Brad Huff claimed a podium placing in the opening stage of Portugal’s GP Liberty Seguros – Troféu do Sudoeste e Costa Vicentina (Ed. note: even by cycling’s broad standards, that race name is a mouthful.). The 218 km stage from Sines to Vila do Bispo saw two ActiveJet riders narrowly survive to the finish after escaping over the final climb of the day. The pair had just enough to stay in front of the charging field, which was led home by Huff. Teammate Guillaume Boivin claimed 6th on the day.
Pierrick Naud and Tom Soladay fought hard from the day’s breakaway, with Naud taking enough points in the hills to move into the climber’s jersey competition.
The race added another podium to the team’s highly successful 6-week campaign in Portugal. The campaign concludes with one final stage race, the UCI 2.2 ranked, 5-day Volta ao Alentejo beginning March 25th.
Performance Director Eric Wohlberg reports below on the podium finish, as only he can:
“Longish 207 km today, really more like 215. The guys were very good early on and after 60+ km of attacks we put two riders in a 16-man move, T-Pain (ed. note: Tom Soladay) and Pierrick Naud. This went as planned, and they both rode easy. As soon as anyone sat up ,so did we. The gap went up to 4:30 at one point.
All of the teams were there, but not all were happy ( another factor we had hoped for). One of the course’s main features was a category three climb 176 km in. Naud and T-Pain were ready for this. There were some volleys within the breakaway heading into the climb and Naud escaped with a Polish and a Latvian guy. Naud won the one and only KOM of the day and put himself into the climber’s jersey. With 20 km to go, the break was down to Pierrick and the Polish guy, and they had a 1:45 gap to the first chase group, which contained Soladay.
As predicted there was action in the field up and over the KOM to catch the groups off the front. As Soladay’s chase group played some chicken with each other, the numbers swelled from 10 to a good 25. Our guys were not there, but another huge group was closing fast and we had pretty much the whole team in it.
Naud was having a good ride, but his Polish companion dropped him with 10 km to go. To make matters a little worse, two of his teammates jumped across from the blossoming chase group.. At 5 km to go we had a 3-man Polish TTT rolling 25 secs in front of the rest of the field. With three km to go, their move was reduced to two…we lined up over the last roller and led a swarm into the final km. It looked good, until someone started surfing his top tube and took some guys down. Ryan Anderson and T-Pain had to stop, and Boivin got pushed off Zwiz. However, fate smiled upon Brad Huff, and he came through the crashing clean.
Into the final right hander, with 300 meters to go, Huff was leading the field and he basically rode onto the back wheel of the Polish two-man move for a very respectable third place on the stage. Special mention goes to T-Pain and Naud for some good bike riding today, and of course to Huff who survived some pretty tough conditions and got the job done by being gritty.”