Patrick Bevin celebrates stage success. Photo / Getty
Kiwi cyclist Patrick Bevin is one stage away from the biggest prize of his career.
Bevin has won stage seven of the Tour of Turkey, with a dominating performance seeing him take the overall race lead ahead of Sunday night’s final stage.
Coming into the stage second overall, 11 seconds behind leader Eduardo Sepulveda, stage seven was Bevin’s big opportunity to strike a blow, with two tricky climbs on the agenda.
The first, a 7.7 kilometer climb at an average gradient of 5.1 per cent, softened up the legs of his rivals, and on the final climb, a seven kilometer effort at 4.2 per cent, Bevin struck.
With the climb having several steep gradients, Bevin chose that time to attack, set up expertly by his Israel-Premier Tech teammates, including 21-year-old fellow Kiwi Corbin Strong, who claimed an impressive ninth on the stage and sits 15th overall.
With 30 kilometers to go, Bevin’s attack managed to drop Sepulveda, and a kilometer later there were only two riders left with him – handy climbers Jay Vine and Nicolas Edet.
It was an impressive company for a rider who is more of an all-rounder than a pure climber, though he defied that status when he finished second on stage four, that ended with a grueling 9.6 kilometer climb at 7.7 percent.
Bevin finished ahead of top climbers that day, including the (admittedly injured) Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana, though was 15 seconds behind Sepulveda and needed to make that time back in the stages to follow.
So, when his trio dropped Sepulveda and faced nearly 30 miles to the finish, Bevin had to keep pushing, even though his companions weren’t too keen on helping him.
“On the last steep climb my team rode really well – we had a plan at the start of the day to ride hard into the last climb and it was a really tough stage,” Bevin explained.
“Despite the gradients not being overly steep the whole way up, there were some really sharp bits at the bottom and I felt if we hit those really hard we could get the elastic effect and put some guys into trouble. And then we just had to laugh.
“I shouldered a lot of the burden of that last break, I did a lot of the work and I got a bit of help from Jay but Nicolas didn’t really want to help, so the stage was fully on the line.”
With just three of them, and Bevin the only one at full commitment, it was a tough ask to stay away in the flat run-in to the finish, but Sepulveda only had one teammate for support, and the 19-strong chase wasn ‘t fluent, allowing the trio up front to extend their lead and Bevin to envision slipping on the race leader’s turquoise jersey.
That became a reality when the gap hit 50 seconds inside the final kilometers, and while Edet tried to attack to take the stage win, Bevin – the best sprinter of the three but not in a great position having shouldered the bulk of the work – snuck out from behind Edet and Vine and powered away to win the stage with enough time to sit up and punch the air in delight.
The win gave Bevin a 20-second lead over Vine in the general classification and 40 seconds over Sepulveda in third, and was his first victory since 2019, when he stunned the best sprinters in the world to win a finish at the Tour Down Under, before his following seasons became a frustrating mix of close calls and injuries.
That continued into 2022 when he broke his collarbone in just his second raceday of the season, but the 31-year-old is now back to his best, and overall victory at the Tour of Turkey, while a second-tier race, would go down as his best result.
“To come here with such good form is a really nice feeling,” said Bevin.
“One more stage to go, it’s going to be a nervous stage but it’s been a really successful race for us and really happy to finish off some really good teamwork.”
It won’t be straightforward in the final stage, with four ascents of an 800 meter climb at 7.4 percent requiring his team to provide him with good positioning, while Bevin has also been hit by bad luck in final stages before, with a crash. seeing him unable to defend his lead on the final stage of the Tour Down Under in 2019.
Now he has another opportunity for overall glory, and having proven himself as the best rider in the race, only bad luck can stop him.