Giro d'Italia

Turkey provides fast track for Giro-bound sprinters

Greipel and Modolo are tuning up their finishing kicks in Turkey ahead of the year's first grand tour, which kicks off in seven days

Just as the Tour of Qatar is a favorite honing ground for the classics-bound cobble-eaters, the weeklong Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey is turning into the preferred approach to the season’s first grand tour among the peloton’s fleet of sprinters.

Mild weather, decent roads, and a week of sprint-friendly stages is ideal Giro d’Italia preparation for the peloton’s fast finishers.

Going into Friday’s stage, the race has already delivered confidence-boosting victories for André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) who are set to start the Giro next week in Sanremo.

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) won’t be racing the Giro — he’s heading to the Amgen Tour of California instead — but other sprinters are hoping this week’s Tour of Turkey helps set them up for important results in the season’s first grand tour. Even for Cavendish, who won the opening two stages, the Turkey tour is positioning him nicely for his season’s major goals.

“I don’t like to miss the Giro, which is a key race that helped me build up my career. I have great memories of that race and I hope to come back to the Giro in the future and do well again,” Cavendish said. “But as of this year, I want to focus on the optimal preparation for the Tour de France, and going into the races to return to the high level of performance I had at the beginning of the year.”

Modolo said his victory Thursday, his first of the 2015 season, was just what he needed before going to the Italian grand tour.

“Yes, I needed this win,” the Italian sprinter said. “In January, I went up against Cavendish and Gaviria [at Tour de San Luis], and since then, I haven’t finished off a sprint. I fell in a stage at Tirreno, and started sprinting again at De Panne, so I really wanted this one.”

Confidence is critical for any sprinter, and this year’s Giro will have a solid field of sprinters for what could be as many as nine bunch gallops in the Italian grand tour.

In addition to Modolo and Greipel, Manuel Belletti and Alessandro Petacchi (Southeast), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), and Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) are a few of the other sprinters heading to the Giro via the Tour of Turkey.

Greipel, who rode well across the spring classics, was relieved to get the victory in stage 4, his third of the 2015 season, and his 10th career win at the Turkey tour.

“The big goals are to win a stage at the Giro and the Tour this year,” said Greipel, who did not start stage 5 on Thursday. “This race is build-up for the Giro d’Italia. … It was nice to get the victory.”

Greipel, who won Giro stages in 2008 and 2010, will be hoping to win a stage in his first return to the Italian grand tour in five years.

While Cavendish and sprint king Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) are both skipping the Giro, the race will see a solid field of sprinters.

In addition to Modolo and Greipel, others, such as Juanjo Lobato (Movistar), Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) will keep the sprints interesting.