When Vitaliy Buts broke away in search of points for the King of the Mountains at the Tour of Turkey on Sunday, it looked like business as usual, but this time around, the Ukrainian pushed harder and was far more emotional because of the war in his country.
“I made the breakaway because it’s important for our team to appear on stage at prize giving ceremony,” said Buts after stage 1 of the Tour of Turkey. He is riding for Turkish continental squad Sakarya BB Pro Team.
“I had two chances for that: be first at the Treasures of Turkey Sprint or take the King of the Mountains lead. I almost did both so it’s a great day.
"Now I have the white jersey and I’m equal on points in the first place of the KOM. I knew today was important for the KOM because there were three categorized climbs whereas in the next few days there will be only one.”
Buts has got five points just like Nicolas Edet who crested the second category climb in first place. However, the Frenchman wasn’t chasing the jersey he won at the 2013 Vuelta a España.
“I was rather controlling the race to make sure that my leaders were in a good position before the downhill,” the Arkéa-Samsic veteran Edet told Cyclingnews.
“It was even more for Nacer [Bouhanni] than for Nairo [Quintana], but when I saw the line of the KOM just in front of me, I instinctively went for it because it wasn’t too demanding.”
Edet made it clear that he won’t defend the red jersey so Buts will be able to keep the momentum for his Sakarya team at the daily post-stages ceremonies.
“My form isn’t as good as last year because of the war in the Ukraine,” Buts explained.
“I went home after the Tour of Antalya [10-13 February] and I’ve been unable to train for three weeks as the war started. Fortunately I managed to escape two weeks ago with my wife and my two kids.
“We arrived in Turkey with literally nothing, I had left my bike, my cycling clothes and everything in the Ukraine. My team here was very supportive. They supplied me with what was needed to survive and train again with a new bike.”
35-year-old Buts is in his second year with Turkish continental squad Sakarya BB Pro Team. He rode in the WorldTour with Lampre for four seasons, from 2009 to 2012. He is also a two-time road race national champion, winning the title in 2014 and 2017.
“Let’s hope this war finishes soon,” he said.
“Luckily my parents live in a quiet place pretty far away from me but my city Mikolaiv is getting bombed. We’re very close to Odessa in Crimea.
“I watch the news many times a day and I’m very worried because I have two houses and many friends there. I won’t return until the war comes to an end. I’ll stay in Turkey or move my family to Italy. We want the world to be as peaceful as Turkey.
“All I can do now is to keep racing aggressively even though my shape isn’t ideal because I want my friends and family to have something to smile at when they watch me racing on TV.”
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