If we take Tom Boonen’s epics out of the equation there’s no doubt about the best finale of the year.
The end game of stage seven of the Presidential Tour of Turkey saw a break of seven riders clear with six kilometres to go.
Despite their lead plummeting as an angry peloton closed them down, there were riders skiving and scheming.
One man was having none of it and with just over five kilometres to go he bolted – Iljo Keisse.
As his erstwhile partners in crime debated the issue of who should – and indeed, could – chase the Belgian, Keisse built his lead.
As he soloed under the red kite it looked as if QuickStep were about to easily add another victory to their stunning 2012 roll of honour.
But that smooth Turkish asphalt had sheen to it in the hot afternoon sun and as Keisse gingerly took the last corner of the day – a tight hairpin right hander into the finishing straight – his front wheel tucked in under him and he was down.
With what looked like all the time in the world, he picked himself up and re-mounted, only to discover that his chain was off.
Again, with all of the urgency of a man out for a Sunday potter, he dismounted, put the chain back in its rightful place, had a look back down the road and pedalled off.
In marked contrast to Keisse’s cool, calm and collected demeanour, behind him, the hounds of Hell were unleashed as the bunch streamed round the corner, the lead out men doing their final spells before handing over to Alpha Males.
It looked over for Keisse as the biggest dogs in the pack – Petacchi, Renshaw and Kittel – lunged, pummelled and swerved after him.
‘Come on Keisse, for goodness sake!’ Eurosport commentator Carlton Kirby screamed into his microphone – and for once we agreed with him.
Keisse took a final glance back, lifted himself from the saddle, once, twice – whist behind the big shoulders of Kittel began to fill the screen, but too late.
Keisse’s arms went high and we remembered why it’s the best sport in the world.
On the Tuesday after the race, Keisse took time to ring VeloVeritas to tell us about the ride of his life.
Iljo, congratulations, a beautiful victory – in the breakaway you had that glint in your eye.
“Thank you, I was feeling better every day in Turkey.
“There were some mountain stages to start but as the race went in to the flatter stages I was very motivated.
“I was hoping to win selection for our Giro team – as it turned out that didn’t happen, but I was really focussed on a win.”
You went alone with just over five kilometres to go.
“There were two other guys I was worried about – the Astana rider, Andrey Zeits, was strongest on the hills and Mikhail Ignateyev (Katusha) is always a rider you have to watch, you never know how good he is and I thought he was maybe playing with us.
“I went alongside him and told him; “I know you can do so much better, I’m watching you and I won’t let you go!”
“Before I made the break, I tried a few times to get away, not really attacks, just raising the speed.
“We had a tailwind and I knew that if we were riding at 50/55 kph then it would be hard for the bunch to catch us.”
What caused the crash?
“It was warm, and on the big city roads you maybe have some diesel oil?
“I could see it was shiny, that’s why I took my time and went really slowly.”
You were so calm about it.
“I’ve seen it on YouTube many times now and when I watch it I get nervous!
“I really can’t remember what I was thinking – maybe it was “f**k! I’ve lost it!”
“I can tell you that I maybe looked really, really cool, but if you were to check my heart rate at that moment – it wouldn’t be so calm!”
Your best win on the road, Iljo?
“Yeah, of course, I’ve had kermis and criterium wins and victories in UCI races but this is a real world-class event.
“All of the big sprinters are here, except Cavendish, and if you can hold off a peloton like that it says a lot about your condition.”
It was nice shot of the podium – you in the middle of Kittel and Petacchi.
“The finish line pictures are cool too; it looks like I won in a great sprint – that looks good!”
Does this win mark a new start for you?
“I had a good winter, from my first Six Day to my last.
“And this spring I’ve ridden races which I’ve dreamed of – my first start in Paris-Roubaix, for example.
“I’ve always been a motivated rider but being part of this Omega Pharma QuickStep team is part of the reason why I’m going so well.
“When you’re part of the best team in the world, doing your job well, it gives you motivation to do even better.”
You must be pleased that the team has stuck by you.
“I was the last rider signed – on December 26th, but this is my third year with the team and I’m pleased they’ve had faith in me.
“It’s good to give something back – I always said I could do go work and ride well on the road.”
The team has had a great start to the year.
