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Taaramae puts illness behind him by taking a beautiful solo win in the Tour of Turkey queen stage after escaping with Adam Yates on the final Elmali climb and taking the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

REIN TAARAMAE

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ROMAIN HARDY

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TOUR OF TURKEY

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29.04.2014 @ 18:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) proved that he is back to his best after several years of illness when he won today's queen stage of the Tour of Turkey. On a steep section of the final climb near Elmali, he put in a strong attack that only Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) could match, and the Estonian dropped his young companion by putting in another fierce acceleration inside the final 500m to take both the stage win and the leader's jersey.

 

Several years ago Rein Taaramae marked himself out as a potential future grand tour winner but over the last few seasons he has disappeared from the scene. Instead of producing his usual top 10 results in WorldTour stage races, he was seen at the back of the peloton when the road pointed upwards.

 

This year Taaramae has finally found the reason for his struggles as he has been diagnosed with a health issue that could be solved by surgery. He went under the knife earlier this year and has since eased himself back into competition.

 

Today he proved that he may return to his best level when he won the queen stage of the Tour of Turkey in very impressive fashion. Clad in his Estonian champion's jersey, he put in a storming ride on the Elmali climb to take a solo win on the ascent known as the Turkish Alpe d'Huez.

 

Taaramae seemed to be at ease when the group of favourites was whittled down to just a dozen riders in the finale and he easily responded to the first few attacks that failed to split the peloton. On a steep section he launched his own move and unlike his rivals, he immediately got a big gap.

 

Adam Yates took off in pursuit and for a long time he dangled just a few metres behind the strong Estonian. However, he rode wisely to avoid getting into the red zone and the duo finally joined forces to try to put time into their rivals.

 

Behind them, a 12-rider group had formed but as they all looked at each other and kept making fruitless attacks, the front duo's advantage was constantly growing. Soon it was clear that none of the chasers was able to make a difference and that the winner would be one of the two leaders.

 

Inside the final 500m, Taaramae put in another strong acceleration and despite being immediately on the wheel, Yates couldn't keep up with him. In a brief moment, the Brit seemed to be getting back to his rival but as Taaramae kept the speed, he crossed the line for an emphatic solo win, 6 seconds ahead of his young rival.

 

Behind, the 12-rider group sprinted for 3rd, with Romain Hardy making it a fantastic day for Cofidis by finishing on the podium next to his teammate Taaramae. Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka) had to settle for fourth while Davide Rebellin (CCC) rounded out the top.

 

As expected, overall leader Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was far off the pace and so Taaramae took over the turquoise leader's jersey. As there are no bonus seconds in the race, he sits 6 seconds ahead of Yates while Hardy is third at 38 seconds.

 

Taaramae will try to defend his jersey in tomorrow's lumpy fourth stage that brings the riders over 124km from Fethiye to Marmaris. It is up and down most of the day and the riders will go up two climbs inside the final 20km. In the past, the stage has often ended in a sprint from a reduced group which is again the likely outcome but Taaramae can expect his rivals to try to test him in the finale.

 

The queen stage

For the third year in a row, the Tour of Turkey queen stage ended on the brutal climb near Elmali that is known as the Turkish Alpe d'Huez. The riders headed over 184.7km from Finike to Elmali and went up a big category 2 and category 1 climb in the first half before reaching a long flat plateau that led to the bottom of the very steep 12km climb to the finish.

 

After yesterday's unusually rainy start, the 152 riders took off under beautiful sunshine as they headed out on the queen stage of the 2014 edition of the race. There was one non-starter as Lampre-Merida sprinter Sacha Modolo is still suffering from bruised ribs following his crash at Paris-Roubaix and chose not to continue in the Turkish race.

 

An aggressive start

After an easy start to the first two stages of the race where the early break had gone clear very early in the race, today's opening phases was much more animated. Several riders fancied their chances in the hard terrain and so it took a long time for the break to be established.

 

At the Turkish Beauty Sprint after 27.5km of racing, things were still together and Mattia Pozzo (Neri Sottoli) exploited the situation to cross the line in first position for the second day in a row to take the lead in that special competition.

 

The peloton splinters

There were several attacks as the riders went up the first climb of the day and the aggression forced the pace to go up. Around 50 riders fell off the pace on the ascent, leaving just around 100 riders in the group by the time Valentin Iglinskiy (Astana) beat Mirac Kal (Torku Sekerspor), Dennis Van Niekerk (MTN-Qhubeka) and KOM leader Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare) in the sprint at the top.

 

The aggression continued and finally the elastic snapped when Ferekalsi Debesay (MTN-Qhubeka), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen), Nico Sijmens (Wanty), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthCare) and Javier Aramendia (Cara Rural) took off. They were joined by Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) to form a five-rider group that was 2 minutes ahead at the 75km mark.

 

Torku up the pace

The peloton took a breather than allowed the advantage to grow to a massive 6.50 while all the dropped riders rejoined the bunch. As soon as they hit the first big category 1 climb, however, Sergiy Grechyn (Torku Sekerspor) hit the front to set up his teammate Juan Jose Cobo for the overall win.

