Tour of Turkey: Natnael Berhane climbs into the race lead on Göğübeli queen stage
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tour of Turkey: Natnael Berhane climbs into the race lead on Göğübeli queen stage

by Ben Atkins at 9:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Presidential Tour of Turkey
Eritrean sprints away from a four man group to take the stage and turquoise jersey

natnael berhaneNatnael Berhane (Europcar) took a sensational first victory of 2013 in the third stage of the Presidential Tour of Turkey, between Antalya and the super-steep climb to the top of the Göğübeli Pass, above the town of Elmali. The Eritrean neo-pro was the best of a four man group that formed in the final uphill kilometres of the stage, managing to tear himself clear at the third time of asking, with just 200 metres to go.

Having freed himself of his three companions, the African champion sprinted up the steep straight to cross the 1850-metre-high finish line alone.

Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana) won the slow-motion sprint for second place, ahead of mountains jersey wearer Mustafa Sayar (Torku Seker Spor), six seconds behind Berhane, with the fourth member of the group, Maxime Mederel (Sojasun) crossing the line after 16 seconds.

“It’s huge!” exclaimed Berhane afterwards. “It was a hard stage. I didn’t expect to win for I didn’t really know what my capacities were in a climb such as this. It was a dream and that’s why I cried when I crossed the line. It was the best stage to win and I did it!

“We did some great teamwork with Björn Thurau in the break. Later the team helped me a lot in the climb until I caught the rider in front [Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - ed]. I gave everything to win in the last meters of the climb.”

The time gap, along with the time bonus on the line, saw Berhane move into the race leader’s turquoise jersey, taking it from the back of sprinter André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who had been left behind on the climb.

“To win race at such level was better than I could hope for in my first year as a pro” he said. “It’s my first participation in the Tour of Turkey. It’s great. Just before, I rode the Tour of Trentino in which we had mountain already. I came here hoping to finish in the top 5 but first is even better. Now we have a jersey to defend.”

The 153.5km stage featured a break from Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Séché), Jaroslav Marycz (CCC Polsat Polkowice), Björn Thurau (Europcar), Mauro Finetto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Sergiy Gretchyn (Torku Seker Spor), who escaped on the first big climb of the day. The six-man group was only able get a maximum of 4’45” clear of the peloton, before being steadily pulled back.

One by one the group’s numbers dropped on the approach to the final climb until only Thurau, Finetto and Gretchyn remained; successive accelerations from Thurau dropped Finetto and then Gretchyn, however, and saw the German go alone with ten kilometres to go.

The German son of the former World champion was only a few seconds clear by now though, and attack from Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) burst past him in the final seven kilometres. The Belgian managed to get away, but was in turn overtaken by compatriot Seeldraeyers and Berhane; those two were joined in the final two kilometres by Sayar, Mederel, Darwin Atapuma (Colombia) and Angelo Pagani (Bardiani-CSF)

The pace set by Sayar was too much for Bardiani and Atapuma, but the others managed to hold on to him on the super-steep gradient. The final kilometre saw attacks, first from Sayar, then three times from Berhane, with the third one - with 200 metres to go - finally seeing the Eritrean break free to take victory.

Six riders go but they don’t get far as the climbers gear up for the final climb

The stage began without Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos (both Blanco), and Jonas Van Genechten (Lotto-Belisol), who had been the worst injured in the massive final kilometre pile up the previous day.

The peloton was all together as it passed over the top of the 2nd category climb after just 9.3km, with numerous attacks failing to stick in the opening half hour of the stage. Finally, however, following the Turkish Beaty sprint at 22.5km Koretzky, Marycz, Thurau, Finetto and Gretchyn escaped on the way to the 1st category Tahtalibeli climb. After a short, solo chase, Duggan brought the group’s number up to six and they began to move further clear of the peloton.

Thurau led the group over the summit after 35.5km and, at the 52km point on the plateau that followed, the gap to the peloton reached its maximum of 4’45”. This then began to fall steadily and, as Duggan led over the 1st category Saksaganlibeli at 76.5km - at just over halfway through the stage - it was down to 2’10”.

The pace in the lead group was proving too much for Duggan and Koretzky, who found themselves dropped and, as Thurau began to wind up the pace, Marycz too was left behind.

Team Colombia was controlling the chase, but as the final climb approached it was Orica-GreenEdge that took over the head of the peloton. With 30km to go the Australian team was 2’39” behind Thurau, Finetto and Gretchyn, but then Bretagne-Séché took over the pace and closed it down further.

With 22km to go the gap dropped below two minutes and, as the climb began with 14km to go Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Europcar and Bardiani-CSF began to compete for the lead. The three fugitives were just 22 seconds ahead by now and, as Lotto-Belisol also joined the chase, this was surely only going to last for a few more moments.

With 11km to go, the gap was just 14 seconds and Thurau accelerated, which saw Finetto dropped, then the German jumped again and set off alone. Behind him the Sojasun team had put its entire team to work on the front of the peloton, and was beginning to string it out, but Thurau had increased his lead to 20 seconds.

Pauwels tries to take it early but can’t hold off the eventual winner

With eight kilometres to go Thurau was still ten seconds ahead, but a kilometre later Serge Pauwels attacked from the peloton and passed the German rider to take the lead himself.

Turquoise jersey Greipel was still in the peloton until this point, having been working for his teammates, but this was the point that saw the big sprinter dropped.

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) accelerated fiercely on the front of the remains of the peloton, but with six kilometres to go Pauwels was 17 seconds ahead. Torku Seker Spor then took over the chase, but with five kilometres left Seeldraeyers attacked, and was quickly joined by Berhane.

The two riders caught Pauwels just as the climb steepened with three kilometres to go, and the Belgian was soon dropped by their pace. Attacks from the peloton saw several riders trying to break clear, until finally Sayar, Mederel, Atapuma and Pagani managed to bridge to the leaders.

Having joined the leaders, however, Pagani was quickly dropped, with Atapuma soon following him out of the back of the group.

Into the final kilometre Berhane tried to attack, which was followed by a move from Sayar, but all four were sticking together. Behind them Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked from the chasing group, and the Australian was gaining, but seemed to have left his move just a little too late.

Berhane attacked again, but once again was pulled back; with 200 metres to go the Eritrean went again though, and this time he managed to get away. Once he had torn himself clear, the Europcar rider sprinted up the steep finishing straight, and raised one triumphant hand as he crossed the line.

Seeldraeyers just managed to outsprint Sayer six seconds later, with Mederel holding the chasing pack off to take fourth.

Result stage 3
1. Natnael Berhane (Eri) Team Europcar
2. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Team Astana @ 6s
3. Mustafa Sayar (Tur) Torku Seker Spor
4. Maxime Mederel (Fra) Sojasun @ 16s
5. Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis @ 24s
6. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
7. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Florian Guillou (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environment @ 28s
9. John Darwin Atapuma (Col) Colombia @ 30s
10. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis @ 33s

Standings after stage 3
1. Natnael Berhane (Eri) Team Europcar
2. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Team Astana @ 10s
3. Mustafa Sayar (Tur) Torku Seker Spor @ 12s
4. Maxime Mederel (Fra) Sojasun @ 26s
5. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 34s
6. Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis
7. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Florian Guillou (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environment @ 38s
9. John Darwin Atapuma (Col) Colombia @ 40s
10. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis @ 43s


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