Petacchi takes the queen stage, Huzarski moves into the lead

Unexpectedly, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) won the hardest stage of the 47th Presidential Tour of Turkey after losing three bunch sprint finishes to riders of a lesser fame than his. In a front group of only 32 cyclists, the winner of last year’s points’ classification of the Tour de France outsprinted Polish rider Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) who moved into the lead with an advantage of three seconds over Wesley Sulzberger (FDJ).

The stage started on a high rhythm with a first acceleration by Canadian champion Will Routley of Spidertech. What was considered the queen stage kept being highly competitive all the way, as the peloton split into four pieces even before the category 1 climb located after 36 kilometres of racing, where Juan Villegas (Colombia ès Pasion) passed in first position.

At half way, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Andrey Zeits (Astana) went away from the first main group formed of no less than sixty riders after the initial hard battle. At km 115, they were rejoined by Cameron Wurf (Liquigas-Cannondale), Tom Peterson (Garmin-Cervélo), Alexandre Dyachenko (Astana), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), Francis Mourey (FDJ) and Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1).

For a while, they maintained an advantage of two minutes over 40 riders while the main peloton was cruising half an hour behind. Fouchard was determined not to be caught by the chasers. The Frenchman insisted on his own with 30km to go. At the bottom of an extremely long downhill on the way to Denizli, Svein Tuft (Spidertech) came across to the Cofidis rider. Fouchard rode agressively at the front until 800 metres to go but the FDJ team put an end to his ambition as they were in a perfection position for taking Sulzberger into the overall lead after the retirement of race leader Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF).

Anthony Roux (FDJ) accelerated strongly at the end but the uphill sprint to the world heritage site of Pamukkale looked to turn into the advantage of Huzarski whose initial intention was to lead out his team-mate Jesus Del Nero. But the final jump of on-form Petacchi gave the veteran of Lampre-ISD the stage win he was looking for in Turkey. Having received a penalty of one minute because of irregular behaviour in the sprint of stage 1, the Italian isn’t the race leader. Runner up Huzarski is the one who will wear the turquoise jersey during stage 5 from Denizli to Fethiye. It’ll be the longest stage of the week with 218.6 kilometres.

Quotes from the top three riders

Alessandro Petacchi (stage winner, Lampre-ISD): "This was a hard stage because of the long climb at the beginning where a big selection was made. I still don’t know how, but I’ve managed to stay in the first group. Actually I know the amount of work I’ve done before the Tour of Turkey. I’ve trained a lot on the Etna volcano with Michele Scarponi for the Giro d’Italia. I’ve climbed the Etna six times in eleven days and that was only to go back to the hotel, we’ve done many other climbs as well. I’ve become leaner. I’ve improved my climbing for sure but I’m probably less explosive in the sprints. I’ve also made two mistakes in the bunch sprint finishes at the beginning of the Tour of Turkey. [Valentin] Iglinskiy did a great sprint on stage 2 but I opened it fifty metres too early. Had I waited a bit more, I would have won that stage but if I had to chose my wins, I’d prefer to win today anyway because this was a really hard stage. Considering my characteristics as a rider, it means that I’m in good shape before the Giro. Sometimes I can go well in the climbs. Today I felt very good despite the rain and the energy I spent on the road. The last kilometre favoured me because it was uphill, so it was an advantage for someone in good shape. I followed the moves of the riders from FDJ who did a perfect job in the finale. I entered in action with 300 metres to go and I passed the last rider [Bartosz Huzarski] in extremis. I give a big thank you to my team. Only two of my team-mates [Aitor Perez Arrieta and Denys Kostyuk] were with me in the front group. At some stage, I told them to stop pacing behind the breakaway riders. But they didn’t listen to me and they continued chasing, so they’ve done a great job."

Bartosz Huzarski (2nd and new race leader, NetApp): "It’s a big surprise to become the leader of this race! In the last kilometre, I was trying to help my friend Jesus Del Nero. With 600 metres to go, he was on my wheel, looking really fast and really strong, but when I turned back with 300 metres to go, there was a hole, so I just tried to sprint as fast as I could. It was a very hard day. It’s no shame to be passed at the end by Alessandro Petacchi who has so many sprints in his career before but I’ve been close to winning. I’m not sure about the coming stages now. I’m not so strong... But I have a strong team. There are hard stages to come and there might be some rain again. I’m an unexpected leader, that’s for sure!"

Alexander Efimkin (3rd, Team Type 1): "I’m happy with my result. To finish third of such a hard stage is good but it didn’t go as planned. I wanted to make the break. I almost did it but my team-mate [Rubens Bertogliati] was up there, so I’ve stayed in the wheels. I’ve lost any hope on GC in yesterday’s stage but it doesn’t matter too much. Today I got confirmation that I’m on the right track for the coming races: Tour of California, Tour de Suisse..."

Stage Summary

Istanbul – Istanbul
24 April 2011, 114.1 km

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