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After his Caja Rural team had split the peloton and put six riders into a 15-rider lead group, Bilbao surged clear to win the mountainous stage 2 of the Tour of Turkey; Goncalves made it a 1-2 for Caja Rural but Niemiec retained the lead

Photo: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez














25.04.2016 @ 14:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pello Bilbao confirmed the excellent form he showed at the recent Vuelta a Castilla y Leon by completed a marvelous Caja Rural showing by winning the mountainous second stage of the Tour of Turkey. After his team had split the field to pieces and placed six of their seven riders in the 15-rider lead group, the Spaniard soloed clear to take the victory before his teammate Jose Goncalves sprinted to a 1-2 for the Spanish team by holding of Mauro Finetto (Uniero). Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) did well to take fourth and retain the overall lead.


One year ago Pello Bilbao rode to a fantastic solo win in the uphill finish in Selcuk at the Tour of Turkey but the Spaniard was still frustrated when he returned to Spain as a puncture in the queen stage had taken him out of GC contention. After a recent second place at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon where he was only beaten by the superior Alejandro Valverde, he did nothing to hide that he was aiming for revenge in this year’s edition of the Turkish race.


Caja Rural clearly knew that they have a big chance to win the 2.HC race and so they gathered a very strong team around their leader, with climbers David Arroyo and Jaime Roson and strongmen Lluis Mas and Jose Goncalves expected to provide crucial support. It was always evident that they would be one of the powerhouses of the race but nonetheless few would have expected the dominance they showed in today’s first hilly stage of the race.


The stage was held on a difficult circuit that included a gradual 8km climb to the finish that would be tackled a total of five times and very strong winds only made the stage even more difficult. This was the perfect scenario for Caja Rural to blow the race to pieces and that’s what they did at the penultimate passage of the climb.


First they whittled the peloton down to less than 30 riders and when they dropped the hammer in the crosswinds on the top, only 15 riders were left. The Spanish team had no less than six of their seven riders in the group and they completed it all in the perfect way as Bilbao surged clear in the finale to take a solo win before Goncalves made it a 1-2 for the team by winning the uphill sprint for second.


The action started on the climb with 40km to go when the nervous peloton had already brought back the early break and was being led by the Astana City team.Ricardo Vilela launched the first attack for the Spanish team and as the peloton didn’t react he got an immediate advantage. Maxim Salitkov (Astana City) kept riding on the front but it was all just the first part of a big plan for Caja Rural.


The team really kicked into action one kilometre later when Lluis Mas accelerated and this time Astana City responded attentively. They sprinted past Vilela and the surge made the peloton explode to pieces.


Mas kept riding on the front and suddenly there were less than 30 survivors in the group. Impressively, the entire 7-rider Caja Rural team were there and they kept riding on the front, with Mas doing most of the work. Further back, defending champion Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) found himself in a second group from which climber Jan Hirt (CCC) tried to bridge across to the leaders. Apart from that, all the pre-race favourites had made the selection.


Caja Rural kept riding on the front and increased the gap all the way to the top where Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) surged ahead to take maximum KOM points, leading Vilela, Bilbao and Goncalves across the line. Hirt had almost made contact but his effort would all be in vain as Caja Rural had big plans.


Domingos Goncalves swung off before his six teammates split the group to pieces in the crosswind. Suddenly, it been reduced to just 15 riders as Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Davide Rebellin (CCC) and Simone Petilli (Lampre-Merida) were among the final riders to get distanced in the difficult conditions.


The group contained no less than 6 Caja Rural riders, Lluis Mas, Jaime Roson, David Arroyo, Davide Vilela, Jose Goncalves and Pello Bilbao, and they were joined by Przemyslaw Niemiec, Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Sylwester Szmyd (Lampre-Merida), Quentin Pacher, Remy Di Gregorio (Delko), Nikita Stalnov (Astana City), Ahmet Örken (Torku), Mauro Finetto and Giovanni Carboni (Uniero). Further back a chase quintet with Hansen, Rebellin, Petilli, Jochem Hoekstra (Parkhotel) and Karel Hnik (Verva) gathered but they were quickly 40 seconds behind. Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) and Jasper Ockeloen (Parkhotel) joined tem but they kept losing ground.


Caja Rural briefly got some assistance from Stalnov and Szmyd and nearly dropped Niemiec, Koshevoy and Di Gregorio. The trio made a big effort to get back before they turned into a headwind where all the work was left to Caja Rural.


As they entered the final 20km, the gap had gone out to a minute and it was clear that the chasers were not getting back. To make things even worse for them, most of the riders in the front group started to collaborate and so the gap continued to grow.


With 17km to go, disaster struck for Szmyd when one of the Uniero riders made a swerve. The Pole went down and as it took some time for him to get back on his bike, he was out of the caravan and faced a very difficult solo chase. Di Gregorio and Örken also lost contact but they managed to rejoin the group. With a bit of help from his team car, Szmyd also made it back with 14km to go.


