Leigh Howard had his chance yesterday. Today, ORICA-GreenEDGE was all in for Aidis Kruopis. Stage two of the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey was a flat run that began in Alanya and ended in the projected bunch sprint in Antalya. The finale was marred by a massive crash inside the final kilometre. Kruopis emerged from the mayhem to deliver his first win of the season.
“I feel very good to have won today,” said Kruopis. “I had a bit of bad luck with Qatar and Langkawi. I was looking for a victory at both of those races and came up empty. It was especially nice to take the victory today after that.”
Light rain showers at the start did nothing to deter an early escape. Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Seche Environnement), Gabricio Fabricio (Caja Rural), Piotr Gawronski (CCC Polsat Polkowice), Duber Quintero (Colombia), Junya Sano (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Ahmet Orken (Torku Sekerspor) took off five kilometres into the stage. The peloton gave the escape its blessing, and the six riders collaborated to extend their lead.
“Today was similar to yesterday until the sprint,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “We focused our efforts on the finish.”
By kilometre 23, they breakaway reached a maximum advantage of 6’20. For the next hour, the peloton set a steady tempo keeping the escape group around the six minute mark.
The break’s advantage began to tumble beginning at the mid-point of the stage. Fifty kilometres from the finish, the gap had fallen just under two minutes. The first counter-attack came 30 kilometres later. A short-lived escape of Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun), Koen Barbe (Crelan-Euphony) and Quintero animated the closing kilometres. The trio was back in the bunch ten kilometres from the line as the sprint trains readied for the finale.
“I saw the last two kilometres on the television,” Lapage said. “Leigh did a perfect job for Aidis. We had talked about the left-hand corner at 1.2 kilometres. They knew they needed to be in the top ten riders at this point, and they were there.”
A huge crash at the front of the field inside the final kilometre disrupted the sprint.
“We had no one in the crash, so that was the good news,” said Lapage. “Other teams are not so lucky. We hope no one is hurt too badly.”
Those that escaped the carnage made a mad dash for the line. Kruopis, who had narrowly avoided going down, was the sixth rider to start his sprint.
“The sprint was very dangerous,” said Kruopis. “Leigh helped me a lot. There was a big crash, and after the big crash, I managed to come through with five guys ahead of me. I basically started right after the crash happened, and I passed all the guys before me to take the win.”
Howard managed sixth on the stage, giving the Australian outfit two riders in the top ten. Kruopis’ win catapults him up to second on the general classification with Howard five spots further back in seventh overall.
“Today’s result was somewhat lucky,” admitted Lapage. “It was also about the plan, and our plan for the sprint had everything to do with that last corner. Before the crash, the boys were in good position. They did what we asked of them. I’m happy for them to take the win.”