Today was the second stage of the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal. 174 kilometers from Sousel to Portel. We expected the day to be relatively controlled as the GC was tight and there were three mid race time bonuses and 10″, 6″, 4″ at the finish. However, the weather forecast indicated some relatively strong winds coming from the South and at the start the wind looked brisk. We decided to be patient and watch everyone race for the time bonuses. If there was an opportunity in the crosswinds to make something happen we would try and if not we would go for the stage with Ken Hanson.
As we expected, it was a spirited competition for the 3″, 2″ 1″ time bonuses. The first 80k were very fast and lots of dangerous breakaways needed to be brought back. Several of the GC contenders picked up bonuses, with Jasper Stuyven of Bontrager picking up the most. But a very strong group of 11 broke loose after the last bonus at 80k. We were very happy as we had Haga there. Bontrager had Stuyven, OFM had three guys, Etixx had three, and Efapel had their sprinter. So most of the strongest teams were happy.
The break gained two and a half minutes everyone but the sprinter from Efapel was in the rotation. It would take a big effort from the field to bring this one back. Then as expected, at the 128k mark, the field made a right turn and met a crosswind from the left. The hammer went down, the team defending yellow (Radio Popular) fell apart, there was a crash, and the field split. We had everyone but one rider in the front, but lots of teams lost 3 or 4 guys. The chase was significantly weakened and the break would make it to the line with a 1 minute gap.
In the final 5k Chad looked for opportunities to get away as he knew he could not outsprint everyone in the break. He made one attack with about 2k to go, was joined by Jasper Stuyven, and got a small gap. Several guys were in trouble at the back of the break and the gap stalled at about 3 seconds. It looked as though they would get caught, but both riders were committed. Stuyven jumped Chad with about 300 meters to go and took the stage. Chad dug deep and hung on to take second place on the day. It was a great ride by Chad and he’s now in second overall.
Tomorrow is another mostly flat day with time bonuses…174k from Vidigueira to Mertola. After two very nice days, the weather is about to change. It could be an eventful day if we see see some cold rain and wind.