After Max Stedman took the General Classification win in the 2020 edition of the UCI 2.1 Tour of Antalya shortly before the Covid pandemic brought cycle racing to a halt, WiV SunGod deservedly took to the line to defend their title over 4 stages from 10th to 13th February 2022.
Antalya, a historic city bordered by the Taurus mountains on the Turkish Mediterranean coast is renowned for its culture and beautiful scenery. The ancient city is said to have been established in 241 BC by Attalos, King of Pergammon who wanted to create a ‘Heaven on Earth’.
Four jerseys were to be contested during the Tour of Antalya, the magenta (pink) jersey for the leader of the General Classification, the yellow Sprinters jersey (with the in-race primes giving sprinters both points and valuable bonus seconds of 3”, 2” and 1”), the orange King of the mountains jersey and the green jersey for the leader of the ‘Climate Change Awareness Sprints’. In addition, bonus seconds of 10”, 6” and 4” were available for the first three riders across each stages finishing lines with points awarded to the first five riders.
Following heavy snow in the prior weeks, the riders were greeted by warm early spring sunshine for much of the four-stage race, in contrast to the wind and rain experienced two years previously.
A scenic return to Antalya, Turkey after 2 years
WiV SunGod fielded four of their new signings in their 7-rider team: Matt Gibson, Gruffudd Lewis, Ben Perry and Matthew Teggart, who joined Jacob Scott, Rob Scott and Rory Townsend. The rest of the field included 9 ProTour teams, 12 other Continental teams and a National team representing Germany.
The WiV SunGod team’s goals for the Tour were to race aggressively, get into breaks, compete for jerseys and the stage wins on the sprint stages. A high GC placing was also an ambition if the opportunity arose as the race evolved.
Before the tour commenced, team owner Tim Elverson posted:
“Here we go, first stage race of ’22’ @tourofantalya it’s early in season but lads are up for it and as defending champions we will be getting stuck in #ltgtr”
Stage 1: Side-Antalya 142km
Stage 1 was largely flat with just one categorised climb positioned 31km from the finish. WiV SunGod took little time to start fulfilling their Tour goals with Perry joining a group of 5 riders just 11km into the stage. Perry took 2nd place and 2 bonus seconds at the sprint after 50km. The breakaway was held in check with their lead limited to around 2 minutes. However, this was enough for the breakaway to compete for the KOM prime which Perry duly won and with it the orange KOM jersey to be worn on Stage 2.
With the breakaway caught the peloton swept into the closing kilometres with the teams attempting to set up their sprint trains. Despite the wide straight finishing road a crash towards the front of the peloton disrupted many riders including Townsend who crashed heavily and suffered for it over the next couple of days. This left Gibson surfing the wheels and achieving a commendable 6th place.
Ben Perry wears the KoM Jersey after Stage 1
After the Stage 1 success, team owner Tim Elverson posted:
“We started day 1 with a podium, a Jersey, a day out in the break and 2 in top ten on GC #fair #ltgtr #stagewinwerecomingforya #againsquadrodeasasquad”
Stage 2: Kemer-Antalya 180km
Stage 2 was longer and had a more demanding profile with 2 categorised KOM climbs. However, the last 50km were largely flat which could allow any breakaways to be chased down and another chance for the sprinters to demonstrate their mettle.
After 9km Jacob Scott attacked creating a 3-man breakaway. He was 2nd in KOM prime after 48km, won Climate Change Awareness sprint after 77km and was 2nd again in KOM prime at the half-way mark. His efforts won him the green Climate Change Awareness jersey for wear on Stage 3 and he stood in 2nd place in the KOM standings.
The peloton came back together with 73km to go, but WiV SunGod were not finished yet as with 33km to go Perry took 2nd and Teggart 3rd in the intermediate sprint earning them 2 sec and 1 sec bonuses respectively.
In a more controlled finishing sprint Gibson worked his way through to a fantastic 2nd place with Teggart close behind in 5th. This left WiV SunGod with 3 riders in the top ten on GC standing with Gibson 3rd, Perry 6th and Teggart 8th.
Matt Gibson sprints to 2nd place on Stage 2
After the Stage 2 success, Elverson posted:
‘Another big day deserves another post, on podium twice once for a great @wiv_sungod team effort to deliver @matt_gibson96 to great 2nd and @matthew_teggart to 5th, @jakerscott14 on podium for sprints and other parts of the wheel dropping into place #ltgtr #bigteameffort #bigdaytocome’
Stage 3: Aspendos-Termessos 110km
This relatively short stage of 110km with its summit finish after an 8.8km climb at an average of 5.8% was expected to be where the likely GC contenders would make their move and be potentially decisive for the destination of the magenta jersey. It started in the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Aspendos and finished at an altitude of 1,050m on the west side of Gulluck mountain near Termessos.
2 riders made an early breakaway mopping up most points on offer throughout the stage but with Jacob Scott taking 3rd place in the Climate Change Awareness sprint after 53km meant he retained his green jersey into the final stage.
Jersey wearers including Jacob Scott in green line up for Stage 3
Approaching the final intermediate sprint with 21km to go, Gibson moved off the front of the peloton accompanied by Jacob Scott to take the remaining point and bonus second on offer. This left Gibson tied at the top of the points standings but he did not secure the yellow jersey on countback.
Jacob Scott worked strongly on the climb as the peloton splintered leaving Perry in the final group of around 25 riders with just the last few hairpin bends remaining.
The Uno-X Pro Cycling team took control in the closing kilometre with Jacob Hindsgaul taking the win and GC lead. Perry came in 4 sec down in 13th place which moved him to 9th on GC.
Jacob Scott wearing the green Climate Change Awareness jersey
Stage 4: Antalya-Antalya 156km
Jacob Scott made a last gasp effort to win the KOM jersey at the prime after 15km. However, with Teggart coming over the line 1st and Scott 3rd, the orange jersey just eluded him.
Scott did secure the green Climate Change Awareness jersey winning the final sprint with 30km to go. Townsend showed he was recovering from his Stage 1 crash by taking 2nd here.
Teggart made a late bid for glory joining a three-up breakaway in the last 25km. With the breakaway brought back it was down to another bunch sprint with Gibson again shining by taking 5th place. Perry finished 7th on GC just 10sec behind the winner.
Stage 4 finishing sprint
All-in-all a great race for WiV SunGod who were clearly the main animators over the duration of the Tour. Gibson took 2nd, 5th and 6th places on stage finishes, Teggart took a 5th, Jacob Scott took the green jersey and Perry was 7th on GC. They were ably supported throughout by Lewis, Rob Scott and Townsend.
Jacob Scott wins the green Climate Change Awareness Jersey
Special thanks to Directeur Sportif Simon Holt, mechanic Eoin O’Donohoe , soigneurs Claire Buttivant and Emily Walters and photographer Dan King.
Article by Paul Stedman