Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) will go head-to-head next week at the 2018 Tour of Turkey, with the six-stage race boasting an improved line-up of nine WorldTour teams.
The Tour of Turkey was introduced to the WorldTour calendar last year, moving from its usual April slot to October. However, with new WorldTour events voluntary, only four WorldTour teams turned up, some citing the political instability in the country.
Though those initial WorldTour reforms stated that new events that failed to attract 10 top-tier teams for two successive editions would be dropped from the WorldTour, the Tour of Turkey will continue at its current level in 2019, though back in its April slot.
This year the nine WorldTour teams are Astana, Bahrain-Merida, BMC Racing, Bora-Hansgrohe, Katusha-Alpecin, Quick-Step Floors, Team Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates.
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) are set to face off repeatedly in a race where four or five of the stages look likely to end in bunch finishes. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) is another big name confirmed on the start list, while Edward Theuns (Sunweb) and Simone Consonni (UAE) should also be in the hunt for stage wins, and Quick-Step possess a Plan-B in fellow Colombian sprinting talent Alvaro Hodeg.
Bennett was the dominant rider in last year's race, winning four stages. He returns this year against tougher opposition but with bolstered confidence after winning three stages at the Giro d'Italia in May.
"The Giro was something I was really proud of and I was happy with that part of the season. The middle part of the season is something which I would have liked more form but all in all I can't complain," Bennett said.
"I've spent so many years trying to get a Grand Tour win, and all of a sudden I got three so I have to be happy with that. But as a sprinter you like to get a lot of wins and, even though I have made big strides this year, I know I have to get the consistency with it and continue what I have been doing."
Bennett explained that last year's experience will stand him in good stead, but in Gaviria - a double stage winner at this year's Tour de France - he faces one of the world's best sprinters and a Quick-Step lead-out train that will dwarf his support network at Bora.
"I'll go in and I'll know the finishes and know what it takes to get the job done, but again with different competitors it's a different race, so it will be hard to tell," Bennett said. "Quick-Step as a team are so strong and finely tuned and coming in to a sprint stage they know how to get everything right and repeat it every time, so it's really impressive.
"I think it's easier to be more consistent when you have a regular lead-out train, but my team has changed a lot over the years and I haven't managed to find that consistency, and now I don't really have that train but if I can have one guy who's there every race to put me in position for the lead-out, to have the consistency would be nice and always helps."