Reversal of fortune for Torku-Şekerspor at Qinghai Lake
Turkish team Torku-Şekerspor enjoying healthier, happier opening stages at the 2017 Tour of Qinghai Lake …
Twenty-four hours later, team sprint hopeful and future Rio Olympian Ahmet Örken went down in a mass pileup on the opening stage and would eventually be forced to abandon the race with three team-mates due to extreme altitude sickness.
However, a refreshed Torku squad has returned to China to make amends for a forgettable 2016 performance.
The 31-year-old Konya native has already recorded solid results this season on GC, including ninth overall at Tour of Mersin, 11th at Tour d’Azerbaijan, 12th at Tour of Ankara, and ninth at Tour of Serbia this season. Bakirci also won the mountains classification at Mersin in April and is hoping to claim another.
“My goal is to defend the KOM jersey, but each stage is at high altitude and we are racing at elevation of more than 4,000 metres on some stages so it will be difficult.”
After being reeled in by the peloton with less than 10 kilometres to go Spaniard Jon Aberasturi (Team UKYO) out-sprinted Serbian Dušan Rajovic (Aria-Mobil) and Greek Georgios Bouglas (China Continental Team of Gansu Bank) for the bunch sprint victory on the first of 13-stages in the UCI Asia Tour road race.
Joining Bakirci is Russian Ivan Balykin, Italian Luca Chirico and countrymen Muhammed Atalay, Ferit Samli, Batuhan Ozgur and Örken, who claims he has also returned in top form.
One noticeable name missing is Mustafa Sayar, who has undergone yet another operation recently to repair an injured lower back. Sayar underwent a third microsurgical procedure on July 11.
Both Sayar and team officials told Eurosport that surgery was a success and and he is expected to resume training within two weeks and rejoin the team shortly afterward.
With the podium finish, the 24-year-old sprinter moves to third on the points classification 10 points back of stage winner and new race leader Rajovic and eight behind Aberasturi.
With no KOMs on the day, Bakirci remains in the polka-dot jersey heading into the race’s first climbing stage on Tuesday.