At the midway point of cycling's Tour of Turkey, two riders on the Canadian-based SpiderTech team are ranked in the top 28 and within 35 seconds of the lead. But SpiderTech riders at the back of the peleton had a rough day, with two unable to finish and one going to hospital for stitches after a fall.
Wednesday's winner of the 207-kilometre stage was Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre - ISD), wheel-by-wheel with Poland's Bartosz Huzarski (Team NetApp). Alex Efimkiw of Russia (Sanofi-Aventis) led a chase group one second back.
Pushing for the lead put Huzarski on top of the general classification, as 164 riders competed on Wednesday when it was wet, windy and descents were slippery. "It was one hard day," said Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C.
Top SpiderTech riders in the fourth leg were American Jonathan Patrick McCarty, 23rd only a second behind Petacchi - usually a sprinter - in the pursuing pack. Tuft, after making a bid for the lead was 35th and 29 seconds back; and Ryan Anderson of Vancouver, 40th and 48 seconds behind Wednesday's leader on the road from Marmaris to Pamukkale.
McCarty leads the SpiderTech riders in the general classification, 21st and 13 second behind front-runner Huzarski. He's followed by Tuft, 28th and 35 seconds back; Anderson, 42nd and 2:27 back; Lucas Euser of the United States 67th and 47 minutes back; and 2010 Canadian road race champ Will Routley of Whistler, B.C., 90th and 47 minutes 42 seconds back.
"This was a hard stage because of the long climb at the beginning where a big selection was made," said Petacchi, referring to a 500-metre ascent to the Sakar Pass mountain sprint. That was 36 km after the start.
"I still don't know how, but I've managed to stay in the first group. Sometimes I can go well in the climbs.
"Only two of my team-mates (Aitor Perez Arrieta and Denys Kostyuk) were with me in the front group. At some stage, I told them to stop pacing behind the breakaway riders."
There are 22 teams in the race, four pro teams and 18 from the Pro Continental level, including SpiderTech powered by C10 - a reference to the consortium of 10 businesses that backs them.
SpiderTech's director of sport, Steve Bauer said the game plan was to get a SpiderTech rider into the first breakaway before the first big first climb. "If we could launch someone earlier, we could use their strength later in the game," Bauer said. "The middle section of the race would be a never-ending [patter of]up and down, so the peloton would be selected there. Only the strong men would remain in front for sure. Tuft, Euser and McCarty would need to be on their game."
Bauer said from Routley's first attack at kilometre zero until the final sprint there was constant pressure with breaks forming, pelotons chasing and reforming, and new breakaways.
"Over the top of the first big climb at the 40-km mark, the race was clearly divided with 60 riders going forward and the rest out of contention. Tuft, McCarty and Ryan Anderson made the front group. [SpiderTech's]Francois Parisien of Repentigny, Que., was in difficulty and Bruno Langlois of Quebec City crashed badly on a descent trying to avoid fallen riders on the greasy roads. Langlois abandoned the race and his nasty knee wound needed to be stitched up at the hospital."
Bauer said that on one wide open, fast descent, Tuft sprinted toward the break, leaving the chasers behind.
"Tuft bridged to the front, blasted through the lead break and joined the solo leader, Julien Fourchard of Team Cofidis. The duo raised the gap to 1:20 at 20 km to go. On the run in to the finish, Tuft gave it everything he had to win the stage but the Team FDJ riders organized and the break was caught within the last kilometre of an uphill finish. "
"The headwind and wide-open road coming to the finish were not ideal for us, but I took my best shot to win a stage," said Tuft.
"Svein made a huge race today. He gave it a fantastic try to win the race and possibly the overall. It's too bad we cannot buy a wee bit of fortune (tailwind) that could have made the difference. If one FDJ rider could have stayed with that duo, my gut says that was the race winning move," said Bauer.