seeldrayers were Torku's foreign recruits last year as well as French coach Lionel Marie who is now a directeur sportif at IAM Cycling. Under his advice, the team had adhered to the MPCC (Movement for a credible cycling) after subscribing to the biological passport, which is not compulsory for continental squads.
"I myself joined the ADAMS system one month before my penalty ended in July last year," Sayar said. "I'm available for any test and I've been tested a few times. Everything is ok now. For one year after I got banned, I haven't touched my bike but since then, I've trained as if I was going to race the following weekend. At the same time, I've run the Tulumba shop we have in Konya."
Tulumba is a popular Turkish dessert and Konya is the home of the Torku team. For the first time in the modern history of the Presidential Tour of Turkey – a pro race since 2008 – a stage finish is scheduled in Konya on day 3. "It's a flat finale for the sprinters," Sayar warned his fans so they won't expect to see him coming home as a winner.