The highlights and reactions of the first stage of the special edition of Volta a Portugal.
Luís Gomes (Kelly-Simoldes-UDO) challenged the supremacy of the W52-FC Porto this Monday, winning at the top of Santa Luzia, the end of the first stage of the Volta a Portugal by bicycle, on a day when Joni Brandão showed signs of weakness.
“My team did an excellent job to put me in the lead at the beginning of the climb. I know I’m a quick man and I sprinted to give everything I had to win. António Carvalho attacked from a distance and Daniel Mestre had to close the gap I went to his wheel and saved myself for the final part. It was that little bit that made the difference “, acknowledged an emotional Gomes, who imposed himself on the dragons Daniel Mestre and Gustavo Veloso, who kept the yellow one.
In a journey without time differences between the main candidates, who cut the goal with the time of 04: 24.41 hours, only the form of Joni Brandão (Efapel) left doubts, with the title champion, João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) , giving a show of strength on the eve of Senhora da Graça.
The first online stage of the special edition was also the first major moment of strict implementation of the sanitary protocol relating to covid-19, causing chaos in the arrival of the teams and even motivating the delay in the start of the run in Montalegre, due to the ritual to which cyclists were subjected, forced to remove the mask to a proper container and to disinfect their hands before aligning themselves against the risk of leaving.
In a Strange Tour for everyone, the longest leg of this edition (180 kilometers) also started in an atypical way, with the escape of the day being formed only by Marvin Scheulen (LA Aluminum-LA Sport).
The 23-year-old, who jumped out of the pack in the first few rides, came to have more than an eight-minute advantage over the pack, placidly commanded by W52-FC Porto, but, in passing through Alto de Covide, his first mountain count year, in the third category, the difference was already reduced to four minutes.
Even before Marvin Scheulen was reached, 13 kilometers from the finish line, another Portuguese man took the momentary lead in the first round: in the supply zone, the always unlucky Frederico Figueiredo (Atum General-Tavira-Maria Nova Hotel) fell, got up , but he had to wait, sitting on the rails and arms crossed, for a new bike.
Upset, the trophy winner Joaquim Agostinho fussed with César Martingil, already when he reentered the squad, and continued to raise his arms repeatedly to his car, in a clear sign of discontent with what, after cutting the goal, he defined as ” lack of experience of a colleague who is doing the first Tour of Portugal “.
This would be the most striking episode before the start of the ascent to Santa Luzia, a moment chosen by João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) to appear at the head of the squad, when Rafael Lourenço started the strategy outlined by Kelly-Simoldes-UDO to take Luís Gomes to victory and Henrique Casimiro safe to the highest point of Viana do Castelo – only the first mission would be successful, with the Alentejo giving up 32 seconds in the goal.
“At the briefing, we had decided that we were going to do the race for me and try to keep Henrique Casimiro not wasting time here. My colleagues put me very well down there, I took the lead. I had to suffer a little because everything was very disorganized but I managed to stay there. As the kilometers of the climb were passed, I was feeling good and, when I saw the 250 meters sign, I tried my luck. I have a blast for this type of finals and thanks to God, I managed to win “, described the 26 year old cyclist.
To add his second professional triumph, and his second in Volta a Portugal after the victorious climb to Serra do Larouco last year, Gomes had to resist a forceful attack by António Carvalho, who left his leader Joni Brandão in trouble. Although he finished the draw with the same time as the other candidates, the leader of Efapel showed signs of weakness, sitting on the floor, exhausted, after cutting the goal, under the watchful eye of João Rodrigues.
On Tuesday, doubts about the shape of the favorites will be cleared, in the 167 kilometers between Paredes and the mythical Senhora da Graça, to which Veloso will start with a second advantage over Daniel Mestre and four over Daniel Freitas (Miranda -Mortágua).