Tour of Turkey: Sam Bennett undaunted by pressure and safety concerns
Pre-stage favourite Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe took the first stage of the 53rd Presidential Tour of Turkey with an undisputed sprint victory in Kemer on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old Irishman was two bike lengths ahead of Italian Marco Benfatto (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia), Belgian Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Italian Federico Zurlo (UAE Team Emirates) and nine other riders at the end of the 176.7-kilometre opener from Alanya along the Mediterranean coast.
“We came in here with some big ambitions,” Bennett told media in the post-stage press conference. “We wanted to get some stage wins and go for [general classification]. We set a clear plan at the start of the stage, and it was very hard to actually pull off the plan because there are a lot of strong teams with Trek, UAE and all the big teams like this.
“They all fought hard and made it very difficult for us, but we delivered one of the first goals on Stage 1 and we are pretty happy with this.”
Bennett’s leadout Shane Archbold praised his teammate’s form and skills on the difficult finish.
“It was really fast start and a reasonably boring race, but then it kicked off with 50k to go,” the New Zealander told Eurosport. “Obviously a pretty good effort from the whole team to set things up for the sprint. It wasn’t that easy with a cobblestone finish, but Sam is in pretty good form at the moment — you just need to let him see the line and he can win from anywhere.”
For the Paris-Nice stage winner, who raced to four top three stage results at the Giro d’Italia in May, said he was a bit surprised by his rivals tenacity in the final.
“At the beginning I was kind of happy because I thought everybody would go off my timing,” he told Cycling Weekly’s Gregor Brown. “But in the final, people were trying to take control of the race and I wasn’t completely expecting it. I wasn’t thinking people would be afraid of me, but if we slowed up maybe they would slow up, but guys were really trying to overtake us.
“I kind of felt a bit pressure to deliver, even the last 2km it was hard and I felt it,” he continued. “The team was really killing themselves and I really wanted to get this result.”
The Tour of Turkey has moved up in classification as a UCI WorldTour event this year, but has failed to meet the federation’s minimum requirement of 10 WorldTour teams for the race after many teams chose not to participate due to safety concerns. Only four squads, Astana, Trek, UAE and Bora have made the start in the six-stage road race that features eight UCI Professional Continental teams and one Turkish national team.
However, according to Bennett, he feels no worries racing across Turkey.
“The race wouldn’t be held if it wasn’t safe,” he told Eurosport. “Seems to be great security here, and they are doing a fantastic job. I’m pretty comfortable here and I don’t see any reason to be afraid.”
With the win, Bennett moves into the overall lead with a five-second advantage over Benfatto with five stages remaining, but the two-time Tour of Slovenia stage winner said there are no aspirations of holding the leader’s turquoise jersey until the Istanbul finish on Sunday despite two others sprint stages being up for grabs.
“[I’m] not getting up those mountains,” he admitted. “It’s more for Gregor Mühlberger (AUT). He’s really starting to come into his own now in his career and starting to progress so much.
“I think he has a good chance in this race and we will support him to the best of our abilities.”
Classification from Tour of Turkey after Stage 1 on Tuesday
- 1. Sam Bennett (Ireland / BORA-hansgrohe) 3:57:16"
- 2. Marco Benfatto (Italy / Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia) +4"
- 3. Edward Theuns (Belgium / Trek-Segafredo) +6"
- 4. Vincenzo Albanese (Italy / Bardiani - CSF) +7"
- 5. Francesco Gavazzi (Italy / Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia)
- 6. Diego Ulissi (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) +8"
- 7. Flavio Cardoso (Brazil / Soul Brasil Pro Cycling Team)
- 8. Alex Turrin (Italy / Wilier Triestina - Selle Italia) +9"
- 9. Muhammet Atalay (Turkey / Turkey)
- 10. Federico Zurlo (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) +10"
- 11. Matteo Pelucchi (Italy / BORA-hansgrohe)
- 12. Riccardo Minali (Italy / Astana Pro Team)
- 13. Simone Consonni (Italy / UAE Team Emirates)
- 14. Jonas Koch (Germany / CCC - Sprandi - Polkowice)
- 15. Manuel Belletti (Italy / Wilier Triestina - Selle Italia)
- 16. Jordi Simon (Spain / Soul Brasil Pro Cycling Team)
- 17. Paolo Simion (Italy / Bardiani - CSF)
- 18. Enrico Barbin (Italy / Bardiani - CSF)
- 19. Nikolai Trussov (Russia / Gazprom - RusVelo)
- 20. Boy van Poppel (Netherlands / Trek-Segafredo)
- 21. Shane Archbold (New Zealand / BORA-hansgrohe)
- 22. Davide Ballerini (Italy / Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia)
- 23. Michal Paluta (Poland / CCC - Sprandi - Polkowice)
- 24. Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kazakhstan / Astana Pro Team)
- 25. Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia / BORA-hansgrohe)
- 26. Kiel Reijnen (U.S. / Trek-Segafredo)
- 27. Gregor Muehlberger (Austria / BORA-hansgrohe)
- 28. Marco Coledan (Italy / Trek-Segafredo)
- 29. Ruslan Tleubayev (Kazakhstan / Astana Pro Team)
- 30. Gregory Habeaux (Belgium / WB - Veranclassic - Aquality Protect)
Photo: Roberto Bettini/BettiniPhoto