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After THEY had split the peloton to pieces in the crosswinds, Lotto Soudal had six riders in the 8-rider group that sprinted for the win in stage 4 of the Tour of Turkey; Greipel easily beat Cecchin and Boeckmans while Bilbao took the overa...

Photo: Sirotti












26.04.2016 @ 18:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lotto Soudal made up for yesterday’s huge disappointment by delivering a real masterpiece in a very windy third stage of the Tour of Turkey. Having split the peloton to pieces, they had six riders in the 8-rider group that sprinted for the win and it was an easy task for André Greipel to beat Alberto Cecchin (Roth) and his teammate Kris Boeckmans in the final dash to the line. Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) finished in the second group but as Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) lost more than 20 minutes, he moved into the leader’s jersey.


Yesterday Lotto Soudal had an embarrassing day as the big WorldTour team failed to place a single rider in the 15-rider group that decided the exciting first mountain stage at the Tour of Turkey. GC rider Adam Hansen was dropped in the crosswinds and so the Belgian team was taken out of GC contention.


Apparently, they were eager for revenge and when the race hit terrain that was much more suited to the strong classics roster, they stroke back with a real masterpiece. As strong crosswinds hit the peloton on the third stage where they traveled along a flat plateau, they ripped everything to pieces before delivering André Greipel to his first win since January.


Greipel showed little signs of weakness despite the injuries he sustained in a crash on stage 1 and he was there when his team created 24-rider front group in a brutally fast first hour of the race. The team had all their 8 riders in the group and gradually they won the battle between the three groups that had been formed, with race leader Przemyslaw Niemiec quickly dropping out of contention as he found himself in the last group.


It soon became apparent that it would be up to Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Jelle Wallays, Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), Pello Bilbao, Jose Goncalves, David Arroyo, Lluis Mas (Caja Rural), Mikel Aristi (Delko), Riccardo Stacchiotti (Nippo), Enrique Sanz (South East), Alberto Cecchin, Nicola Toffali (Roth), Alan Banaszek (Verva), Anton Kuzmin, Nikita Stalnov, Maxim Satlikov (Astana City) , Massimo Graziato (Parkhotel) and Davide Malucelli (Uniero) to decide the race and they worked well together to distance their two chase groups significantly before Lotto Soudal made their next move. With 28km to go the team again split the field. Arroyo was the first to get distanced as he had just dropped back to the team car but very soon the group exploded to pieces. Six Lotto Soudal riders made the selection as they only lost Hansen and Wallays and it was only Toffali, Cecchin and Sanz that managed to hang onto the Belgian train.


Sanz had bad luck to crash out of the lead group, leaving just six riders in the front, six from Lotto Soudal and two from Roth. Further back, an 11-rider group slowly gathered but  Mas, Bilbao, Arroyo, Goncalves, Ferrari, Graziato, Hansen, Banaszek, Stacchiotti, Stalnov and Satlikov found themselves 25 seconds behind as they entered the final 20km.

Boeckmans was allowed to follow wheels in the front group where the two Roth riders worked well with the Lotto Soudal train to slowly increase the advantage over the 11 chaser. With 15km to go, it was 45 seconds and when Stalnov fell off the second group two kilometres later, it was almost a minute.


The gap continued to grow and had reached 1.25 as the front group entered the final 6km. Entering the final 4km, Cecchin started to skip turns and Henderson and Greipel went back to talk to Boeckmans, preparing themselves for the sprint.


The Lotto train lined out with Frison, Dockx, Broeckx, Henderon and Greipel while Cecchin latched onto the German’s wheel. Boeckmans stayed in seventh while Toffali was at the back of the group as they passed the flamme rouge.


Frison emptied himself and then left it to Dockx and Broeckx to set the pace before Hendersson did the lead-out. Greipel barely had to sprint when he launched his effort and Cecchin could do nothing more than hanging onto the German while Boeckmans crossed the line in third.


