Eduardo Sepulveda (Drone Hopper-Androni) moved into the overall lead at the Tour of Turkey after he won the stage 4 summit finish at Manisa.
The Argentinian had the noise to take advantage of a lull in the leading group to forge clear with 4.5km, and he then had the strength to fend off the chasers on the steepest section of the ascent.
Sepulveda was full value for his victory, coming home 15 seconds clear of Patrick Bevin (Israel Premier Tech), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Bevin performed the bulk of the chasing in the closing kilometres, and the New Zealander had been prominent earlier on the climb, too, coming to the front to impose a brisk tempo rather than endure to attacks and counter-attacks of the pure climbers.
Quintana launched a series of accelerations earlier on the climb, beginning with 8km to go, but he never managed to forge clear alone, with Vanhoucke and Vine always prominent in shutting him down.
Anders Johannsen (Uno-X) and Dawit Yemane (Bike Aid) were also to the fore on the hors categorie climb, but nobody was able to gain any purchase on an attack until Sepulveda accelerated with intent with 4.5km remaining.
Amid hesitation behind, Sepulveda quickly built a lead of 20 seconds, and he coolly defended that advantage as the road kicked up once again with 3km remaining. By the time he had negotiated the stiffest section of the climb, stage victory was already within reach, and he went on to ensure that he took hold of the overall lead too.
Bevin outsprinted Vanhoucked, Vine and Quintana for second place on the stage, and the New Zealander also occupies the same place on general classification, 14 seconds down on Sepulveda. Vine moves up to third overall, 25 seconds down.
“Since the beginning of the year, the team told me I would be coming here and I was looking for a good result on this stage,” said Sepulveda. “I won and I don’t believe it, but I’m very happy. I’ve put in a lot of years of work and it paid off.”
Sepulveda acknowledged that Quintana was the pre-race favourite, but he sensed an opportunity when he was among the ten or so riders to withstand the Colombian’s initial volley of attacks.
“I knew he was the strongest rider but sadly for him he crashed two days ago, and so today was a more open race,” Sepulveda said. “The attacks started before mine, and I was a little bit full gas. But when I saw the moment to attack, I went for it, and I kept a good speed to the finish.”
Sepulveda has twice finished on the podium of the Tour of Turkey, but now he is on the cusp of overall victory, even if he was circumspect about his chances.
“I don’t know, there are still four days to go,” he said. “There were also a lot of crashes yesterday, and I fell two times. I had a little pain, but I won today so I’m happy.”
The long and flat preamble to the final climb was animated by a move featuring Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa), Peio Goikoetxea (Euskadi-Euskaltel), Serghei Tvetcov (Wildlife Generation), Elchin Asadov (Sakarya BB), Feritcan Samli (Spor Toto), Oguzhan Tiryaki (Spor Toto), Jon Knolle (Saris Rouvy Sauerland Team) and Reinier Honig (China Glory), but the escapees were swept up as the road kicked up in the closing 13km.
Lotto Soudal were prominent on behalf of Vanhoucke, with Jasper De Buyst producing a fine stint of pace-making that whittled down the bunch, with race leader Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) among those dropped early on.
There were 30 or so riders in front by the time Quintana began his forcing with 8km to go, following work from teammate Nicolas Edet. Although Quintana’s probing moves reduced the leading group considerably, he was unable to force his way clear. Vine, Edet and Vanhoucke also attempted to break clear, but without success, while Bevin made a long, steady acceleration inside the final 5km.
Sepulveda, however, could sense an opportunity was about to take shape, and he acted decisively to put a down payment on final overall victory.
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