Turkish President Gül powers pedals
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
AA PhotoThe Presidential Tour of Cycling truly lived up to its name on April 11, when President Abdullah Gül rode a bike at Ankara’s Çankaya Palace in an event to promote the 50th anniversary of the event.
Gül, along with Youth and Sports Minister Çağatay Kılıç and the sport global governing body UCI’s chief, Brian Cookson, led a group of journalists in the press tour. Upon completing the 1.7-kilometer ride, Gül said it was tough to ride in hilly Çankaya, where the presidential residence is located.
“The route had ups and downs, it was not easy at all,” he said, before continuing that he hoped to send out a message with his participation. “Cycling is a way of life in developed countries. People go to their jobs on bikes, no matter what their positions or names are. It is also a highly recommended sport for health. So I hope that this [event] promotes [the sport of cycling].” Cookson praised Gül’s support for the event, which will be held between April 27 and May 4. “I’ve seen for the first time that a president rode a bike to promote the tour. That was very impressive,” Cookson told reporters, adding that he had been promised by Gül and Kılıç that the Turkish state would continue investing in cycling.
President Gül gives a plaque to Cookson,
president of the Union Cycliste Internationale
(UCI), after cycling at the Çankaya Palace’s
Emin Müftüoğlu, the head of Turkey’s Cycling Federation, said they were working with municipalities to increase cycling roads across the country, adding that a project to build Turkey’s first velodrome was ongoing.
Twenty-one teams and 168 riders will compete in this year’s 50th edition of the Presidential Tour of Cycling, or Tour of Turkey, organizers have announced.
Müftüoğlu said the number was lower than last year as they were trying to reduce the number of accidents during the races. The eight-stage race will span a 1,254-kilometer route, starting from the Mediterranean district of Alanya and finishing in Istanbul.
The eight-stage journey will follow the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts on the first seven stages, from Alanya to İzmir. After transferring the teams from İzmir to Istanbul by air, the tour, dubbed “the world’s only intercontinental cycling stage race” will witness its traditional finish in Turkey’s largest city on May 4.
President Gül reiterated his claim that the tour is playing a huge role “promoting Turkey’s beauties to people from all over the world,” saying it is “probably worth more than an advertising budget worth a hundred million dollars.”
In this year’s edition, Torku Konyaspor will represent Turkey, while Astana, OmegaPharma-Quick Step, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol are also on the ticket. Cookson said the Tour of Turkey was “improving every year” and is now “one level below the Grand Tours” such as those in France, Italy and Spain. The UCI chairman also claimed that two years of doping incidents did not tarnish its reputation. “They did not cause any more damage than any other tour. Of course, some people have done foolish things but the important thing is we catch them and sanction them,” he said.
Last year, Turkey’s Mustafa Sayar won the tour but was subsequently stripped of his title after testing positive for banned substances. Eritrean rider Natnael Berhane was then declared the winner. The initial 2012 winner, Bulgarian Ivailo Gabrovski was also stripped of his title after testing positive for banned substance EPO.