“The last two years we weren’t so strong – and there are a lot of good teams in the peloton.
“But this year the way we have been riding has gained us a lot of respect.
“When the team is riding like this and everyone is looking at you, there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of responsibility – that makes you try even harder.”
Will we see you back on the boards, this winter?
“I love the track and will continue to ride it.
“The reason I didn’t ride the Worlds was because of where it was held – Melbourne; that would have been a lot of travelling for me.
“If they been in London or Bordeaux then I would have ridden – but I couldn’t be away for all that time during the Classics season.
“My Six Day programme isn’t set yet, but I’ll probably ride the ones I usually do.”
What’s the team’s attitude to you riding the Sixes?
“I didn’t attend any of the team training camps because I was riding Six Days.
“I did two weeks on the road after the last Six Day and in my first road race I rode well – that proves that the Sixes are good preparation.
“Perhaps not for a race which involves a lot of climbing where you’d need specific hill training, but for most of the early season races it’s good.”
Maybe a little regret at missing the Worlds madison?
“Kenny and Gijs win was great for Belgian track cycling.
“Kenny showed that he’s getting better every year – he did a good ride in the points, also.
“Their win was a surprise but they rode a good race, everyone was watching the Australian team but they rode their own race.
“I have dreamt of a world title, that would be special, but I have to wait until 2013 to think about that, now.”
Will it be you and Kenny at the Kuipke in November?
“I don’t think so – I think Kenny will ride with Gijs, who’s a great young rider.
“I don’t know who I will ride with.
“But whoever it is, it will be a good contest – that’s for sure!”
What’s the programme, now?
“I ride the Four Days of Dunkerque then the Tour of Belgium and the ZLM Tour.
“I had really wanted to do the Giro but the programme I have is a good one.
“I had really wanted to ride a Grand Tour but the Vuelta is very difficult, this year – there are 10 hill top finishes, I think.”
I read that if your best friend was in the same position as you were with a failed UCI controle, you may advise them to say nothing and accept it?
“I really don’t know – I had three years of uncertainty and it cost me a lot of money.
“I wasn’t doping, there was no performance enhancement property in what I tested for, but I was suspended for two years.
“I was on the bike, off the bike; it was very, very complicated.
“But if you’re innocent then you don’t give up, you can’t.
“If it happened again, I don’t know if I’d give it up, I really don’t – it’s very complicated but you always have to fight, don’t you?”
Result - Stage 7 of the Presidential Tour of Turkey 2012
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre – ISD
4 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
5 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 Robert Förster (Ger) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
7 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
8 Daniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
9 Alexey Tsatevitch (Rus) Katusha Team
10 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
11 James Van Landschoot (Bel) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
12 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
13 Boy Van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
14 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
15 Manuel Antonio Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
16 Juan Pablo Forero Carrero (Col) Colombia – Coldeportes
17 Danail Andonov Petrov (Bul) Caja Rural
18 Vladimir Isaychev (Rus) Katusha Team
19 Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Team Europcar
20 Jacob Keough (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
21 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
22 Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn) Team Saxo Bank
23 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
24 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
25 Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha Team
26 Ivaïlo Gabrovski (Bul) Konya Torku Seker Spor
27 Wilson Marenetes Torres (Col) Colombia – Coldeportes
28 Alexandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
29 Cristiano Benenati (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
30 Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
31 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Andalucia
32 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team
33 Andre Cardoso S. Martins (Por) Caja Rural
34 Jordi Simon Casulleras (Spa) Andalucia
35 Kiel Reijnen (USA) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
36 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
37 Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
38 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
39 Ivan Stevic (Srb) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
40 Rafael Andriato (Bra) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
41 Adrian Palomares Villaplana (Spa) Andalucia
42 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
43 Florian Guillou (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
44 Rafaâ Chtioui (Tun) Team Europcar
45 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
46 Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
47 Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha Team
48 Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
49 Jonas Jorgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
50 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
51 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
52 Jesus Rosendo Prado (Spa) Andalucia
53 Gabor Kasa (Srb) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
54 Antonio Cabello Baena (Spa) Andalucia
55 Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) GreenEdge Cycling Team
56 Martin Gilbert (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10
57 Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team
58 Jean-Luc Delpech (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
59 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar
60 Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano
61 Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
62 Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
63 Filippo Baggio (Ita) Utensilnord Named