 

The peloton splintered to pieces and one of the first to fall off was Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) who was sitting in 2nd overall. A little later, Cavendish also fell off as a group formed around him that included several of his OPQS teammates.

 

Kudus shows his intentions

The pace in the breakaway was too much for Debesay who got dropped and a little later Aramendia also fell off the pace. At this point, Grechyn had brought the gap down to 5.40 but the advantage started to melt away when MTN-Qhubeka hit the front in the peloton.

 

Johann Van Zyl upped the pace significantly and spent a long time on the front while the peloton splintered behind him. The gap came down rapidly and was down to 3.50 with 83km to go.

 

Yates crashes out of the race

At this point it was reported that one of the favourites Simon Yates (Orica) had crashed out of the race with a suspected broken collarbone. That didn't stop MTN though as they now put Linus Gerdemann on the front and he gave the pace a further notch that saw several more group fall off the pace.

 

At the top of the climb, Frattini beat Le Mevel in the sprint for the points while Vanspeybrouck and Sijmens both lost contact in the sprint. The two duos remained separated for a little while until they finally rejoined each other.

 

Lotto Belisol join the chase

At the top the gap was down to 2.55 and Gerdemann just continued his hard riding on the front. However, a few riders managed to rejoin the peloton, one of them being André Greipel.

 

Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) showed his intentions when he asked teammate Greg Henderson to swap turns with Van Zyl on the front and the gap now dropped quickly. When it had reached 1.25, however, the pair stopped their work and the peloton took a short breather.

 

Astana take up the pace-setting

This allowed several riders to rejoin the bunch while the gap went back up to 2.50. With 51km to, the peloton went back to work when the Astana pair of Ruslan Tleubayev and Arman Kamyshev started to chase, working for 2012 champion Alexandr Dyachenko.

 

With 40km to go, Caja Rural showed the intentions of Luis Leon Sanchez when Aramendia and later Henier Parra joined forces with the Kazakh duo. That upped the pace quite a lot and with 29km to go, the gap was down to just 1.10.

 

A crash disrupts the chase

Shortly after Sijmens had led Frattini and Vanspeybrouck over the line at the intermediate sprint, a crash in the peloton brought down the likes of Rebellin, Parra and Simone Ponzi (Neri Sottoli). Luckily, all got back on their bikes and Kamyshev and Tleubayev slowed down to allow the riders to rejoin the group.

 

This allowed the gap to grow back up to 1.50 but with 20km to go, the battle for position started. Astana remained on the front, now with Dmitriy Gruzdev and with 16km to go, the advantage was down to just 30 seconds.

 

The break is caught

2km from the bottom of the final climb, the escapees were swept up as Lampre-Merida and Astana now did a drag race on the front. Jarl Salomein (Topsport) launched the first attack but he was quickly swept up as MTN-Qhubeka went back to work.

 

While the peloton splintered to pieces, Marco Canola (Bardiani) made the next attack but as Valentin Iglinkiy took over the pace-setting for Astana, he failed to get much of an advantage. Mathias Krizek took over for Cannondale and he brought the Italian back with 9km to go.

 

Gerdemann does some damage

With 8km to go, Kudus asked Gerdemann to up the pace and this had a massive impact on the size of the peloton. Soon it was down to just 20 riders and the pace just got even harder when Fabricio Ferrari took over for Caja Rural 6km from the line.

 

Gerdemann took one final turn before dropping off while Ferrari and Nicolas Edet worked for Caja Rual and Cofidis. When they had both swung off, however, it came to a standstill and this allowed Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) and Pello Bilbao (Caja Rrual) to attack.

 

Taaramae makes his move

Tomasz Marczynski (CCC) and Romain Hardy bridged the gap but it quickly came back together. Instead, Dyachenko was the first of the favourite to make a move but Kudus brought him back.

 

That's when Taaramae made his attack and he quickly got a big gap. Yates took off in pursuit and he dangled a few metres behind for a long time, before he finally bridged the gap to make it a front duo.

 

A disorganized chase

Marczynski and Hardy took off in pursuit and were joined by Kudus, Rebellin and Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida). More riders joined them and in the end a 12-rider chase group with Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Cobo, Rebellin, Durasek, Sanchez, Kudus, Kevin Seeldraeyers (Wanty), Marczynski, Hansen, Dyacenko, Hardy, and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani) had formed.

 

However, they were already 20 seconds behind the leading pair and they continued to attack each other. Barbin, Seeldraeyers, Marczynski and Durasek all attacked before Marczynski finally decided to sacrifice himself for teammate Rebellin.

 

More attacks

When the Pole swung off, however, it was back to attacking mode, with Seeldraeyes, Durasek and Kudus all trying to make moves. Barbin and Marczynski were briefly dropped but as it again slowed down, they rejoined the group.

 

Meanwhile, Taaramae and Yates were working perfectly together until Taaramae made his move inside the final 500m. Yates was straight on his wheel  but finally had to surrender, allowing the Estonian to open a 6-second gap on the line and take a very big solo win on the famous climb. Behind, the 12-rider group was left to sprint for third, with Rebellin doing a long sprint before being passed by Hardy just before the line.

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