Estonian champion Rein Taaramäe has taken the lead at the Presidential Tour of Turkey today by one second over stage 3 winner Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri). However, at the age of 23, the Cofidis rider already has eyes on a higher status ProTour races and the Tour de France. "Now that I have the lead, I'll try to keep it till the end of the week but I don't want to spend too much energy here," Taaramäe told Cyclingnews in Marmaris. "We have only six riders, it's not a lot to defend a jersey for five days. If I lose it, it's not a big deal."
Until he discovered how beautiful Turkey is, Taaramäe was aiming at a break rather than racing at this time of the year. "After the Tour of Catalunya, I had one week holiday in Estonia totally off with no sport. Last week I only rode three times for two hours. That's probably why I had some cramps with one kilometre to go today. Otherwise I could have done better than third. I was sprinting quite well at Paris-Nice and the Volta Catalunya.
"I'm very happy with my start this year," the Estonian continued. "To make the top 10 at Paris-Nice was all right but not extraordinary. The podium finish in Catalunya was a great achievement. I feel that I have improved a lot. I'm more explosive this year."
Taaramäe is set to make his Tour de France debut this year in the Estonian's third season as a professional. He turned pro at 20 following the 2007 season he did as an amateur in France with the club of RO St-Amand-Montrond. "Last year it would have been too early for me to ride the Tour," he said. "It would have been too stressful as well. I've heard it's really different from any other race. I'm happy that I chose to start with the Vuelta and to finish it. Now I'm ready for the Tour.
"At the stage races, I'm up for targeting GC but at the Tour, I don't know. We'll see where I stand after the first week. If I'm far down on GC, I'll try and go for a stage. I'm built for stage races, I know that by now. The longer and the harder they are, the better I feel."
The young man from Vändra should be the first Estonian to start the Tour de France since 2005 when Jaan Kirsipuu rode for the last time for Crédit Agricole and Janek Tombak for Cofidis. "I want to do it with the Estonian champion's jersey like Jaan did," Taaramäe said. "Since 2006, Jaan is my friend not only in cycling but in life in general. We speak about everything even when he's away racing in Asia.
"He always tries to win, wherever. His example is inspiring for me. I really want a nice win this year, whether it's at the Tour de France, the Dauphiné or the Vuelta. I won the Tour de l'Ain last year but I couldn't feel any emotion. I need a big win but I have time though. I'm still young in the job."
Taaramäe's hope for a big win may come to fruition this week at the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey.