Tour of Flanders: who is Anthony Turgis, the French outsider with Flandrian accents?

In the shadow of the sacred monsters of the discipline and in particular of his compatriot Julian Alaphilippe, Anthony Turgis is today one of the very best riders in the international peloton on the Flandrian classics. Fourth in the last Tour of Flanders, the versatile Total Direct Energie still hopes to reach a milestone this Sunday. And why not interfere on the podium.

To be called Anthony Turgis and to shine on the Tour of Flanders, one of the five monuments of cycling, the high point of the holy week of Belgian cycling … In 2018, that would have been dreamlike. This sweet moment when, immersed in a heavy sleep, we draw in the depths of our thoughts the most improbable things. This living picture of the imagination where we have the right to grant ourselves the most beautiful destinies. But three years later, at the dawn of the 2021 edition, this possibility is no longer at all far-fetched. And the dream might well take on the air of nightmares for some of its opponents.

Especially with regard to the scenario of 2020, when at the arrival of the “Ronde” in Oudenaarde, Anthony Turgis, 4th, was only preceded by the extraterrestrials Van der Poel and Van Aert, and the very experienced Norwegian Aleksander Kristoff. A blow of brilliance? One day with? No. More certainly the seal of a regular progression for the native of Bourg-La-Reine, near Paris. And a real turning point in his career. “I knew I was strong, he analyzes coldly. But in my head, I said to myself from that day on, you are one of the strongest, you can act on the race.”

Anthony Turgis (left)
Anthony Turgis (left) © AFP

“Not much is missing” for his sports director

And from word to confirmation, only a few short months have passed. The time of an offseason marked by recovery and in-depth work to gain even more strength and robustness while not exhausting oneself in the task. As a result, at the dawn of a 2021 Tour of Flanders back to its traditional date of the first Sunday in April (due to Covid, it was contested in 2020 in October), Anthony Turgis arrives crowned with several great performances. on the classics at the start of the season. Second for Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in February, 10th for Milan San Remo, then 12th in the Grand Prix E3 and 9th for Gand-Wevelgem last week. “It is not missing much, observes with kindness Dominique Arnould, its sports director at Total Direct Energie. It will come, I do not worry. A victory, it is down to small details, the little bit of success. ” Also has love for these races typical of western Belgium. Because Dominique Arnould swears it, “to be able to perform there, you have to love them above all.”

Fan of Jan Ullrich

And this is precisely the case of the one whose model, being a kid, was none other than Jan Ullrich, the German winner of the 1997 Tour de France. He appreciates having to leave in the morning with the spirit of conquest on these small roads. winding, exposed to the four winds, sometimes paved, often marked by steeper passages than in the largest passes in the Alps. As on the Tour of Flanders, the ascent of the mythical Oude Kwaremont and its completely energized atmosphere where supporters stuff themselves with fries, waffles and beer from 8 am. Or even worse that of the Paterberg and its flash wall at 20.3% passages; placed at the end of the course and in which most riders pedal pretty damn hops.

Anthony Turgis likes these races where the skimming is done from the front, where only the strongest gain the right after 250 terminals to compete for victory. Where chance ultimately has only a very marginal role in the outcome of the debates. “Apart from the high mountains on the Grand Tours, the Flandriennes are the toughest races on the calendar, he assures. Many runners are looking for that because it allows them to better gauge themselves against the others. There is a small part. luck to avoid falls and punctures, but the most important thing is the learning, the tactics of the race to anticipate these atypical scenarios where one does not wait for the last climb to make the decision. “

A new leader supported by Terpstra and Boasson Hagen

At 26, while playing his seventh professional season, Anthony Turgis now claims a certain background. Having become the only leader of his formation on the Flandriennes, he can count on this season on the good support of the two wise men, Nikki Terpstra and Edvald Boasson Hagen, old road drivers of the cobblestones. The Dutchman, former winner of Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, brings him his very picky side on the material, his racing spirit and his leadership experience. The Norwegian, winner of three stages on the Tour de France, arrived this winter with in his bag a rare mastery in the art of placement. A very beneficial cocktail for Turgis (1m79, 79 kg) and his size a little more confidential. “Thanks to them, and thanks to his performances since 2019, Anthony now fully assumes this role of leader, explains Dominique Arnould. He is an excellent road captain, he sees the race very well, he leaves the possibility to others to leave far from the finish. We often hear him in the headset, telling so-and-so that he must leave in a blow or fill a hole if he feels in danger. “

Beyond this tactical intelligence, Anthony Turgis also has for him a rather formidable technical range in adequacy with the typical qualities of the good runner flahute. Excellent rider since his youth, he is also a recognized puncher, and also has an interesting burst of speed which makes him one of the most versatile riders on the classics. “When I was younger, I left the sprint to focus on breakaways because I was driving well, remembers the one who won the Loire Atlantique Classic solo in 2016. But now to finish alone at the highest level, it’s complicated. So I have been working on my speed over the last few years and have made good progress. A pure sprinter will always go faster than me in a normal stage race. But on a classic after 250 kilometers, there are fatigue, the situation changes and I can beat very fast runners. “

Little by little, Anthony Turgis ended up making his hole. Without making waves, calmly, intelligently, with discernment and with the strong conviction that he has a role to play and a place to seek, the first, the only one that really matters in cycling and in his eyes. “When I started out I was involved in certain races and when I arrived at the starting line, I said to my parents ‘No I don’t want to run’, remembers the Ile-de-France runner. asked me why? I said to them: ‘Because I will not manage to win the race like Jimmy, my big brother. Teenager and already a perfectionist.

Anthony Turgis
Anthony Turgis © ICON Sport

A family of cyclists marked by heart disease

Jimmy precisely, the elder brother, Tanguy also, the youngest of the Turgis siblings, are like Anthony passed professionals. Logical, given the culture of this recognized family of local cycling in Ile-de-France, with a mum and dad who are also former cyclists. But unlike Anthony, the two young men had to store the bike in the garage one after the other due to hereditary heart disease which could lead to a potentially fatal accident at any time during exercise. “It’s not pleasant, it’s even difficult to live with, says Anthony Turgis. But we are aware that it is better to stop, than to lose your life. For my part, I take exams every year, and there is no problem, so as long as I am given my license and have no symptoms, I will continue without questioning. “

There is no doubt that at the Turgis this Sunday, Anthony’s red and blue jersey as well as his glasses with white frames recognizable among a thousand will be scrutinized at every moment on the family TV screen. The runner, for his part, does not take the lead and believes that he still has time to progress and get even closer to victory, giving the example of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, who did not win his first great classic ( the Het Nieuwsblad circuit) only at the age of 30. For its sporting director, Dominique Arnould, when we look at the 2021 Tour of Flanders field, “Turgis remains one of the big favorites behind Van Der Poel, Van Aert and Alaphilippe, because in this kind of events, it is not not necessarily the strongest who wins “.

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