- Jean-François Quénet
Sprinters to jostle while Dyachenko defends his title
Alexandr Dyachenko will finally appear under the spotlight as the defending champion of the Presidential Tour of Turkey, a title he received after the disqualification of Bulgarian veteran Ivailo Gabrovski, who tested positive for EPO after the 2012 edition. Dyachenko, a versatile cyclist from Astana hasn't won a race since, but he showed his good form fighting in the mountains of the Giro del Trentino prior to embarking on his journey from Alanya to Istanbul on the banks of the Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and the Bosporus strait.
Following pretty much the same route as last year on roads that have been resurfaced purposely for the cycling event, the 49th edition is likely to be decided on stage 3 from Antalya to Elmali (literally the apple-city). The course includes three Category 1 climbs including the grueling uphill finish of Gögübeli. But it might be a different story than last year to control the race until the end, since an interesting novelty has been implemented. For the first time, a stage finish has been located at Selçuk, where the remnants of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus and an old house thought to have sheltered the Virgin Mary in the last days of her life can be found. The stage will feature a steep uphill finale, also rated as a Category 1 climb. Therefore, it'll give an opportunity for challengers to make up for the time lost.
Having won the KoM competition at the Circuit de la Sarthe on his return to Europe recently, Orica-GreenEdge's Cameron Meyer is expected to shine in Turkey, where Caja Rural's Danail Petrov hopes to repeat his final top-3 of last year. Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), Bruno Pires (Saxo-Tinkoff), Brice Feillu (Sojasun), Darwin Atapuma and Robinson Chapalud (Colombia) are also tipped for a high overall ranking.
However, most of the 25 teams (9 Pro Teams, 15 Pro Continental teams and one Turkish continental team Torku Seker Spor) have selected sprinters for the race known as the TUR with a beautiful turquoise leader's jersey. André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) holds the record of stage victories with seven in the modern history of the Turkish national tour since it became a 2.1 - and now 2.HC - event on the UCI calendar in 2008.
Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) will mark his comeback after the Flemish classics. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Milan-San Remo winners Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) will also begin a new chapter in their 2013 season.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Andrea Guardini (Astana), Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini), Bryan Coquard (Europcar), Leigh Howard and Aidis Kruopis (Orica GreenEdge), Andrew Fenn (OPQS), Sacha Modolo (Bardiani-Valvole-CSF) and Francesco Lasca (Caja Rural) will challenge the Blanco team that has all their sprinters in Turkey: Jetse Bol, Graeme Brown, Mark Renshaw who won in a nail-biting finale against his compatriot Matt Goss on ANZAC Day (April 25) last year in Marmaris.
Théo Bos's history as a road pro has strong links with this race. The former track star created a spectacular crash that took eventual overall winner Daryl Impey to the ground on the last day in 2009. Back to the same finishing line but unaware of the coincidence, the Dutchman won stage 1 in Alanya last year and repeated his success with the precious help of Renshaw on the last day in Istanbul.
Once again, it'll be the race of two continents with the last stage bridging Europe and Asia in a great symbol of the globalization of cycling.