64 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
65 Jérome Baugnies (Bel) Team NetApp
66 Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Team Saxo Bank
67 William Routley (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10
68 Sébastien Duret (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
69 Davide Vigano (Ita) Lampre – ISD
70 Ahmet Akdilek (Tur) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
71 Joey Rosskopf (USA) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
72 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) Utensilnord Named
73 Enzo Moyano (Arg) Caja Rural
74 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Team Saxo Bank
75 Marek Canecky (Svk) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
76 Fatih Harmanci (Tur) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
77 Philip Deignan (Irl) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
78 Mehdi Sohrabi (IRI) Lotto Belisol Team
79 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team
80 Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Argos-Shimano
81 Fabio Andrescol Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia – Coldeportes
82 Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
83 Yuri Metlushenko (Ukr) Konya Torku Seker Spor
84 Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Team Europcar
85 Fabricio Ferrari (Uru) Caja Rural
86 Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
87 Thierry Hupond (Fra) Argos-Shimano
88 Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
89 Amir Zargari (IRI) AG2R La Mondiale
90 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
91 Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia
92 Gustavo César Veloso (Spa) Andalucia
93 Hugo Houle (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10
94 Lucas Sebastien Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
95 Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
96 Laszlo Bodrogi (Fra) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
97 Tony Hurel (Fra) Team Europcar
98 Juan Pablo Suarez (Col) Colombia – Coldeportes
99 Andi Bajc (Slo) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
100 Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Colombia – Coldeportes
101 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
102 Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha Team
103 Jérôme Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar
104 Leif Hoste (Bel) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
105 Paolo Locatelli (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
106 Laurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
107 Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar
108 Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
109 Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
110 Sander Cordeel (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
111 Francesco Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural
112 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
113 Cheng Ji (Chn) Argos-Shimano
114 Volodymir Bileka (Ukr) Konya Torku Seker Spor
115 Dmytro Krivtsov (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
116 Karl Menzies (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
117 Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
118 Filippo Fortin (Ita) Team Type 1 – Sanofi
119 Massimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre – ISD
120 Brett Daniel Lancaster (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
121 Jens Mouris (Ned) GreenEdge Cycling Team
122 Andrea Di Corrado (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
123 Marco Coledan (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
124 Marco Canola (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox
125 Simon Lambert Lemay (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10
126 Karol Domagalski (Pol) Caja Rural
127 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
128 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s 0:01:34
129 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:00
130 Davide Ricci Bitti (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia 0:01:34
131 Marco Bandiera (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
132 Michael Hepburn (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
133 Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
134 Bünyamin Ozdemir (Tur) Salcano – Arnavütkoy
135 Romain Hardy (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
136 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
137 Albert Timmer (Ned) Argos-Shimano
138 Javier Ramírez Abeja (Spa) Andalucia
139 Diego Caccia (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
140 Matteo Fedi (Ita) Utensilnord Named
141 Olekdandr Kvachuk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
142 Alfredo Balloni (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
143 Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Spidertech Powered By C10
144 Adrian Hegyvary (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
145 Adrian Kurek (Pol) Utensilnord Named
146 Oleksandr Sheydyk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
147 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Argos-Shimano
148 Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
149 Stiven Fanelli (Ita) Utensilnord Named
150 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s
151 Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Team NetApp
152 Timon Seubert (Ger) Team NetApp
153 Blaz Jarc (Slo) Team NetApp
154 Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:41
155 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Utensilnord Named 0:02:00
156 Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:18
157 Jetse Bol (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:56
158 Ronan Van Zandbeek (Ned) Argos-Shimano 0:03:57
159 Ryan Roth (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10 0:04:21
160 Hilton Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
161 Edoardo Girardi (Ita) Utensilnord Named 0:04:34
162 Gianfranco Visconti (Swi) Utensilnord Named
163 Huseyin Ozcan (Tur) Konya Torku Seker Spor
164 Serhy Grechyn (Ukr) Konya Torku Seker Spor 0:05:54
165 Andy Cappelle (Bel) Accent Jobs – Willems Veranda’s 0:06:28
166 Mirac Kal (Tur) Konya Torku Seker Spor
167 Mustafa Sayar (Tur) Konya Torku Seker Spor 0:07:27
DNS Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
DNS Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
DNS Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller