Today was stage four of the Vuelta ao Alentejo, in Portugal. It was a mostly flat 153k stage from Ourique to Odemira. It was cold and rainy at the start, but by half way through the race the sky cleared and it warmed up nicely.
Our plan for the day was to look for an opportunity to open the race up, and hope to deliver Ken for the sprint, if we could not create a suitable break or split. The finish was similar to yesterday…a very technical descent into a village followed by a couple of tight turns and a short uphill sprint. We knew the race would be to the start of the descent. If we could enter the descent in the front, we had a great chance at the stage. The one opportunity to split the race would come at 100k, as the course comes very close to the ocean and would be completely exposed to a cross wind. Unfortunately, there was no wind.
For the most part, the race was uneventful due to the lack of wind and the flat course. Bontrager had everything under control and Stuyven was even able to pick up a few bonus seconds throughout the day.
The other feature on the course,that we liked, was that the only real hill was located immediately after the final time bonus sprint with 20k to go. It was about 5k uphill and then all slight downhill and tailwind until the start of the descent. It would be a good place to hit out…to counterattack that time bonus sprint.
To make a long story short, our guys decided to attack immediately after the time bonus at 132.9k. Zirbel and Zwiz hit out together and immediately got a gap. They caught the one Portuguese rider who was already off the front and that rider sat on…unable to pull with the two big TT specialists.
At first it seemed like a suicide move as the entire Efapel-Glassdrive lined up on the front to chase. It quickly became apparent that this was the perfect attack. The peloton was likely unaware of Tom and Scott’s TT abilities and that they should not be given any leash. Efapel had to keep their team together on the climb and so they let the gap open. When they crested the hill, they still weren’t making up any ground, as it was a downhill tailwind. And best of all, there wasn’t much time to chase. All Tom and Scott had to do was make it to 4k to go, the start of the descent, and they’d make it to the line.
In the end the field could not close the gap. Tom and Scott decided to get rid of the Portuguese rider who was sitting on for 15k and started attacking him with 5k to go. Zirbel got away first and then Scott. They finished 1-2 with Tom in first and Scott just 9 seconds back.
Chad Haga is still in second overall. Tom has moved up to 8th, just 1:08 back.
Tomorrow is the final stage. It’s a 133k circuit race that we hear is somewhat challenging. After that we’ll travel back to Bilbao Spain and get ready for the GP Miguel Indurain.