It was a terrific team performance that allowed Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung sprinter, Kristian Sbaragli to take 3rd place on the 7th Tour of Turkey stage. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quickstep) was first across the line with Andre Piechele (Bardiani) in 2nd.
An early break of three riders had no chance of surviving today when MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung took control of proceedings today. Jay Thomson once again ate away at the 7 minute lead the 3 riders had before Adrien Niyonshuti, Songezo Jim and Natnael Berhane came to the fore just before the final cat 1 climb that came with 28km to go.
In fact, even sprinter Theo Bos was driving the peloton into the foot of the final big climb. With the African fire power heading things up on the climb, the break were caught half way up the climb. Youcef Reguigui kept the pace high before a few attacks started closer to the summit. Serge Pauwels marked the moves and accelerated over the top to briefly form part of a 4 rider break.
A small chase group of around 30 riders containing Kristian and Youcef survived over the top of the climb with 20km to go. Mark Cavendish was in the next group on the road, 1 minute behind. With a number of teammates on hand, Cavendish was able to chase back to the lead group with 8km to go. It would come down to a group sprint but a tricky 180 degree turn at 1.5km to go made the run-in to the line very important.
Kristian had 4 of his teammates positioning him in the race to the turn around and then a big acceleration by Youcef made sure our Italian would take the turn in 5th wheel. It was then a drag race to the line with Cavendish being fastest. Kristian showed good speed to come around 2 riders before the line and secure our first podium finish in Turkey this year.
Kristian Sbaragli – Rider
I wanted the race to be really hard today and so we went with the whole team, full gas on the final climb. We managed to drop Cavendish on the climb but he was able to get back after the descent, in the final 10km. In the sprint I was feeling really good, I maybe lost a few meters in the final 250m which possibly cost me the victory. The team were really good once again today.
JP Heynderickx – Sport Director
We had a plan this morning and we followed the plan exactly in the stage. We started by being the first team to pull with Theo and Jay. Then on the climb we go with our other boys. They set a super hard tempo, we were a bit unlucky on the climb because there was a headwind. If there was no headwind then the time gaps over the top would have been much bigger. But, Cavendish was able to close the gap after he got a lot of help. In the sprint Kristian was just on the wrong wheel of Modolo. Modolo just stopped sprinting and left a gap but Kris could still finish on the podium. I am very happy and proud of the way the boys are racing. Everybody is always looking to our team each stage because we are the ones making the racing, and that really says something. So I am very happy with today.