The 2012 Tour of Turkey
is the 48th running of the event, but race organizers readily admit that it wasn't until 2008 that the race took a turn for the serious and applied for upper echelon UCI ranking. The week long race is now a staple of Turkish sporting events and the organizers speak softly about the potential to be a UCI World Tour event bu 2015.
In this year's running there were 9 UCI Pro Teams and 16 Pro Continental teams participating. It's interesting seen the wide swath of Euro based Continental teams that very few American race fans would know about. Unlike last years race that started in Istanbul and headed south the race route was reversed for 2012 and the big finale will be on Sunday in Istanbul with the start taking place in the European continent and crossing a bridge over the Bosphorus into the Asian continent of Istanbul.
The countryside is beautiful and many of the roads are rough. But the rough roads are also the result of a massive road construction project going on that promoters hope will help their chances at securing World Tour status. As young as the race is, the organizers have done an amazing job with all the details as the execution of each stage is managed like a proven world tour team.
Bulgaria's Ivailo Gabrovski has been leading the race for the last few days and his Turkish Konya-Torku team has been fighting hard to keep him in the leader's jersey...a home win by a home team team would be huge and now there are but two stages left them o make it happen. Salcano is also a Turkish brand of bike that sponsors the team and the race.
A few riders on the Stage 5 & 6 winning Colnago team were using these prototype Gaerne shoes with a Boa type closure system.
The Cipolini RB100 bikes remain among the most eye-catching in the peloton. On stage six team rider Leonardo Giordani had a nasty fall and pulled out with a broken collarbone.
Motorcyclists will recognize the KTM name from their National & World motocross and off-road titles. The brand has been licensed to a cycling group for years and although never seen in America, the Austrian name is a popular bike brand in Europe.
Besides the name brand ProTour teams, the Tour of Turkey is also home to a handful of European Pro Continental teams like Caja Rural and Andalucia. Even with the Campy 11 speed drivetrains, the Vivelo bikes of Caja Rural were a tad on the rough looking side.
I got to ride in the Team Type 1-Sanofil team car for stage six and was witness to some of the most hair raising action I've witnessed in years. Team General Manager (and former Pro) Vassili Davidenko took care of the driving and hand-up duties. Team Type 1 won the event last year with Alexander Efemkin and heading into Stage 7 their Russian rider sat in 6th place at 2:23 out. Look for a full report to come.
The Zanatta is another Euro centric brand that is never seen or heard of in the United States. It is the bike of choice for the Pro Continental Accent.Jobs team with Belgian Leif Hoste being their star rider.
There are three Colnago based teams competing at the Tour of Turkey: Colnago-CSF, Europcar, and Team Type 1-Sanofil. Note the SRM power meter and Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain - yes Ultegra in the Pro peloton!
Although he has been entirely quiet in the race this year, Italian Super star Alessandro Petacchi is making the rounds through Turkey.
The Rabobank team bikes remain the best looking in the peloton if only because they didn't fall into the flat black trap relied on by so many other teams.
United Heatlthcare is another American team racing in Turkey and chasing UCI points. Here's Adrian Hegyvary tucked in at speed on the notorious descent in stage 6.
Team GreenEdge rider Matt Goss has gotten close on stages 5 and 6 with runner-up finishes, but the win has eluded him.
Sure, look at this guy now and you might winder what he's doing at a bike race...I didn't ask, but just maybe he was some honch rider back in the day - hey, I said maybe!
The climbing in Turkey has proven to be no easy feat, but there are also moments of scenic beauty to help take the pain off.