It may have taken him five stage placings to reach the top spot but Aidis Kruopis is finally off the mark in 2013 after crossing the line in first place on Stage 2 at the Presidential Tour of Turkey. There was a sense of relief from Kruopis at the end of the day after he not only cleverly avoided the crash that occurred inside the final kilometre but also put five third-placings behind him to begin his victory tally for season.
The entire Orica GreenEdge squad was lucky enough to miss the carnage that occurred when Mark Renshaw touched wheels while sitting in second position heading into the final sprint. Renshaw, piloting Theo Bos, went down hard with a ricochet effect ripping through the peloton. Kruopis was one of a handful of riders to avoid the fall that sprawled across the road and waited patientently on the wheel of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) before opening up his sprint with 200m remaining.
"I feel very good to have won today," said Kruopis on his team site. "I had a bit of bad luck with Qatar and Langkawi. I was looking for a victory at both of those races and came up empty. It was especially nice to take the victory today after that.
Kruopis enjoyed a couple of third-place finishes at his opening race of the year at Tour of Qatar, on Stage 3 and 5 but was unable to match the speed of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) who won four stages. The Lithuanian sprinter then arrived at Le Tour de Langkawi with good form and a team capable of launching him into a winning position and prior to crashing-out of the race, the likes of Theo Bos (Blanco), Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini - Selle Italia) had proved too good. His win in Turkey however, is a testament to his consistency and is especially pertinent given his desire for a start at the Vuelta a España this year.
Yesterday's sprint was dedicated to Leigh Howard but Stage 2 was all for Kruopis. Howard delivered his man to the front just at the right time before leaving Kruopis to finish it off - albeit in difficult and unusual circumstances.
"I saw the last two kilometres on the television," said sports director Laurenzo Lapage. "Leigh did a perfect job for Aidis. We had talked about the left-hand corner at 1.2 kilometres. They knew they needed to be in the top ten riders at this point, and they were there."
"Today’s result was somewhat lucky," admitted Lapage. "It was also about the plan, and our plan for the sprint had everything to do with that last corner. Before the crash, the boys were in good position. They did what we asked of them. I’m happy for them to take the win."
The second day at Turkey was once again a nervous and chaotic affair with no single team unable to control the frantic peloton. Stage 2's crash surprisingly came from the head of the bunch with Renshaw, one of the most experienced lead-out men in the business, the first to hit the pavement along the streets of Antalya.
"The sprint was very dangerous," said Kruopis. "Leigh helped me a lot. There was a big crash, and after the big crash, I managed to come through with five guys ahead of me. I basically started right after the crash happened, and I passed all the guys before me to take the win."