The Volta ao Algarve, Portugal’s second largest stage race, is bookended by chances for the sprinters in stage one and stage five. Neither of these chances are necessarily field sprints in the traditional sense – strong crosswinds can hammer the Algarve coast and would quickly turn a potential leadout situation into a daylong fight for positioning. Stage fives run-in to the line is mostly flat and will likely end by a straight up field sprint if conditions are favorable. Stage one’s final kilometers were much more unique – after two laps around Albuferia, the peloton shot straight downhill into an off-camber roundabout, spun nearly 180 degrees through it, and slingshotted into a 400 meter slope followed by a 600 meter false flat downhill to the first finish line on the city’s main drag.
As with all bike racing, delivering the three horsepower guys to the finish is a full team effort and takes a bit of luck. Tom Zirbel punctured a tire with 7 kilometers remaining, effectively knocking him out of the chase. Jesse Anthony helped guide the trio on the final lap around Albufiera, and Mike Woods, Phil Gaimon and Will Routley saved their legs for the uphill battles of stages two and four.
Guillaume finished 10th on the day, an impressive result for the teams first race of 2015, and against some of the WorldTour’s top talent. To put it in perspective – reigning world champion Michal Kwiatkowski finished one spot ahead in ninth, while his teammate Gianni Meersman captured the Etixx-Quickstep team their tenth victory of the year.
Performance Director Eric Wohlberg on the tricky finish:
“The team rode the finish on two different occasions, and on Tuesday we rode it as a group twice. Eric Young thought the finish would be too tough for him and he volunteered to be the final leadout for Guillaume Boivin and Ryan Anderson. It was critical to have a really fast guy like Eric punch it on the final 300 meters leading into that roundabout. His job was to take some of the shrapnel for those two so they could have good positioning on the hill. I think it shows the quality of Eric as a teammate by realizing that. He knows in any kind of field sprint we work for him, but he volunteered to sacrifice himself for teammates more built for this tricky kind of finish.”
Guillaume Boivin on his shot at the line:
“The guys did good work to bring me to the front in the critical point of the race. After I made it through the roundabout, I went hard to top of the climb, and at the top everyone kind of looked at each other a little bit. There was a few seconds when guys were losing position, winded from the climb and I probably should have rode even harder at that point. I guess I didn’t quite make the right decisions there. I was obviously too far back in the sprint. With that said, I think it’s a good first bike race of the season and it can only get better from here. It puts good energy in us for the rest of the week.”
Eric Young on the team effort to help Guillaume:
“We tried to stay up there as best we could with some very strong WorldTour teams that already have lots of races under their belt. It was difficult – we had four or five guys together at the end and they had all seven or eight so its a bit of an uphill battle. It bodes well for the rest of the week and especially the rest of the season because we are starting to work well together. It’s going to take some practice, but this helps our confidence. You’re always afraid – at least I am – the first race of the season, period, no matter who you are racing against. We showed ourselves we have the legs and the teamwork, and with a little bit of luck we can get a big result this week.”
Ryan Anderson on the challenge of battling with WorldTour teams:
“The guys did a great job taking care of Eric, Guillaume and myself and in the finale the three of us trying to work together. I think in the very end Guillaume made some good choices on his own to give himself a shot at the finish. I don’t think we struggled with the actual race itself at all – just some decision making here and there in the end. It’s quite phenomenal to watch how well the Etixx-Quickstep train works together. We can learn things from situations like that and apply that knowledge into our own leadout. We have lots of opportunities this week – I know Phil and Woodsy are itching for the climbs and we all have plenty left in the tank.
Jesse Anthony on the stage one route:
“It wasn’t quite as challenging of a course as I thought it would be. There were a lot of rollers, but the way we rode it and the lack of serious wind made things pretty simple for most of the day. On the final circuits things started getting a lot faster and there was a bit of bad pavement – potholes and cracks and stuff so you really needed to pay attention. We stayed alert and helped Guillaume and the other sprinters get in a position to contest the stage. We are looking forward to more chances.”