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Tour of Turkey: Arvid de Kleijn scores opening win of season for Rally Cycling

Dutch fastman takes first win of the season for U.S.-registered Rally Cycling, Fabio Jakobsen safely completes first race after horror crash.

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Arvid de Kleijn (Rally Cycling) edged out Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling) in a tight sprint finale at the Tour of Turkey‘s opening stage Sunday.

The pair went to the line together after Halvorsen’s Uno-X team had opened a powerful lead-out, and it took several minutes for race officials to award the win to de Kleijn after the photo finish. Pierre Barbier (Delko) took third.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step, Alpecin-Fenix and Israel Start-Up Nation had bossed the bunch through the final kilometers of the short opening stage into Konya, but was caught off-guard as Uno-X moved up late to position Halvorsen. The Norweigan squad opened up its lead-out at around 200 meters to go with two riders in front of their sprinter as de Kleijn lurked in the wheels.

De Kleijn waited for Halvorsen to open his acceleration and timed his sprint to perfection, coming off the Norweigan’s wheel in the final 50m to set up the photo finish.

The result was the first win of the season for Rally Cycling after a strong start to the year at last month’s Volta a Catalunya. The American squad has a newly bolstered roster and big European ambitions for 2021, and de Kleijn is one of a number of new recruits including WorldTour alumni Ben King and Joey Rosskopf.

Also read: Rally Cycling unveils bolder European ambitions for 2021

Fabio Jakobsen successfully completed his first race since his horror crash at the Tour of Poland last summer, finishing safely in the bunch behind the sprint.

What’s coming up this week

The eight-stage Turkish race is stacked in favor of the sprinters, with at least four of the remaining days likely to end in a bunch kick. The GC could be decided on the one uphill finish of the tour Thursday (stage 5), while the tricky sixth and eighth stages could throw a surprise with climbs coming close to the finish line.

Although Sunday’s opening stage had to be redesigned late Saturday night after heavy snowfall in recent days prevented the race taking on the planned hilly route, the rest of the week is currently looking clear of disruption.

The main name to watch will be the returning sprinter Jakobsen, but he has acknowledged he is unlikely to be racing for victories just yet. Instead, the Dutchman will be backing up veteran Quick-Step teammate Mark Cavendish, who finished fourth Sunday having shown glimmers of form through the season so far. In what could make for a throwback to Tour de France sprints of a past era, the Manxman will be squaring off against his old rival André Greipel this week, who leads Israel Start-Up Nation.

Also read: Jakobsen braced for return to racing in Turkey

Although Cavendish has looked to be improving with every race, the top favorite for the flat finales is likely Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), who is hot off a victory at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and finished fifth on Sunday’s opener.

The GC pickings are slim, but look to Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels), Sebastian Berwick (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Merhawi Kudus (Astana Premier Tech) as key players. Gavin Mannion leads Rally Cycling and will be hoping to continue the squad’s success after the stage win Sunday.

Top-6

  1. Arvid de Kleijn (Rally Cycling)
  2. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling)
  3. Pierre Barbier (Delko)
  4. Mark Cavendish (Deceunink-Quick-Step)
  5. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
  6. Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation)