The Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies Men’s team just wrapped up their first European stage race of the season, the Volta ao Alentejo. Chad Haga secured second place overall, as well as capturing two stage wins, four second places, as well as Chad Haga wearing the Points Jersey for three days. Jonas Carney gives a break down of the fifth and final stage of Volta ao Alentejo.
Stage 5 of the Volta ao Alentejo was a 135k circuit race in Santiago do Cacem. The circuit wasn’t super hard, but difficult enough that we thought Chad had a chance to take the yellow jersey. The final 1.5k to the finish line was uphill and the remainder of the course was rolling with some strong winds.
Our plan was to attack hard and often in hopes of putting pressure on Bontrager, isolating Jasper Stuyven, and getting Chad Haga away near the end of the race. I noticed a technical crosswind section that would be very difficult for everyone if we smashed it for about 5k. I had the guys ride that section of the course before the start and we decided to try to cause a split on the first lap…23k in. The guys executed this perfectly, taking the front as we turned into the crosswind and drilled it with 6 guys while Haga sat on. It caught a lot of people off guard and the field was stretched to the brink for about 3k before someone popped in the middle and opened a gap.The field split into three big groups…with the front group consisting of about 40 guys. It was a good try, but not exactly what we wanted.
The bad news was that Ken flatted a half lap later and ended up in a chase group. We were unable to service him as we were stuck behind the third group. His group would eventually claw it’s way back 40k later.
Our guys went back to the original plan of attacking once they’d recovered from their effort, but we were the only team interested in putting pressure on Bontrager. Everyone else seemed to be content to watch the two American teams do battle. Once Ken returned to the field the guys regrouped for one more big effort. The plan was to make the second to last time up the finish climb super hard. Ken, Scott, Tom Soladay, and Jesse all took suicide pulls on the long tailwind uphill leading into the finish climb to set up attacks from Haga, Zirbel, and Salas. The field exploded again and most would never make it back, but it was still not enough as a group of about 30 remained.
In the end it would come down to a sprint. The Antarte team took the front in the last 5k, set a blistering pace, and dropped even more riders while Zirbel and Salas worked to keep Chad near the front. When they hit the climb Chad attacked with about 500 meters to go and got a gap. It looked as though he’d win, but he was just barely caught by a Portugese (Antarte) rider in the last 10 feet!
Chad finished 2nd on the stage and 2nd overall.
We were all a bit disappointed that we could not win the overall, but ultimately it was a great week for the team. We won two stages, finished second place three times, fourth once, wore the green jersey for three days, and finished second overall. It’s a great confidence booster to ride so well against some of the strongest continental teams in the world.
Tomorrow we transfer to Spain and next week we race in the GP Miguel Indurain (UCI 1.1) and the Vuelta a la Rioja (UCI 1.1).
Final General Classification:
|1||128||BEL 19920417||—||Jasper STUYVEN||Sub-23||BONTRAGER CYCLING TEAM||19:30:47||25||-27|
|2||132||USA19880826||—||Chad HAGA||Elite||TEAM OPTUM pb KBS
|3||12||ESP 19811023||35456339||Alejandro MARQUE||Elite||OFM/QUINTA DA LIXA||a 29||70||-3|
|4||14||ESP 19860217||787386664||Delio FERNANDEZ||Elite||OFM/QUINTA DA LIXA||a 52||79||-5|
|5||53||CHI 19811026||14948204||Carlos OYARZUN||Elite||DUNAS DOURADAS||a 1:12||113||-4|
|6||172||BEL 19920731||—||Dieter BOUVRY||Sub-23||ETIXX/IHNED||a 1:19||132||0|
|7||1||POR 19840515||12436||Filipe CARDOSO||Elite||EFAPEL/GLASSDRIVE||a 1:20||106||-6|
|8||142||RUS 19850702||—||Nikolay TRUSOV||Elite||CYCLINGTEAM DE RIJKE/SHANKS||a 1:34||50||-14|
|9||102||ESP 19910429||—||Carlos BARBERO||Sub-23||EUSKADI||a 1:36||61||-3|
|10||21||POR 19891025||19961||António CARVALHO||Elite||LA ALUMÍNÍOS/ANTARTE||a 1:41||100||-10|
|11||176||AUT 19911013||—||Patrick KONRAD||Sub-23||ETIXX/IHNED||a 1:48||156||-2|
|12||35||POR 19860401||17751||Daniel MESTRE||Elite||TAVIRA||a 2:05||88||0|
|13||134||USA19781030||—||Thomas ZIRBEL||Elite||TEAM OPTUM pb KBS
|14||124||USA19920421||—||Tanner J. PUTT||Sub-23||BONTRAGER CYCLING TEAM||a 2:16||197||0|
|15||63||POR19910525||29040||Frederico FIGUEIREDO||Sub-23||LIBERTY SEGUROS/FEIRA||a 2:19||125||0|