Tuesady 9 october 2018 - Ten years from his first victory at the Tour of Turkey, Maximiliano Richeze crossed the finish line arms aloft again at the Eurasian race, after one of the most confusing and hectic finales in the history of the event, at least since it has been upgraded in the Uci calendar. Starting and finishing in Konya, a city renowned in the Renaissance for its beautiful carpets exported in Europe, but famous now for the millions of tulips – the holy flower of the late Ottoman Empire – that deck its streets every spring, stage 1 of the Tour of Turkey took on a hilly course, containing several climbs, but that didn’t stop Quick-Step Floors from controlling the break.
Five men attacked early on the 148.4km-long stage, putting three minutes between them and the peloton headed by Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse and Zdenek Stybar, who did a fine job in keeping the gap in check and reducing it to a mere minute by the time they crested the last classified ascent of the day, with 40 kilometers remaining. On the long downhill to Konya, “El Tractor” reeled in the quintet and made sure of bringing back to heel a late attack of Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH).
Unfortunately, with less than four kilometers to go, Fernando Gaviria hit the deck and despite remounting, he didn’t have any chance of rejoining the charging pack, as he was nursing his right shoulder. Quick-Step Floors immediately regrouped around neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg, winner of four races so far this season, only for the plan to change again, this time 600 meters from the line, when the Colombian was forced to brake after slipping on the crosswalk paint as he rounded a right-side bend.
As the others hesitated, Richeze seized the moment and powered clear of the pack, opening a 30-meter gap on the peloton and carrying this advantage all the way to the line, where he had plenty of time left to celebrate his second victory of the season, after the one he took on home turf, at Vuelta a San Juan. It was Quick-Step Floors’ 70th UCI success of this outstanding year and one that propelled Max at the top of the general and points classification at the Tour of Turkey.
Max, who captured the 27th pro victory of his career, took us through the chaotic finale of the opening stage: “The plan was to go for the sprint with Fernando, but unfortunately he crashed and we had to quickly change our tactics so Alvaro would be the last man of our sprint train. In the last corner, Alvaro lost my wheel as he had to straighten his line in order not to crash, which meant I took a gap of 30 meters and went with all I had without looking back.”
Gaviria, for whom Richeze was supposed to do the lead-out, arrived at the finish after completing the last four kilometers of the stage, and was immediately taken to the local hospital where an X-ray revealed a clavicle fracture. On Wednesday, the 24-year-old Colombian will fly to Belgium where he will undergo further examination at the AZ Herentals Hospital, which will determine if an operation is required, but what’s certain at this point is that he is forced to call it a season a few days earlier than planned.
“I am very happy for this victory, it’s my last race of the season and on World Tour level, so it means a lot to me, but it’s a real pity Fernando crashed and broke his collarbone. I know how disappointed he is to end his season like that and I wish him to heal fast”, Max continued. “I came here to work for Fernando, and if not him, Alvaro, so this win comes as a nice surprise. There will be other sprint opportunities this week and with Alvaro being the fastest on the team now, I will be there to help him.”