Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merdia) won the first stage of the 2016 Tour of Turkey after going solo from the original breakaway, and being given far too much freedom by the peloton.
His attack had looked like a last ditch attempt to stay away for as long as possible, but as his advantage went out over three minutes it started to look as though he could hold on.
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The chase was lacklustre and very uncoordinated, allowing the Polish rider to stay away. Some of the smaller teams took up the work on the front but struggled to whittle down the lone leader’s bid for glory.
The early breakaway, including fan favourite Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal), was brought back thanks to the work done by teams like CCC–Sprandi–Polkowice who had missed the early move.
The others who tried their luck early on were Lluís Guillermo Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Rémy Di Gregorio (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Nikita Stalnov (Astana City Development Squad) and Niemiec.
Before the break was reeled in Niemiec went solo and soon had over two minutes on the peloton with 32km left to race, but the riders in the bunch remained calm and gave him the space to race clear.
Southeast-Venezuela took over pace-making duties, but by this time Niemiec had pushed his advantage out to over three minutes with 20km to the finish.
With such an advantage, his chances of staying away gained a boost and the inevitability of the catch appeared slightly less assured.
Conversations started between rival teams in the chasing peloton as to who might take responsibility for bringing the lone leader back. Southeast stayed on the front and brought Niemiec’s advantage down by a few seconds, but struggled to get the gap below the three minute mark.
With André Greipel present as the leader of Lotto-Soudal, it had been expected that they would take up the chase earlier and bring the race together for a bunch sprint. However, the German went down in a crash in the neutral zone and may have picked up a harder knock than first thought.
This was backed up by reports that Lotto’s DS had mentioned Greipel’s lack of interest in the charge for the day’s stage win.
The sprinter even did his part on the front as the peloton came into the closing kilometres.
With 10km to go, Niemiec still held an advantage of 2’15”. At this point CCC–Sprandi–Polkowice came back to the front of the peloton and took charge of the chase, swapping turns on the front with Southeast.
The chase proved futile and the veteran rider won the stage by the greatly reduced margin of 13 seconds.
Away from the racing, many of the locals and tourists on the side of the road seemed fairly unmoved by the spectacle of a bicycle race coming through the streets.
Poorly marshalled crossings, people stepping out, reports of loose dogs and amateur riders trying to join in were just some of the near-misses spotted on the race coverage.
Tour of Turkey 2016 stage one, Istanbul – Istanbul, result:
1. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida
2. Jose Gonçalves (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
3. Marco Zanotti (Ita) Parkhotel Valkenburg