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Viviani makes a fantastic comeback to close two big gaps in the hectic bunch sprint at the end of the penultimate stage of the Tour of Turkey and catches Cavendish just before the line to take his second victory

Photo: Tour of Turkey/Mario Stiehl

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ELIA VIVIANI

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MARK CAVENDISH

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ORICA-SCOTT

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TOUR OF TURKEY

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03.05.2014 @ 13:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Elia Viviani (Cannondale) made no one question who is the fastest rider in this year's Tour of Turkey when he produced the sprint of his life to win today's penultimate stage of the race. Despite being far back the impressive Omega Pharma-Quick Step train that gapped the peloton in the finale, he did an amazingly long sprint to close two big gaps and pass Mark Cavendish just before the line. Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) defended his lead ahead of the final stage.

 

Two days ago Elia Viviani had given indications that he is currently faster than Mark Cavendish but the Italian was still looking for confirmation that he has indeed closed the gap to the fast Manxman. Today he proved to the entire world that there is no reason to question the sprint hierarchy in the Tour of Turkey.

 

All was going to plan for the excellent Omega Pharma-Quick Step team when Gert Steegmans, Alessandro Petacchi and Cavendish hit the front and things only got better when the Belkin rider on Cavendish's wheel failed to keep up with OPQS trio, allowing them to get a rather big gap to the rest of the peloton. At this point, Viviani was - as it is often the case - positioned far back in the group and seemed to be out of the running for the win.

 

While Petacchi took over from Steegmans, Viviani knew that he had to do a very long sprint to get back in contention and so he launched his effort from afar. He first closed a gap to a group that included Andrea Guardini (Astana) and continued straight past that group to bridge the gap to the OPQS duo.

 

When he reached them, Cavendish had already launched his sprint from the perfect position and with such a splendid lead-out and Viviani expected to fade, all odds were on Cavendish to take the win. However, Viviani continued straight past the Manxman to take his second victory of this year's Tour of Turkey.

 

In the end, the win almost slipped away though as Guardini had latched onto his wheel in the sprint and the Astana sprinter is known for his exceptional speed when he manages to get into the right position. He put those sprinting skills on show when he finished far faster than Viviani and almost passed his compatriot on the line. However, he ran out of metres and had to settle for second while a visibly disappointed Cavendish could only manage 3rd.

 

The bunch sprint came at the end of a rather calm day in the saddle where a three-rider breakaway was kept firmly under control by OPQS, Cannondale and Orica-GreenEDGE. The scenario was perfect for race leader Adam Yates who got an easy ride to Izmir and defended his 1-second lead over Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).

 

Unless something really unexpected happens, Yates will be crowned overall winner when the race comes to an end tomorrow. The final stage is a short, completely flat ride from the European to the Asian part of Istanbul and ends with 8 laps of a flat 12.2km finishing circuit that is perfect for another battle between the sprinters.

 

One for the sprinters

After yesterday's big mountain stage, it was back into much flatter terrain for the first of two weekend stages that are expected to suit the sprinters. The first took the riders over just 132km from Kusadasi to Izmir and was almost completely flat, with only a single category 3 climb coming at the midpoint of the race. With very few challenges along the way, all the sprinters had made this and tomorrow's stage to Istanbul a big target and so a big bunch sprint was expected.

 

After he first few wet days in the race, the usual, sunny weather has finally returned to Turkey and the 140 remaining riders in the race took off under beautiful weather conditions. Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) made a surprise two years ago when he won this stage from a breakaway but with several teams keen on a bunch sprint finish, everybody expected the sprinters to control affairs. Hence, it was no surprise to see a three-rider breakaway slip clear almost from the gun.

 

The break takes off

Wesley Sulzberger (Drapac), Wesley Kreder (Wanty) who was already in the break yesterday, and Piotr Gawronski (CCC) took off in the opening kilometres and the peloton were content to let them go. When Sulzberger beat Gawronski and Kreder in the first intermediate sprint, they were already 2 minutes ahead but the peloton had already set into motion and 5km further up the road, they had only added 30 seconds to their lead.

 

In such a short stage, the sprint teams were unwilling to give the breakaway too much leeway and they stabilized the situation. At the 26km mark, the gap was still 2.30 and even though they allowed it to reach 2.50 10km later, they never allowed them to get more than that.

 

Three teams lead the chase

The workload was being shared by Cannondale, OPQS and Orica-GreenEDGE as Cameron Wurf, Kevin De Weert, Damien Howson and Jens Mouris swapped turns on the front and they easily brought it down to 2.20 with 85km to go. That was too early, however, and the advantage went back up to 2.50.

 

Sulzberger led the break all the way up the day's only climb to cross the line ahead of Gawronski and Kreder while the three teams kept the gap stable between the 2- and 3-minute marks for most of the day. Cannondale made a small change on the front as they allowed Wurf to get a small breather while Juraj Sagan took over the pace-setting.

 

MTN sprinters hit the deck

With 55km to go, Orica-GreenEDGE decided to give Mouris a rest and instead Aidis Kruopis joined the workers on the front while Wurf again replaced Sagan 10km further up the road. The gap had now started to come down and with 51km to go, it dropped below the 2-minute mark.

 

With 30km to go, a big crash brought down several riders, including the MTN sprinters Youcef Reguigui and Kristian Sbaragli but no one was badly hurt. However, the peloton had now clearly upped the pace and so didn't wait for the fallen riders who had to work hard to rejoined the peloton.

 

The break is caught

With 28km to go, the gap dropped below the one-minute mark but the escapees had no intention of giving up. The peloton had a hard time reducing the gap further but as the battle for position started to ramp up, the pace did the same.

 

15km from the line, Sulzberger led Kreder and Gawronski across the line in the final intermediate sprint but at that point the gap was down to 30 seconds. 9km from the finish, it was over for the escapees that were swept up by the peloton led by De Weert and Wurf.

 

Astana set the pace

Wurf ended his day and left it to De Weert to continue the pace-setting but the battle between the sprint trains had now started. Belkin and OPQS made a drag race, with Rick Flens and Petr Vakoc leading the lines, but it was the Astana riders Dmitriy Gruzdev, Alexandr Dyachenko and Valentin Iglinskiy who did the work on the front.

 

With 4km to go, Lotto Belisol hit the front with Vegard Breen but they were quickly passed when OPQS launched their train. Iljo Keisse hit the front but realized that it was too early, leaving the front positions to UnitedHealthCare.

 

A Topsport rider makes a late attack

In a U-turn 2km from the line, Keisse hit the front again but OPQS again lost control when Caja Rural took over. Under flamme rouge, a Topsport rider attacked but Steegmans was quick to react and shot it down as he strung out the peloton.

 

The pace was too much for a Belkin rider who lost Cavendish's wheel and when Steegmans, Petacchi and Cavendish got a gap, it seemed to be over for their rivals. While Danilo Napolitano (Wanty) hit the deck, however, Viviani launched a long sprint that ended up giving him a very impressive second victory in the race.

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