Today was the third stage of the Volta ao Alentejo and the team continues to have success in Portugal. Ken Hanson won the stage in a field sprint.
The stage from Vidigueira to Mertola was a flat 174 kilometer stage without many challenges along the way. Prior to the race we were concerned about the weather and the wind as 30 minutes before the start we were hiding in the van during a hail storm. But the skies cleared up and the race was mostly dry and even sunny for the second half. While there was some wind, it was never enough to do much damage to the field. The Bontrager team didn’t have to do much defending today as the Portuguese teams spent most of the stage chasing each other. So ultimately there weren’t any opportunities to open up the race and the guys stuck to the plan of delivering Ken Hanson in the field sprint.
Last night our Portuguese soigneur, Raul, and our Portuguese mechanic, Luis, gave us some great advice about the final kilometers entering Mertola. Both of them are former racers who know the finish and they advised us about the technical descent into Mertola and how the road narrows and curves sharply as it crosses the river before the uphill sprint. This information ended up being critical to our victory today.
The final 20k were incredibly fast as it was mostly downhill and tailwind. The guys worked hard to keep Ken out of trouble and it was very difficult as the field was swarming at 70kph. The guys took the front with a bit over 4k to go and were able to get Ken to the entrance of the technical section at about 2k to go. From that point, Ken was on his own, but there really was no passing once the descent started and Ken positioned himself well on the downhill. In the final uphill sprint , Ken came off Jasper Stuyven’s (Bontrager) wheel and overtook Filipe Cardoso (Efapel – Glassdrive) to take the win.
Chad Haga remains in second overall…just 14 seconds behind the yellow jersey. Tom Zirbel is in 19th.
Tomorrow is 153 kilometers from Ourique to Odemira. The stage is flat and is likely to end in another field sprint. The finish is again a technical one that will suit Ken Hanson.