The last full weekend of February was a busy one for the pros with the Volta ao Algarve, Ruta del Sol and Tour des Alpes Maritime and Haut Var all finishing.
And with much of the talk of Belgium’s Wonder Boy Remco [VeloVeritas friend Vik has banned me from mentioning his name] it was easy to overlook an excellent result by a British rider.
Canyon dhb p/b Soreen rider, 23 year-old Max Stedman won the UCI 2.1 Tour of Antalya in Turkey with the man from Crowthorne, UK, and his team fending off the likes of World Tour team Israel Start-Up Nation, Italian Pro-Conti Giro-tempered Bardiani, East European hardmen Adria Mobil as well as Belgium’s perennial Vlaanderen Pro-Conti foxes.
We caught up with Max a few days after the biggest win of his career.
Nice job, Max – What was your expectation going in to the race?
“I have a blackboard thing in my room where I mark up my next goal and I had ‘top five Antalya’ marked up on it.
“I knew I had good legs but it wasn’t until we came back from racing in Mallorca and I saw the race profile that I put my hand up and said to our manager, Tim Elverson that I wanted to go for it.”
Some handy teams in there: Israel Start-Up Nation, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Alpecin-Fenix, Bardiani CSF Faizane, Adria Mobil…
“There were a lot of other races on at the same time but yes, it was a proper 2.1 field with guys like Janez Brajkovič [former Dauphine winner and top 10 Tour de France finisher, ed.] in there with Adria and Pro Conti and World Tour teams riding.”
Your win was built on your Stage Three ride…
“The climb to the finish was long at 10 kilometres but not steep, just under 6% and in the wheels it wasn’t too stressful, I think we averaged 26 kph up it.
“Ben Tulett (Alpecin Fenix & GB) was away with two others inside the last couple of kilometres and I bridged across.
“The Austrian Riccardo Zoidl (Felbermayr-Simplon Wells) nipped off on his own to win and then the other two, Badilatti (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Fancellu (Kometa-Xstra) opened up the sprint early but I managed to get back and nicked third place – and the time bonus – on the line.
“Bike racing is full of ‘what ifs’ but I was finishing fast and not far off second place.”
Zoidl is a quality guy.
“Yes, he was World Tour for seven seasons, been Austrian National Champion twice and won his home national tour and Czech Tour in the past.”
Stage Four must have been anxious?
“Yeah, even my team mate Andy Tennant was nervous, and he’s a very experienced rider, but I put my faith in the team and they did the job for me.
“Going in to the last stage Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise & Belgium) was at two seconds and Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin – Fenix & Belgium) was at four seconds so their teams were trying to keep it together for sprint bonuses on the road and at the finish but we were sending riders up the road to try to initiate a break and take away the bonus opportunities.
“Van Rooy managed to get one second on me but Andy Tennant did a great job in denying him any others.
“Coming in to the finish Van Rooy needed to finish top three to win overall but he came down in the bunch sprint.
“We had Rory Townsend glued to his wheel to come round him if it looked like he was going to get in the bonuses and when Van Rooy came down Rory was so tight on his wheel he was lucky to stay upright.
“You don’t want to see guys coming down but it’s very unlikely he’d have made top three so I’m pretty sure that even if he’d stayed upright then I’d have still won.”
A one second victory margin!
“It doesn’t get any tighter, does it?”
What was the race like, parcours and organisationally?
“I was asked at the winner’s press conference what I thought they could improve about the race – they said, ‘and we know about the potholes!’
“The main highways were fine but on the smaller roads the surfaces could be pretty bad.
“Antalya is on the Asian side of Turkey, on the Mediterranean and scenery is unbelievable.
“It’s a bike riders’ paradise, flat roads – but hills if you want them.
“The hotel accommodation was good and we were well looked after, it’s obvious there’s a lot of money being spent on that race.”
You seem to revel in those Asian races – you’ve won the Tour of Quangzhou Bay in China twice.
“Even though that race was in the Asian part of Turkey it’s on the UCI European Tour so my results are coming further west.
“The Asian races don’t have the same depth as European races but what I think I’m good at is capitalising on the opportunity if it comes along, grabbing the jersey if there’s a hill top stage finish.”
“We have Paris-Troyes, which is UCI 1.2 then the Volta Limburg Classic, there’s a National Series race then it’s the Tour of Yorkshire.”
The team has a good Euro programme then?
“Yes, we have a team in the Samyn the Tuesday after the Opening Weekend and we have three French stage races between May and June.
“I won’t be riding the Samyn though, I’m a bit light for a race like that although I’ve ridden things like the Ronde Van Drenthe and Memorial Monsere in the past.
“I can get round but they’re not my thing, albeit they’re good events for gaining skills.”
I notice you rode the Olympic ‘Test’ race in Tokyo last year where you finished 14th, I hear it’s tough?
“We were well looked after, acting as ‘guinea pigs’ for the GB Olympic team this year – flights, hotel, cooling all to replicate what will happen at the Games; but it was hot – 26/27 degrees with 95% humidity and August is even hotter.
“The climb was horrendous, there’s a flat bit in it but overall it’s six K at 10% gradient.”
You had four seasons with Canyon…
“The team has grown every year and it’s like family to me, I have a lot of loyalty and always want to pay back the faith that our team manager, Tim Elverson has shown in me.”
In your Cycling Weekly interview you said that you’d be keen to step up to Pro-Conti or World Tour if the opportunity arose – do you have an agent?
“We all want to race at the top level and up until now I haven’t been near that level but after Antalya I hope I’ve been noticed.
“I’m trying to sort out an agent to help get my name a bit more, ‘out there.’”
And if you could win just one race?
“The Worlds – the atmosphere and getting to wear those rainbow stripes for a whole year… nothing cooler.”
VeloVeritas wishes Max and the team well for their forthcoming events.