Tour of Turkey well-positioned for 2018 edition

The Tour of Turkey looks to feature more WorldTour teams and star riders in 2018.

IZMIR, Turkey (VN) — The Tour of Turkey will feature more WorldTour teams and star riders in 2018 with the dates and WorldTour status secured, says the director.

The 2017 Tour of Turkey races to the finish in Istanbul on Sunday with Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) in control of the overall classification. Despite a rich history, however, a shallow field competes in the 53rd edition.

Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, and Mark Cavendish once fought for stage wins. Adam Yates, Tejay van Garderen, and Thibaut Pinot played for the overall. This year’s Tour of Turkey lacks such depth.

“We will have petty much the same dates for next year because it is too late to change but we might have some changes for the following years,” said organization director Zeki Yildirim. “We will announce the stages this week.

“We had a UCI representative and consultant here and that meeting was very productive and they were very impressed with our race organization. They said they were very happy with what we’ve done so far.”

The UCI announced the dates for the 2018 calendar last month with the Turkish stage race running October 9 to 14.

An attempted coup and terrorism problems forced the race organizer to re-schedule its race in 2017. The tour typically runs in April ahead of the Giro d’Italia but moved to mid-October.

The late changes and uncertainty meant that some teams hesitated and failed to ink in their planner the six-day event, which was promoted to the WorldTour calendar for 2017. Only four WorldTour teams – Trek-Segafredo, UAE Emirates, Astana, and Bora-Hansgrohe – attended, a low-water mark for any race on the top calendar.

“This year, it was our fault because we informed [the teams] of the stages pretty late. We don’t want to do that for next year and for that reason we will inform them pretty early so the teams may put the Tour of Turkey into their calendars,” Yildirim said.

“It’s too late to make changes now but we are hoping that we might be able to move the date to April in the future and keep our WorldTour status.”

Turkey once was the center of the Ottoman Empire and bridges Europe to Asia at the Black Sea. The race skirts the Mediterranean Coast to the south, home to many tourist resorts, and flies to Istanbul for the final stage.

American cyclists and staff just slipped through before U.S.-Turkish relations further deteriorated. Ankara, in response to the U.S.’s like move, stopped issuing visas to American travelers just before the race began.

“We do not have any concerns about security,” continued Yildirim. “This race is under control of our president and all of our ministers are involved. Yet we took much precautions for the security of the athletes and the organization.

“We have thermal camera helicopters securing the area before and during the race. We have Coast Guard following the race the whole way. We have unmanned aircrafts searching the area just in case. We have no concerns about security yet. The Trek-Segafredo team also Tweeted about its safety feelings here and we re-tweeted that.

“Turkey is a beautiful country and you can see that during the tour with amazing views that we have. We’d like to think that the teams enjoyed it and we want to welcome more teams for the future. We are known for our hospitality and we want them to experience this race.”