The 3rd and queen stage of the Tour of Turkey saw MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung take the racing to the rest of the peloton. Songezo Jim and Youcef Reguigui both went on the attack and Serge Pauwels would finish 5th at the line.
It was after 25km of racing that Songezo went clear with 4 other riders. Building up a lead of 4 minutes, the attackers then hit the first of the 2 cat 1 climbs for the day. Songezo was clearly one of the strongest as he, Juan Valencia (Colombia) and Jose Goncalves (Caja-Rural) pushed clear. The peloton had reduced the gap drastically on the big climb though and 7 riders jumped across to the 3 leaders.
Youcef was part of the 7 attackers who bridged to the lead with just 35km to go. Our Algerian star then upped the ante and rode away with Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jelle Wallays (Topsport-Vlaanderen) while the peloton reeled in the chasers. Youcef and co. would then hold on to a 30" lead for the next 20km as Astana and CCC Sprandi were forced to chase.
The leading trio were caught at the foot of the final cat 1 climb. An early surge in the pace saw the main group whittled down to just a handful of riders on the 10km climb. Eventual stage winner, Davide Rebellin (CCC Sprandi) followed an attack by Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) with 7km to go and the 2 would ride off to decide the stage. Behind them the main group blew to pieces on the final climb and Serge was strong enough to hold on for 5th on the stage, putting him 5th on GC as well. Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne-Seche) was the rider in 3rd place on the stage.
I know this final climb pretty well having ridden it a few times already. Knowing that the final 3km were the toughest I thought Rebellin and Durasek went a bit too early. I felt I had the legs to respond but I was hoping to come back in the final 3km. I am still happy with my result, if you told me 5th at the start of today I think I might have taken it. Now there are still a few chances to gain some time for most of the climbers so we will have a good battle over the next stages and I will do my best to achieve a good GC result.
Serge Pauwels – Rider
Today the team was very strong. The whole day we were visible at the front of the race. Just as we had discussed in our meeting we wanted to have someone in the first break of the day and Songezo made the move. He was very strong and was even competing for the mountains jersey, if he won the last sprint he would have got it but he ended 2nd. Still it was a great ride because with him in the break we didn't have to ride on the front. When they came back Youcef was in the next attack, keeping the pressure off our guys. At the end Serge did a good ride to get a good result for the team. The whole team was very good and we are happy with our stage performance.
JP Heynderickx - Sport Director