Tour of Turkey: Berhane remains in race lead, but faces crucial jersey defence tomorrow
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tour of Turkey: Berhane remains in race lead, but faces crucial jersey defence tomorrow

by Shane Stokes at 1:02 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Presidential Tour of Turkey
 
“If I can keep team-mates with me on the last climb, I might keep the jersey”

Natnael BerhaneEuropcar rider Natnael Berhane surprised two days ago when he won the toughest stage of the Presidential Tour of Turkey and scooped the race lead, but he has resisted all attacks in the days since. While he’s been under pressure at times, he has finished alongside his general classification rivals and thus remains in both the turquoise jersey and the driving seat.

"It was a very hard stage,” he said after the podium ceremony. “At the beginning, many teams attacked for a breakaway. Bjorn (Thurau) worked for me all day and that’s how I kept the jersey.

“In the finale, several GC riders (Cameron Meyer, Kevin Seeldraeyers) attacked me but I was able to stay with them.”

Berhane’s jump into the limelight appears thoroughly deserved – stage three concluded, after all, atop a very difficult climb and he showed his strength there – but he doesn’t appear entirely comfortable with the attention he is getting.

In press conferences yesterday and today the Eritrean has been extremely quietly spoken, with his answers scarcely being audible. If he continues to ride well in the months ahead he’ll become accustomed to that situation, losing his obvious shyness, but for now he is adjusting to the role as race leader in a prestigious 2.HC event.

Tomorrow will be the biggest determinant as to whether or not he can win the race outright. The 182 kilometre stage from Bodrum to Selçuk concludes with a first category ascent to the finish, and will be the biggest opportunity out of the three remaining stages for Berhane’s rivals to strike. If he can resist, he will have a very strong chance of winning the race on Sunday.

He said that he is uncertain about what to expect. “I don't know what can happen tomorrow. Each day is different,” he explained. “In some stages we start with a climb, in others we finish with a climb. If I can keep team-mates with me to help me in the last climb, I might keep the jersey.”

Berhane’s closest rival is Astana’s Kevin Seeldraeyers and Mustafa Savar of the Torku Sekerspor lineup. They are ten and twelve seconds back respectively, while Maxime Mederel (Sojasun), Rory Sutherland (Team Saxo Tinkoff), Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) and Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge) are between 26 and 34 seconds behind.

The 22 year old has won stage races before, with the Tours of Eritrea and Algeria on his palmares, but if he can hold on at the top in the Presidential Tour of Turkey, it would be a massive success for both himself and his Europcar team.

It would also be historic for African cycling, which is showing promising signs through his riding plus the success of the growing MTN Qhubeka team.

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