Etixx - Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish wears the turquoise leader's jersey after finishing off the perfect leadout of his teammates at the 145km opening stage of Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey on Sunday.
The Manx Missile beat Caleb Ewen (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani - CSF Pro Team) to the line after launching with 200m to go off the wheel of Mark Renshaw. Tom Boonen dropped off the final two riders at 500m to go, as Etixx - Quick-Step timed their move to the front brilliantly in the final kilometer. The team still had four riders on the front with 1.9km to go.
The race came back together with 18.3km to go, as Guillaume Van Keirsbulck spent much of the day on the front for the team helping to control the gap in anticipation of the group arrival in Alanya. Etixx - Quick-Step then moved to the front with six riders, and the team kept six riders at the front controlling the race all the way until inside 4 kilometers remaining.
Cavendish is already off to a good start at Tour of Turkey after winning four stages, and the points jersey, in the 2014 edition. The victory of Cavendish is the 20th on the road for Etixx- Quick-Step. Cavendish has contributed seven wins to the tally, including Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
"I won this stage as well last year," Cavendish said. "We talked about the competition at the team meeting and we recognized that there are a lot of big sprinters at the race this year. So we know it would be chaotic, and it really was in the last kilometers. But Mark Renshaw kind of rounded the troops and they did incredible. Tom Boonen came back to racing from his injury today, and Mark had to actually tell him to go easy when he first went. He was riding that strong. In the sprint I looked behind me, and then I ran up on Mark, so I built up my speed for the jump. When I went I was happy about it. It was nice to finish the job of the guys after what they did today. The guys did great, guys like Guillaume Van Keirsbulck who was on the front all day. As for me, this is also my first race back after taking some time off. I got sick in South Africa and had to stop and get over the virus. Just to stop and reset everything and to now get going again, it is quite nice. I don't think I'm in as good of condition as I could have been without the interruption, but I am definitely happy where I am and also with the strong team of Etixx - Quick-Step. We'll keep going and try to win more at this race."
On Monday, Etixx - Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish won his second straight stage after the predicted bunch arrival of 182km Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey Stage 2 winning by approximately a wheel after his team led him out perfectly in the final kilometers. He won despite a puncture with about 5 kilometers left to race.
Cavendish, in the turquoise leader's jersey, launched inside 200m to go as Etixx - Quick-Step had six on the front inside the final 5km, and three in front of the Manx Missile within the final 1.2km of the stage despite several teams doing their best to take control of the front. Mark Renshaw continued to lead out his teammate with less than 500m to go in the stage. Cavendish beat Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani - CSF Pro Team).
The five leaders of the original breakaway were well controlled, and Etixx - Quick-Step played a role in bringing them back with 11.9km to go in the race.
The second consecutive stage win means a total of eight victories for the British rider in 2015, and the 21st road win for Etixx - Quick-Step in 2015.
Cavendish will wear the leader's jersey once again into Stage 3, but there will likely be a bit of a shuffle in the GC after the first climbing stage of the race. The third stage may even be the most decisive for the general classification out of all stages. The 165.3km stage includes several high category climbs, particularly the crucial Category 1 summit finale in Elmali. The climb is 11.5km in total distance with an average gradient between 6 and 7 percent, with the steepest sections in the later part of the climb.
"At a corner with about 5 kilometers to go my wheel went from me and I thought to myself 'that's not good' as I lost my balance," Cavendish said. "The wheel was spongy. It wasn't totally flat but it was a slow leaking puncture. I thought about stopping to get a new wheel, but we were already on our third guy of the train. If I stopped, we were one man short for Mark Renshaw. So I thought I'd give it a crack. I went easy for the final corners. I had confidence in my teammates. If they kept me in the front on the corners I'd be OK, and they did just that. They were really strong today and I was super impressed. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck rode on the front for the second straight day. These Belgian guys are super strong. Iljo Keisse and Nikolas Maes, they did a great job establishing the leadout. Then Fabio Sabatini went, and did a massive turn for more than a kilometer. He got us into the last corner, and then Tom Boonen went. Riders came from behind, but Mark Renshaw was able to find space. He had to go long and then I had to go long after him. But I'm super happy with what the team did today. I have to give a lot of credit to Mark Renshaw because he also punctured today with less than 20 kilometers to go. So he did a great job today considering the energy he used going into the leadout. As for me, I feel like I am about the same condition as I was this time last year. After a month without racing you can be sure you've got good form, but you can never know exactly where you're at. I knew yesterday before I even won that I was feeling good. I took an easy week after Gent-Wevelgem and then reset. Fabio Sabatini and I did some training in the last few weeks. So we were ready for this race. The whole team has shown we're focused and ready to win at Tour of Turkey."