MARMARIS, Turkey (VN) — It was only a centimeter or two, but it could have been a mile for Mark Renshaw, who kicked to a morale-boosting victory Wednesday at the Tour of Turkey.
After turning his back on his productive career as cycling’s premier lead-out man, the Aussie scored his first win since making the switch to lead sprinter with Rabobank in a photo-finish against compatriot Matthew Goss (GreenEdge). Daniele Colli kicked across for third for Team Type 1.
“I hope the monkey’s off my back now,” Renshaw told VeloNews after the stage. “It’s been hard to get a win. I am very happy.”
For Renshaw, the victory is confirmation that he made the right choice to leave behind a secure and productive job as leading out world champion Mark Cavendish to strike out on his own.
It was a risky move, but one that Renshaw said has been more than worth it.
“I do not classify myself as a lead-out man anymore,” he said. “It’s been worth it because I’ve already gotten opportunities this year. I am very happy with the victory. I have worked very hard this year and I am happy to win in what I thought was a very hard stage against a field of this quality.”
Headwinds blowing off the Mediterranean coast tamped down late-stage attacks over the day’s final climb in the 135.2km fourth stage from Fethiye to Marmaris along the spectacular Turkish coast.
The peloton reeled in an early breakaway over the day’s final climb when riders such as Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and others tried to test the legs of overnight leader Ivaylo Grabovski (Konya Torku).
The veteran Bulgarian, who rides for a continental Turkish team, was the surprise winner in Tuesday’s first-category summit finish when he held off the top challengers in a long-distance attack with 8km to go.
On Wednesday, he defended his leader’s jersey — and his eyebrow-raising performance so far.
“I am the only [one] who truly wants to win this Tour of Turkey,” he said. “We trained specifically for this race and we previewed the climb (Tuesday). Today, I could cover the attacks. Maybe I am not the strongest here, but I want to win this race for all of the Turkish people.”
The weeklong Tour of Turkey is a race divided in two. There’s the fight for the GC, but there’s also an intense tug-of-war for sprinters testing and honing their form heading to the Giro.
Renshaw was keen to pocket a victory before taking on the demands and pressure of the Giro.
“The Giro is my next big objective and hopefully the Tour. This is a great race, with a mix of flat stages, medium climbs like we saw today and the mountaintop finish like yesterday,” Renshaw said. “I knew the run-in from when I was here with Greipel two years ago. I knew it was a tough climb in the finale and I had to be up front if I wanted to have a chance to win. I was lucky there was a headwind on the climb and the attacks could not get away. When I hit the last corner, I knew I had to get past Gossie if I wanted to win. We’re both pretty fast right now.”
Renshaw also dedicated his victory to Australian soldiers who died in the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Today is Anzac Day, in honor of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in that battle along the Turkish shore north of Wednesday’s stage.
“Today is a special day in Australia. It’s very special to win today,” Renshaw said. “This victory is for all the suffering of Australians who gave their lives in war. I am very proud to win today for Australia.”