There was great cohesion in the front group as only Örken refused to work. The group kept the gap at around 1.10 as they entered the final 10km. The pace clearly went down though as they started to prepare themselves for the finale.


Caja Rural played their first card with 6km to go when Vilela took off and as no one responded, he easily increased his advantage. No one committed themselves to the chase and so the Portugues slowly increased his gap.


Entering the final 5km, Koshevoy sacrificed himself for Niemiec and as he took a massive turn on the front, Örken lost contact. At the same time, Vilela started to lose ground.


Koshevoy did an excellent job and had almost caught Vilela when Di Gregorio made the next move. Arroyo and Bilbao responded attentively but the only effect of the attack was that Vilela was brought back. Instead, it worked as the perfect launch pad for Bilbao who made a big attack that only Niemiec, Goncalves and Arroyo could follow.


Arroyo made an immediate counterattack but Niemiec shut it down. However, it was evident that the Pole couldn’t control three Caja Rural riders and when Bilbao hit out again, he had to surrender. While Bilbao opened a gap, Carboni was chasing hard in the group behind before he swung and fell back, just like Szmyd and Mas who had also been dropped.


Niemiec refused to give up and seemed to be closing the gap. With 2.5km to go, he was just metres behind but suddenly he exploded completely. He desperately tried to get some assistance from Goncalves and Arroyo but they shook their head while their teammate opened a big gap.


Suddenly Stalnov came flying past the chasers who were caught by the chasers and Koshevoy went straight to the front to work for Niemiec. He did a marvelous job to bring Stalnov back and slowly reduce Bilbao’s advantage.


Bilbao was clearly suffering massively in the headwind but there was no way that he was going to be caught. He rode hard all the way to the line before he started his victory celebration and then hoped that he would gain enough time to take the lead.


Finetto launched a long sprint but was passed by Goncalves on who made it a 1-2 for Caja Rural. Niemiec hung on to take fourth and as he limited his loss to around 10 seconds, he retained the lead with a handful of seconds.


He should have a much easier day tomorrow when the riders will tackle the mostly flat third stage that only has a single category 3 climb. However, as they will stay on a plateau almost all day, the windy conditions could make it a much harder day than most expect.


A hilly circuit

After yesterday’s relatively flat stage, the riders headed into the mountains on stage 2 where they covered 154.1km around the city of Kapadokya. The stage was held on a 36.4km circuit that consisted of a 7.9km climb that averaged 3.7% and the subsequent descent. The riders did four full laps of the circuit before they climbed to the finish for the fifth and final time. The climb was not very steep but included a 7-8% section inside the final 2km, meaning that the stage was expected to create the first gaps between the favourites for the GC.


It was sunny and extremely windy when all the riders that finished yesterday, gathered for the start, but the tough conditions didn’t make them keen to ride aggressively from the start were not particularly keen from the start of the stage. In fact, the break was established almost immediately, when Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Nicolas Baldo (Roth) and Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) attacked, and they had already built a lead of 4.30 when Zhupa beat Baldo and Grosu in the intermediate sprint after 37km of racing. Unsurprisingly, it was Przmyslaw Niemiec’s Lampre-Merida teammates who gave chase and after 50km of racing, they had reduced the gap to 3.40.


Lampre-Merida take control

It was Gang Xu who set the early pace for the Italian team as the peloton battled against extremely strong wind and Baldo could barely stay on his bike as they sped down the descent for the second time. At the bottom, Grosu and Zhupa sprinted for the points in the Turkish Beauty sprint and it was the Romanian who crossed the line in first position.


Xu set the pace on the lower slopes of the climb until the Torku team came to the fore near the top where Zhupa and Baldo battled for the first KOM points. The latter launched a long sprint but the former could easily come around to take maximum points. Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) surged ahead from the peloton to pick up the final point before Torku led the peloton over the top.


Uniero hit the front

Kristijan Durasek took a few turns for Lampre-Merida near the top where the gap had dropped to 2.20 but as Roberto Ferrari took over on the descent, the escapees managed to increase their advantage by 20 seconds.


Torku again took over the pace-setting and as they battled the strong wind, they had reduced the gap to just 1.20 as they hit a very exposed and windy road. Here the peloton got very nervous and both Kris Boeckmans and Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal) took a few turns before Uniero took over.


The break is caught

With 50km to go, the gap had been reduced to 1.00 and there was lots of nervousness in the peloton. Uniero brought the gap down to just 45 seconds when Lotto Soudal moved to the front with Frederik Frison and André Greipel.


The break was in sight on the long, straight roads and with the nervousness, it made no sense to persist. The group decided to wait for the peloton and with 45km to go, it was an Uniero rider who brought it all back together.


As they started to climb for the penultimate climb, the small Astana City team took control. They set a fast pace which created the first selection, with Frederik Galta, Zhupa, Andreas Graf and Manabu Ishibashi being the first riders to lose contact. Moments later, Caja Rural played their first card and from there, they completely dominated the race.



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