Edward Theuns ended his final race with Trek-Segafredo with a victory at the Presidential Tour of Turkey stage six Sunday, finally breaking through the stranglehold Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) has had on the bunched finishes.
The 144-kilometer final stage ended in an uphill battle where Theuns finally got the better of Bennett in a tricky, technical final kilometer after the Irish sprinter dove into the last corner with high-speed and crashed. Theuns avoided going down as well, recovered, and sprinted to the win.
Theuns explained: "We had a good gap, and it was nice from Sam Bennett that he wanted to take a pull also. Then he passed in the last corner, inside, and I felt he was going really too fast. He crashed right in front of me, I had to brake full, get out of my pedal, get into my pedal again, but then I could go to (Matteo) Pelucchi's wheel and get the slipstream, and I had really a lot of power left in my legs."
After Greg Daniel put in more than a day's worth of work to help control the four-man breakaway, the rest of the Trek-Segafredo team went to work to place Theuns into the top positions heading into the climb to the line.
Sensing an opportunity, Theuns jumped at the bottom with some 1500 meters to go - the steepest part of the climb - and opened a gap with Bennett and his Bora-hansgrohe teammate Matteo Pelucchi. The three continued to push the pace, with Bennett taking a generous pull before Pelucchi was able to come around to begin a final leadout.
Theuns grabbed Pelucchi's wheel with Bennett tucked in third place. Disaster struck for Bennett when he tried to sneak on the inside of Theuns through the corner with 300 meters remaining, taking an aggressive angle and high-speed into the apex and losing grip on the cobbled road. Theuns somehow evaded a falling Bennett and easily overtook Pelucchi in the final meters for the win.
"I expected the last climb to be a little bit harder," Theuns continued. "The team did a super great job like they have done all week. They put me right at the front [ahead of the climb]. I had a talk with David Hunter (@Cyclingmole) on Twitter, and he said if you are a legend you go from the bottom," he laughed. "So I was repeating this in my head the whole day, and I saw the moment when we turned on [to the climb] and (Diego) Ulissi was doubting, and I said 'okay, let's go full from the bottom.'"
Theuns and his Trek-Segafredo teammates have been unable to solve Bennett all week, who had pocketed four wins ahead of the final stage today. But the frustration was only really felt in yesterday's stage five, explained Theuns:
"It was okay the whole week, I knew Bennett was faster in the sprint, but after yesterday when we made a mistake in the finale 200 meters, I was super, super disappointed. So actually, yesterday evening and this morning I wasn't the most pleasant guy to be with. But now this has changed, and I really have to thank the team a lot, and we can have a good party tonight."
It was Edward Theuns' final race with the American pinstriped team. He joined Trek-Segafredo two years ago, his first time racing in the WorldTour, and he gave the team the best possible farewell today - a class act from a classy rider.
"I am super happy it's my last day riding for Trek-Segafredo, and I am really thankful of the opportunities I have gotten from the team," added Theuns. "I had a hard period after my crash in the Tour (de France) last year, and they always supported me, and I came back, I think, to a higher level. I think there's no better way to thank the team than with a victory like this."
Although Theuns won all the applause, Jarlinson Pantano snuck in with a fourth-place finish and leaped into eighth in the GC to cap off a successful final day for Trek-Segafredo.
Trek-Segafredo's hard work all week had finally reaped the benefits: the team ended the Tour of Turkey with a win, three riders in the top 20 in the overall classification, and the green points jersey.
Q&A: Edward Theuns
by press officer Matt Rendell (working for the Tour of Turkey)
It's a relief because the team did a super job all week and, I mean, until yesterday I always got beaten on pure strength and speed by Bennett, I didn't do anything wrong. But yesterday we did a mistake in the final 200m. I was almost sure I could win, but we did a mistake that probably cost me the victory. I was angry and frustrated yesterday evening, and today I'm super happy I can take a win here. It's a reward for the team working super hard all week long. They had confidence in me which was important. We had the objective to win one stage here, and we did it. The green jersey is a bonus. I didn't count on it. Bennett won 4 stages, so it's strange to take the green jersey on the last stage, but I'm happy to finish the season like this. I can have good rest and look forward to the next season.
What memory will you take from Turkey?
We had a lot of fun. It's a beautiful country, riding next to the sea was nice, the weather was nice, it's warmer than home which was really nice. After the short night between yesterday and today, it was hard to get back on the bike this morning, but we enjoyed it here, and I hope we can have a nice party in Istanbul.
Describe the final and what line you took to stay out of trouble.
First of all, the team did a whole week a good job putting me in the front. We came here with some good lead-out guys in (Marco) Coledan and (Boy) van Poppel. They are really good at it. We took the first corner, I was in the front 5, then the other guys hesitated, and I went full from the bottom. We were on top of the climb, and we had a little gap. I was a bit surprised that Bennett took over. He went ahead of me on the last corner, but he crashed, and I could handle the bike and get around him. Pelucchi didn't have so much power left, so I took his slipstream and went past and looked back. I saw I had a slight gap, and I could enjoy the victory.
Is this race worthy of its WorldTour status?
It's a pity there are not so many WorldTour teams. The route was good, the roads too. There was not a lot of trouble: by comparison, in Belgium, you have road furniture, etc. The roads were good and wide, and I liked the route. Some say that maybe a race of 200km at the end of the season is a bit too long, but it depends on the race situation. On stage 2 we rode really slow, so 200km is too long, but in the second one we were faster, and 200km was OK. There were chances for the sprinters and for the climbers, so for me, it was a nice race.
How frustrated were you before your win?
The first three stages I was frustrated, but I knew Bennett was faster. I was doing everything I could and made no mistakes, and [then] you can be less frustrated. But yesterday I was frustrated because I really felt I could get the win. That gave me the power to give it one more go. This morning I told the directors I didn't really feel like it, but I know in the final I always get the adrenaline rush, the will to win the race. I had the confidence to go from the bottom of the climb. In the end, Bennett was still there, but the problem solved itself. In my last race for Trek Segafredo, it's a nice gift to finish off. We had a nice two years; I'm grateful for the opportunity. They supported me after the crash last year and allowed me to step up to another level.