Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the stage five victory and overall lead in the Tour of Turkey 2019, after an attritional summit finish in inclement weather.
The Austrian is 19 seconds ahead of second place Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) heading into the final stage, with the race now Grossschartner’s to lose.
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The final climb to Kartepe was reduced by 5.5km due to heavy snowfall and the activation of the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol, but the steepest gradients of the climb, 12 per cent in some places, survived the cull.
The GC contenders waited until halfway up the 10.5km climb to animate the race, with Conti attacking first and then the 19-year-old Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) chasing up to him, followed by Astana’s Merhawi Kudus and Grossschartner.
Evenepoel then attacked with 5km to go, before the leading group reeled him back in with 3km to go. Kudus and Grossschartner then went clear, with the Eritrean jumping ahead but Grossschartner catching him in the final 500m.
Grossschartner waited until 200m to go himself and opened up a gap to take the stage victory and the overall classification.
Should the Austrian finish in the main bunch on stage six he will claim the overall win, his 19 second buffer enough to negate any bonus seconds available at the finish.
How it happened
The weather was the main talking point ahead of the queen stage of the Tour of Turkey. Heavy snowfall forced race organisers to reduce the course length by 5.5km, cutting the summit finish to Kartepe down from 16km to 10.5km.
Rain fell on the peloton as they rolled out from the start in Bursa, developing into sunshine as the riders reached the coast until the fog and snow-cleared roads of Kartepe, a smorgasbord of weather being offered along the 158.6km route.
Crosswinds kept the race together for the first 30km before the day’s breakaway formed, containing Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal), Jose Viejo (Euskadi) and Robbe Ghys (Vlaanderen-Baloise), who managed to extend their advantage out to a maximum of 5-20.
The breakaway were caught at the start of the climb to Kartepe, with 11.5km left to race, with Ghys the last to be reeled in. As the peloton ascended, rain soon turned into snow-shovelled roadsides, with the leading group gradually being whittled down but the high pace being set by Welshman Scott Davies (Dimension-Data) meant no attacks came.
It was Valerio Conti who eventually animated the race, attacking with 5km to go. Remco Evenepoel then emerged from the leading pack, riding over to Conti as the lead group imploded behind, with Grossschartner and Kudus also going clear.
Evenepoel then found some space on the others with 4.5km to go before Conti decided chase down the young Belgian 500m later.
Kudus eventually dragged back into the leading group of four with 3km to go, with Evenepoel soon turning to the other three more experienced riders to ask if they were going to work together to stay away as they headed towards the finish line.
With 2km to go, Kudus attacked, dropping Conti, with Grossschartner then countering and dropping Evenepoel from the group.
That left Grossschartner and Kudus to battle it out for both the stage win and the overall classification.
Kudus, trailing Grossschartner by 10 seconds heading into today’s stage, tried his hand, opening up a 10 second gap over the Austrian as sleet fell on the road. But Grossschartner bridged back to Eritrean with 500m and went clear with only 200m left.
The Austrian battled through fog at the finish line to take a clear lead of 19 seconds into Sunday’s final stage.
Conti appeared out of the mist to overtake both Kudus and Evenepoel, clearly recovering after being dropped, to finish second. Kudus was emotional as he rolled across the line in third, having hoped to have taken the overall lead himself, and then it was teenager Evenepoel finishing an impressive fourth.
Almost as soon as riders crossed the line, they were hurried into the warmth of their team cars rather than rolling back down the Kartepe in treacherous conditions.
Tomorrow’s stage is 172.4km, starting in Sakarya and finishing in Istanbul. The mostly flat parcours means the overall lead is Grossschartner’s to lose.
Tour of Turkey 2019 stage five: Bursa to Kartepe (158.6km – down from original 164.5km)
1. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-17-13
2. Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirataes, at 9 seconds
3. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Astana, at same time
4. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 16s
5. Edgar Pinto (Por) W52-Porto, at 40s
6. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 51s
7. Kyle Murphy (Usa) Rally UHC, at 58s
8. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko – Marseille Provence, at 1-03
9. Etienne Van Empel (Ned) Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia – KTM, at 1-08
10. Robert Britton (Can) Rally UHC, at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 20-43-09
2. Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirataes, at 19 seconds
3. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Astana, at 25s
4. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 41s
5. Edgar Pinto (Por) W52-Porto, at 59s
6. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-07
7. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko – Marseille Provence, at 1-19
8. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Manzana Postobon, at 1-26
9. Gonzalo Serrano (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA, at 1-29
10. Kyle Murphy (Usa) Rally UHC, at 1-30