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IZMIR, Turkey (VN) — It was an unexpected but welcome chase in the general classification for Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) last week at the 51st Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey.
The 2008 Canadian road race champion and three-time national time trial runner-up (2011-2013) withstood a treacherous crosswind that decimated and split the peloton over the second of three categorized climbs on the Queen stage last Tuesday to finish 15th atop the Category 1 hilltop finish on Elmali to climb to 16th on GC for his Australian-registered UCI WorldTeam.
Meier peaked at 15th before eventually dropping back two spots overall behind race winner Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida).
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to give it a go now and again,” Meier told VeloNews after Sunday’s stage 8. “We were hoping to do a bit better actually, but in the end it’s all you can do.”
The 30-year-old, Girona, Spain-based New Brunswick native says he came to his first Tour of Turkey to support his 20-year-old Aussie teammate Caleb Ewan in what was a loaded sprinter field, which included heavy hitters Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Alessandro Petacchi (Southeast), and Theo Bos (MTN-Qhubeka), to name a few.
“I was coming here as always to work for the team, which is a role I enjoy,” admitted Meier. “The other day I just happened to find myself in a good position on the first mountain day.
“Being such a sprinter’s race, there’s never been a real focus on the GC or anything, so I was just trying here and again while still trying to fulfill my team role.”
Other than a close second to Cavendish on the opening stage, Ewan, who came to Turkey fresh off a win at the Vuelta a La Rioja in early April, failed to crack the top 50 in the remaining seven stages.
“Only the first day was a pure sprint,” Meier said. “The first day was really a pure sprint and the sprints here have been a bit crazy — very hectic and dangerous — which you can expect from this level of racing because there is such a big mix of riders, and a lot of smaller teams. Everyone feels like they have a chance and they are up there in the finale, but they don’t always make the best decisions in the sprints.”
On Saturday, Meier’s 22-year-old teammate Magnus Cort claimed his second top-5 finish after also taking third on stage 4, and according to him, the team’s depth is a tremendous benefit.
“We’ve had a couple of stages that weren’t really sprints,” Meier said. “We thought they could be a sprint, but a team like MTN-Qhubeka has lit it up on the last climb or reduced the bunch and a lot of days even ‘Cav’ didn’t make it to the finish either.
“Caleb is young and will have his days. He understands that we are always going to work for him and help him. But we have guys like Magnus, so we have other cards to play.
“We don’t always have to wait for Caleb, because Magnus is a different type of rider and we all have our opportunities just like I did being in the GC mix this week.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.