A star-studded field is set to line up in Alanya for the 58th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye (8-15 October) this time around. The organisation warmly welcomes all 164 participants. Stage 1 to Antalya looks like a first opportunity for the sprinters, firstly the super stars of the Tour de France Mark Cavendish and Jasper Philipsen, while the big names that pop up for contesting the overall classification are Alexey Lutsenko and Jay Vine.

One of the many news from the world of cycling during the week preceding the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye has been the contract extension of Mark Cavendish. The British sprinter announced his retirement at the end of 2023 during the Giro d’Italia in May but Astana’s team boss Alexandr Vinokourov offered him the opportunity to target one more stage win at the Tour de France in 2024, which would make him the sole record holder after he paired with Eddy Merckx with a total of 34 victories. In four participations to the TUR (2014, 2015, 2019 and 2021), Cavendish took 11 stage wins. It’s also a record he shares with another legendary cyclist: “The gorilla” André Greipel who left his legacy in Turkiye. 

It’s no coincidence that Cavendish has chosen the TUR to resume racing after he crashed out of the Tour de France on July 8. He did so knowing that bunch sprints await him along the Mediterranean coast and possibly in Istanbul, but also aware of the presence of Jasper Philipsen who took over from him as the top sprinter of the Tour de France. The fast man from Alpecin-Deceuninck won stage 7 in Bordeaux and Cavendish was second the day before he hit the ground badly. It was one of four bunch sprint successes for the Belgian who took the green jersey of the points classification to Paris for the first time at the age of 25. He’s also no stranger to Turkiye as he took part in the past two editions of the TUR with three stage wins to his account.

The battle of the sprinters set to begin in Antalya (stage 1) might be much more than a duel between Cavendish and Philipsen as Alvaro Hodeg (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Moschetti (Q36.5), Matthew Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matteo Malucelli (Bingoal WB), Attilio Viviani (Corratec-Selle Italia) and Timothy Dupont (Tarteletto-Isorex) have high ambitions as well. It is to be noted that Cavendish isn’t the only sprinter selected by Astana. Gleb Syritsa comes fresh from Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia where he claimed two bunch gallops including the conclusive one in Kuala Lumpur on September 30. The squad from Kazakhstan also features Cees Bol who is one of the best lead out men in the world.

Driven by the necessity of moving up in the teams’ world ranking, Astana clearly targets more than bunch sprint victories in this race. They have three cards to play on GC, firstly with their Kazakh stars Evgeny Fedorov and Alexey Lutsenko who made a 1-2 at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, on October 5. Two days before, Lutsenko won the individual time trial. Twice in the top 10 of the Tour de France overall (7th in 2021 and 8th in 2022), he also impressed on European soil recently with winning the Memorial Marco-Pantani in Italy in mid-September. Astana also have an on-form super climber in store with Colombia’s Harold Tejada who impressed at Gran Piemonte in Italy on October 5 (8th) just before flying to Turkiye.

However, the hot favourite for the overall win in the 58th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye remains Jay Vine. This race simply launched the career of the current Australian champion for individual time trial who won the first stage race of the 2023 season (the Santos Tour Down Under) under his new colours of UAE Team Emirates. The TUR was his first ever pro race in Europe in April 2021 and he came second overall – also at the Göğübeli uphill finish – to Spain’s José Manuel Diaz. He has since won stages at La Vuelta a España and he’s touted to be a potential Grand Tour winner.

Stage 3 in and around Fethiye seems tailor-made for him. The unprecedented uphill finish in Babadağ is the big attraction of the course this year. In 15 kilometres, the road will take the riders from sea level to almost 2000 metres. The last 3km have an average gradient of 10% with curves at 17%. It’s a short stage (104km) at the difference of stage 6 from Bodrum to Selçuk (193km) that will give the protagonists a chance to reshuffle the general classification.