Following Ken Hanson’s emphatic sprint victory in the team’s opener at Classica Aveiro-Fatima, the men today began the 5-day stage race Volta ao Alentejo (UCI 2.2). Chad Haga, showing excellent form so far in his European debut, finished fourth in today’s first stage. Here is the report from Performance Director Jonas Carney:
Today was stage one of the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal – 167 kilometers from Castelo de Vide to Marvao. It’s the only stage in the Volta with some significant climbs. The day would be mostly flat and rolling until inside 20k to go, where there 2 climbs – one 4k climb with 17k to go, and then the finish climb of about 5k up to a castle in the town of Marvao.
As expected, the race was very aggressive from the start. It took some time for a three man break to establish a significant gap. Scott Zwizanski bridged across with two other riders. Once the break was 6 guys, the field was tired of chasing, there was a nature break, and the gap went up fast. The break had representation from:
– The Basque U23 team Euskadi
– Two very strong Portuguese Continental teams in La Aluminios-Antarte and Carmim-Tavira
– The Etixx – iHNed, which is a development team for Omega Pharma-Quick Step
– and Optum p/b KBS
Several of the best Portuguese teams missed the move and it seemed like there was a lot of bluffing going on. So much so that the gap went up over 9 minutes. At this point we thought that the break might go to the line.
We had some troubles throughout the day with Soladay crashing and breaking his shifter while the team car was nine minutes up the road. Luckily, Axel Merckx (Bontrager’s PD) and his mechanic Eric did us the favor of providing Tom with one of their spare bikes until we could get back to the peloton. Thanks Axel and Eric.
The break was holding strong and still looked like it had a chance. The French Etixx rider, Florian Senechal, picked up the pace with 25k to go and dropped three guys on a big roller, but Zwiz looked great. Approaching the first of two climbs the gap was still 2:30 and there was only 17k to go. Then the smack went down in the field and the gap disappeared instantly. A few riders bridged across to the break, and they made it to the final climb, but Zwiz was swallowed up with less than 4k to go.
On the climb it all came back together and one Portuguese rider, Daniel Silva from Radio Popular/Onda, attacked and would go on to win by 2 seconds. Inside the last 500 meters, Haga took off in pursuit and looked as though he’d finish second, but was passed by two riders just before the line. Chad finished fourth on the day – a very respectable result for his first go in Europe. He sits 4th on GC entering stage 2, but the GC is extremely tight.
Unfortunately, we lost one of our GC threats when Jesse Anthony was caught behind a crash at the base of the first climb and never made it back to the peloton. Tom Zirbel finished 20th, just 16 seconds back, and should give us some additional options this week.
Tomorrow is expected to be a field sprint unless there is some weather. We are looking forward to it.
– Jonas Carney