Edward Theuns hoped the final climb of stage three at the Presidential Tour of Turkey would be the undoing of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the Irishman held strong and sprinted to his third win in three days.
Despite a change of tactics, Theuns was unable to come around Bennett and settled as runner-up again, although this time he was left a little more frustrated after feeling more hopeful with the much harder finale.
"In the end, I think we as a team could make it hard, but United (Arab) Emirates could make it hard, and they did, but Bennett was climbing also pretty good, so I just tried to save as much power on the climb as I could for the sprint," explained Theuns. "In the end, he was still there, and today I tried another tactic, I tried to take his wheel. I wanted to try and come from there, but when he goes, he just takes one and a half meters on me. In the second acceleration, I can come back a little bit, but he's just far more explosive than I am. It's not easy to beat him.
"I am a little bit more [frustrated than yesterday] because I hoped today maybe we could get over the climb without him, but it didn't work, his climbing is also pretty good because I think we were only left with 20 guys at the top, or maybe 30. So that means he's also climbing pretty good. He's the fastest of the bunch here, and I think I am the second fastest, so we are one and two again. Yeah, you cannot say a lot about it."
For the start of stage three, Trek-Segafredo also played different tactics, sending Greg Daniel up the road in a three-man breakaway, leaving the duty of chasing to other teams and giving the team a welcomed day off from the fatiguing grind.
In the final 25 kilometers, Daniel dropped his two breakaway companions on the penultimate climb and made a solo bid for glory, but the ensuing non-technical downhill tipped the advantage heavily to the chasing peloton.
Theuns said: "Yeah it was actually pretty good; in the beginning, the guys from Bora-Hansgrohe said they did not want to pull, and we for sure didn't haven't pull because Greg was there. And if the peloton would have kept going at the pace we did in the first 20 or 30 kilometers than maybe he had a good chance, but (United Arab) Emirates started to ride pretty fast, and Bora (Hansgrohe) helped. I think he did a pretty strong job because he stayed in front alone for a really long time and in the bunch, we were riding hard. In the end, it's a pity for him that he couldn't win anything there."
With 10 kilometers remaining Daniel was swept up by the bunch, and Trek-Segafredo – already lined up in anticipation of plan B – switched their focus to Theuns and the inevitable bunch finish.
"It happens sometimes for a sprint it's better to hold one side of the road because then there is less pushing and stuff like that," clarified Theuns on why the team was lined at the front beside the other chasing teams. "I mean the team did a super job there: (Marco) Coledan and (Eugenio) Alafaci were there, [and] with two working they kept us in the front and then me and (Jarlinson) Pantano could stay in the line really easy, so that was really good to go into the final climb.
"Yeah, the team is working super strong but it is hard to get a sprint victory against Bennett because he is just faster than me now."