Ferrari beat Stacchiotti in the sprint for 9th 2.13 later and as none of the riders in the first group were a GC threat, Pello Bilbao took the lead with a five-second over Goncalves. In fact, it is now a 1-2-3 for Caja Rural as Arroyo is 13 seconds behind in third while Mas is fifth at 1.14. Their biggest rival is Stalnov who is fourth at 22 seconds.


He probably hopes for a less stressful stage tomorrow when the riders will travel to the traditional finish in the coastal city of Alanya. There are early category 2 and category 1 climbs but the final 150km consist of a long descent and a flat run along the coast to the tourist destination where the sprinters have traditionally had their say.


A flat stage

After yesterday’s dramatic day in the mountains, the sprinters hoped to have their say in stage 3 which brought the riders over 158.9km from Aksaray to Konya. The riders spent the entire stage on a flat plateau at 1000m of altitude and travelled on a long, straight road in a southwesterly direction. There was a small climb to the Turkish Beauty Sprint at the 96.5km mark but apart from that, the terrain was flat but the wind was expected to be a dangerous factor.


All riders who reached the finish yesterday were present when the peloton started their journey in windy conditions, and to make matters worse, it even rained briefly at the beginning of the stage. However, there was not much drama as Kazushige Kuboki (Nippo) and Feritcan Samli (Torku) were allowed to escape from the very start, and it looked like the break had been established. However, the peloton quickly got very nervous, and so the group was soon brought back.


Lotto Soudal split the peloton

Lotto Soudal took the initiative as they hit a crosswind section and immediately split the group into three. 38 riders quickly got a 20-second advantage over the second group, and after one rider had been dropped, the gap went out to 35 seconds while the third group was 10 seconds further adrift.


The wind created further separation, and suddenly just 24 riders had survived, sitting 40 and 55 seconds ahead of the next two groups respectively. All eight Lotto Soudal riders had made the selection. They slowly increased the advantage over the 32-rider second group to 1.03 at a time for the third group was 1.50 behind. Race leader Przemyslaw Niemiec and most of his Lampre-Merida teammates found themselves in the third group as did the likes of Remy Di Gregorio (Delko), Davide Rebellin and Sylwester Szmyd (CCC).


The chase group explodes

The riders reached the day's first sprint after 43.1 kilometres of racing  where Stalnov beat Henderson and Greipel, but there was no fight for the points as the group was busy increasing its lead. After a first hour with an average speed of 52km/h, that project worked well  as the third group was 2.25 behind while the 32 chasers were at 1.25. At the same time, Pawel Charucki (Verva) abandoned.


After 70km of racing, the gaps were 2.35 and 4.10 respectively, but now the second group started to approach. Mauro Finetto’s Uniero worked hard to reduce it to 1.45 before they exploded in their attempt. 65km from the finish, the gap had suddenly ballooned to 3.55 while the peloton had given up and was seven minutes.


Wallays goes down

Toffali and Wallays hit the deck in a small crash and while the latter was quickly back on the bike, the former had to work a bit harder to rejoin the group. Matteo Tedeschi (Southeast) had similar bad luck in the chase group but he also got back on his bike quickly.


With the riders tackling a cross-headwind, things calmed significantly down and for a long time, the front group worked well together to slowly increase their advantage. With 60km to go, they were already 4.45 ahead of the second group which lost time for the rest of the stage.


Mas wins the Turkish Beauty Sprint

With 55km to go, the riders reached the site of the Turkish Beauty Sprint where Mas held off Satlikov in a close battle to extend his overall lead in the special classification. Graziato crossed the line in third before the group again started to cooperate.


Entering the final 50km, the gaps were 6.00 and 13.30 respectively and the front group slowly extended their lead during the next 15km before they got to the final intermediate sprint. Here Goncalves was hoping to easily pick up maximum points but he had to make an effort to hold off Satlikov which clearly didn’t please the strong Portuguese. Stalnov crossed the line in third. The waiting game continued for a little longer until Lotto Soudal made their next move with 28km to go.



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