IZMIR, Turkey — Daniele Ratto (UnitedHealthcare) may have slipped outside the top 10 overall after the uphill sprint finish in Selcuk on Friday, but his sixth-place finish on Saturday’s seventh stage was good enough to take the points jersey from Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) with just one day remaining in the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey.
While Croatian Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) has all but clinched the turquoise leader’s jersey, the 25-year-old Ratto leads the green-jersey competition with 48 points, two more than stage winner Mark Cavendish, who claimed his third win this week — just one shy of equaling his four victories at last year’s race.
“I wanted to win today because every day I finish in the first eight and Friday was not good for me,” said Ratto on losing more than a minute on stage 6 to fall from seventh to 14th on GC.
“Today, like every day this week, the team was unbelievable in their work, and every day gives me more confidence. I’m happy, even if only for one day I have this jersey. For seven days I wanted this jersey and always I arrived with one point behind — or same point as — the leader.
“Tomorrow the weather could play a role, as it may rain, but either way I put all my energy to take this jersey.”
Ratto shocked his team with a top-10 finish atop Elmali on Tuesday and his sixth place in Izmir following the 166km stage on Saturday gives Ratto five top-eight finishes in seven days.
“I was surprised by my finish on stage 3,” said Ratto, who rode for Cannondale during 2012-14 and won a stage at the 2013 Vuelta a España.
“I have been training really hard at home since before Flèche Wallonne, and I think I can go even better and perhaps return to my Vuelta form from two years ago.”
With only Sunday’s 124km city circuit remaining, team sports director Hendrik Redant is pleased with his team’s success but admits that with 2011 world champion and last year’s Tour of Turkey points winner still in the race, it will not be easy for Ratto or his U.S.-registered UCI Pro Continental team to keep the jersey.
“This was always the goal for him,” said Redant. “Daniele is really in good form and he’s climbing well and sprinting good against the best in the world, so if he can put himself in that position that’s awesome.
“Of course with Cavendish winning today he has 45 points immediately, plus one that he got for the intermediate sprint. Tomorrow is going to be a very demanding finish — it’s going to be stressful. We are … going to try to put him in the best position ever, but it’s up to his legs – either way I’m very proud of him and the whole team this week.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.