ISTANBUL, Turkey (VN) – Theo Bos (Rabobank) kicked to victory in Sunday’s eighth and final stage at the Tour of Turkey to confirm he’s on top form for next week’s Giro d’Italia.
In the GC, Bulgarian veteran Ivailo Gabrovski (Konya Torku) finished safely in the main pack to wrap up a surprise victory in the 2.HC-ranked race against a peloton packed with points-hungry teams.
The 120km stage ended with an eight-lap circuit and saw pre-stage favorites Matt Goss (GreenEdge), Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) hitting the deck in the middle of the pack with about 3km to go.
Bos steered clear of the danger and teammate Mark Renshaw delivered him perfectly to the line. The Dutchman finished off the work to bookend the eight-day Turkey tour with another victory and relegated Andrew Fenn (Omega Lotto-Quick Step) to second place, with Stefan van Dijk (Accent Jobs) kicking across the line third.
The victory was Bos’s second of the week against a world-class sprinter’s field and boosts the former track sprinter’s confidence ahead of the Italian tour.
“I would like to say now I go for a win at the Giro, but it’s only my second grand tour. Let’s say top-3, maybe that’s a reasonable goal,” Bos said. “It’s great to win two races here this week, but the Giro will be very different.”
Ever modest since switching to the road in 2009 – after leaving behind a highly successful track-racing career which included a world title in the prestigious sprint discipline – Bos admits he still has a lot to learn before he can consistently beat the sport’s fastest sprinters.
“I am a fast guy on the bike, especially in the last 200 meters, but racing on the road is more than 200 meters,” Bos said. “I know I am fast, but I do not consider myself a good cyclist. I still have to improve on the other aspects, to be more certain in big races.”
Bos has picked up a handful of wins each season, but he realizes things will be very different with the demands of the Giro, especially with the presence of world champions Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing), along with Goss.
“I haven’t done many WorldTour races. I did one time the Vuelta in 2010 and I was nowhere near a win. Last year I did Eneco Tour and I was one time fourth,” he said. “Until now, I was not among the best; we shall see at the Giro.”
Sunday’s final stage of the eight-day Turkey tour ended in dramatic fashion. The riders signed-on in front of the Hagia Sophia in central Istanbul and crossed the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia to complete an eight-lap circuit.
A five-man breakaway was caught on the final lap to set up the mass gallop. After the crash, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) found himself at the front of the peloton. A winner of a stage this week, Greipel seemed to improvise and tried to set up teammate Jonas Vangenechten (10th).
With three stage victories this week between them, Renshaw and Bos give Rabobank a powerful duo in the bunch sprints. Bos insisted that he and Renshaw divvy up the stages depending on the terrain each day.
Sunday’s flat circuit course was ideal for Bos and Renshaw decided to slip back into the role as the lead-out man, even sacrificing his chances to challenge for the points jersey against Goss to help Bos.
“There’s no conflict between Mark and I. I am not strong enough in the hills to survive, and Mark is much stronger than me and he can make it. In flatter races, I am good. We divide it like this,” Bos said. “Like at Schledeprijs, we decided if it was windy, we would work for Mark; if it wasn’t, then for me. I cannot do anything for Mark at the moment, and that is not a nice feeling, because he helps me a lot. Like I said, I have to improve a lot as a cyclist so I can pay him back.”
Bos said he knew his transition from trackie to roadie would take a long time. He shed nearly eight kilos off his frame, dropping from 83kg in a peak track weight at the Bordeaux worlds in 2007 to his sleeker race weight now of 77kg.
Bos has struggled to fight for position in the bunch sprints as well as getting over the climbs to make it to the line with the front group to contest the sprints.
Bos takes advantage when he can, and always races with a one-piece skin suit. He convinced Renshaw to wear one on Thursday’s stage, when the Aussie barely nipped Goss in a photo finish.
“For sure, I think (the skinsuit) was the difference that day. We all try to improve ourselves as a cyclist. If you can gain one or two watts wearing a skinsuit, why not?” Bos said. “People try to hold onto the old things in cycling. People were really laughing at me when I was wearing a skinsuit, now more and more teams are wearing them. Cavendish wore won in the worlds. I think that is the future of cycling.”
Gabrovski defends victory
Gabrovski, meanwhile, fended off suggestions that his victory against a peloton packed with top teams should come as a surprise.
“This is not a surprise. This is a lot of hard work,” Gabrovski said. “Not only this year or last year, but all my life. I am a pro since I was 18. I started riding a bicycle with eight years of age. All my life I do the same thing – ride my bike. Cycling is my life.”
The 34-year-old journeyman pro came out of nowhere to shock the top teams in Wednesday’s mountain-top finish. Gabrovski staunchly defended his winning margin of 1:33 to runner-up Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) and Dana Andonov (Caja Rural), third at 1:38 back, to deliver his most important win of his career.
Despite twice being stopped for having high hematocrit levels – once in 2003 and again in 2005 – Gabrovski said his victory was earned on the road.
“What has happened here is a lot of work and thought that I put into the race,” he said. “It took a lot of courage to win this race. It was not easy to defend my lead. And luck. We always need a little luck.”
Gabrovski’s jersey put his modest, continental team to the test in a string of hilly stages along Turkey’s rugged Mediterranean coast. The team seemed to find allies on the road and he was not seriously challenged en route to Istanbul.
“It’s a dream to win this race for the team. After winning the third stage, we worked hard to defend the lead. It wasn’t easy, but I am very content with this victory,” Gabrovski said. “There was always a doubt until the end, so I am very happy.”
Gabrovski won the Tour of Turkey in 2007, when the race was ranked 2.2. It’s since been improved to 2.HC in 2010, drawing a top field of ProTeam and pro-continental squads.
“This is the most important race I have won. I knew I had strong legs coming here,” he said. “I am not a smiling man. I am very serious, but I have been smiling this week for the public.”
1. Theo BOS, Rabobank in 2:32:35.
2. Andrew FENN, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Stefan VAN DIJK, Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
4. Andrea GUARDINI , Farnese-Vini
5. Matteo PELUCCHI, Europcar
1. Ivalio GABROVSKI, Kornu-Torku Sekor Spor in 28:48:10.
2. Alexandr DYACHENKO, Astana +1:33
3. Danail Andonov PETROV, Caja Rural +1:38
4. Adrian Palomares VILLAPLANA, Andalucia +1:44.
5. Romain BARDET, Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.01.
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