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On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

06.11.23 08:31 6Text: Gabriwa (translated by AI)Photos: GabriwaFear and loathing in Istanbul. Our GabriWa receives a wildcard as a speed reporter and reports directly from the front row, car-free.06.11.23 08:31 227

On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

06.11.23 08:31 227 Gabriwa (translated by AI) Gabriwa
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Fear and loathing in Istanbul. Our GabriWa receives a wildcard as a speed reporter and reports directly from the front row, car-free.06.11.23 08:31 227

In the night, all cats are black. Likewise, all streets and the landscapes they traverse turn black at night. Thus, the area around Izmir at night hardly differs from Trausdorf an der Wulka.
For almost half an hour now, I have been sitting in a Mercedes Vito with a definitely not factory-installed starry sky in the back. My eyelids are getting heavier; it was a long day that just doesn't want to end.
The reason for my journey? Unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to participate in the 'Tour of Türkiye' as a reporter. Along with two colleagues, I will be watching the seventh and eighth stages of this tour, and from a perspective unusual for me – namely from a support vehicle or, thanks to my press pass, up close and personal right from the front row, without any barriers.

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  • On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

Selçuk - İzmir

Half past seven. The alarm rings. Only four hours of sleep - I would have liked more, but there's no time to complain. Today, the pros have nearly 160 kilometers on their schedule, so we head off to the start after a quick breakfast to witness the sign-in ceremony and all the hustle and bustle around it.
Fortunately, we discover a catering tent where we can indulge in the most important meal of the day, the second breakfast. We enjoy Simit and drink tea while the teams are greeted and interviewed by Sarper Günsal.
Our organizer urges us to hurry - we need to get moving before the race starts; otherwise, we won't have a chance to catch up with the peloton. We devise our plan on the go in the car. We agree to wait for the peloton at the summit of the first category 2 climb, after 53 kilometers.

The mountain finish is quite unspectacular. The multilane road, as well as all other road sections, are completely closed to traffic and seem to be controlled by police officers every 100 meters. There's also a lot of military around - fully armed, with submachine guns in camouflage, they closely monitor the situation. I too am thoroughly scrutinized and deemed harmless.

I only follow the race from the sidelines - in the car, the driver lets the live broadcast run on his mobile phone. After the riders and the convoy of support and team vehicles have left us at the mountain finish, we hurry back to the Mercedes and resume the chase.
A few stragglers try to catch up to the main field in the slipstream of various cars. The effort is written on the young athletes' faces, and I pull out the camera, leaning far out of the car with the window open. Any closer, and I would need a race number myself!
We make our way through the cars ahead of us and get closer and closer to the main field.

  • On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

A mix of adrenaline and euphoria flows through me. How absurd is this situation? I'm sitting in the back of a support vehicle and have the unique opportunity to take photos of the 58th edition of the Tour of Türkiye! Crazy, but true.

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The rider exchanges a few words with our companion: "We have no chance to overtake the main field. We have to either stay behind them or think of an alternative route."
Demir, said driver, was an ambulance driver in Istanbul for over ten years. Rolling into the finish line behind the field and missing all the action is therefore not an option. With his phone at the ready, he selects the next exit, and soon we find ourselves on a single-lane service road. I hadn't expected it, but as a little bonus, we get a taste of what a rally stage in Turkey might feel like. A hundred on farm tracks with tractor traffic? Right in the middle of it all.

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By some miracle, we manage to get back onto the closed-off course unscathed, and that well ahead of the pack, which allows us a clear ride to the finish in Izmir.

After crossing the finish line, I have the chance to go directly into the recovery area to watch the athletes and their coaches - a unique experience.

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Istanbul - Sultanahmet

After another short night - the flight from Izmir to Istanbul was delayed by an hour - the same routine: alarm - shower - breakfast - car. On the way to the start, Istanbul passes by our eyes, or rather: by the windows of our taxi.
A city of incredible size, about as big as Vorarlberg, twice as big if you count the outskirts. Officially, more than 16 million people live here - but the actual number is probably much higher. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and has an incredible history to look back on.
But there's little time for that - our destination is Sultanahmet Square, where the eighth and thus final stage will take place. The setup is the same as the day before: Sign-In, Sarper Günsal (who, by the way, speaks quite good Italian in addition to English) and the second breakfast in the VIP area... the hard life of a Bikeboard journalist, unvarnished.

Our tour guide lets us know that we definitely won't be riding in the field today; apparently, this little excursion was not endorsed by the UCI. Anything that's fun is forbidden.
No matter, our plan for today is to ride the course ahead of the peloton and enjoy the atmosphere along the way. Everywhere you find people waving flags - the interest in the Tour seems to be high. From children to the elderly: everyone is standing by the roadside and celebrating the event.

After we managed the route without major incidents (I was admonished for climbing onto the car roof unasked during the drive to take photos - but well, who hasn't that happened to), we once again reach Sultanahmet Square. Nervously, I look for a suitable place to document the finish line as best as possible, but without success.

Fortunately, we make the acquaintance of an official representative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and just one phone call later, I am holding an official high-visibility vest for press photographers in my hands.
"Do you want to go behind the barricades? That's no problem at all!", assures us a friendly lady from the organizing team. Promptly, we find ourselves crouched next to three moderately pleased, real press photographers about 20 meters behind the finish line, on a spot about one square meter in size. The minutes until the sprint finish are intense, the fans create a tense atmosphere. Nervously, I check the settings of the camera to ensure that I can capture the decisive moment.

  • On the Move: Tour of Türkiye 2023

Istanbul

Whoever spends only a day in Istanbul, in truth, wasn't really there. After the finish line, while the winners are still being celebrated by the crowd on stage, we pack our things and make our way.
We can't visit the Hagia Sophia on such short notice, but as a small bonus, we are shown the Basilica Cistern, an impressive structure built during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD.

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Originally intended as a water reservoir for the palace, today it primarily serves as a photo spot for tourists like me. Unfortunately, the excursion into history lasts not even an hour, then it's off to the restaurant and back to the hotel.

It's just before midnight, and I'm sitting in the hotel again, typing my thoughts into the laptop. What remains of nearly 48 hours at Tour of Türkiye?
Goosebumps, definitely. And the certainty that I will surely return to Turkey soon - the next flight is already booked. What will I do there? I don't have a precise plan, but all the time in the world.

Link to the official 'Tour of Türkiye' website