The opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve came down to a nervy bunch sprint which Fernando Gavaria (Quickstep-Floors) won ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis). Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Edvald Boasson Hagen place 10th at the line.
It was a fairly pleasant day out in the Algarve for the 182km first stage although a bit blustery at points. The sprinters had a keen eye on today’s finish but it was a day of constant undulations before eventually reaching the finale in Lagos. 5 riders tried their hand at a long escape today but they were only ever going to be rewarded with T.V time due to a number of sprint teams contributing to the chase.
With 23km to go the early leaders were already brought back into the peloton and the various sprint trains began to form. Ben King, Johann van Zyl, Omar Fraile, Scott Thwaites, Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen was how our train lined up today. King did a fantastic job ensuring our African Team held position at the head of the race right up until 7km to go when he eventually pulled off.
Katusha, Trek-Segafredo, Lotto-Soudal, Quickstep-Floors and Cofidis all battled for position as we came into town, making for a twitchy and nervous peloton over the last 5km. Thankfully there were no incidents as the pace crept up over the 60km/h mark. Thwaites did a solid final turn with 3km to go before Cavendish took Boasson Hagen into the last 500m but our Norwegian champ was just squeezed for space by a Katusha rider at the last moment which saw him lose a few positions.
Quickstep-Floors had the upper hand in the sprint finale and it was the Colombian, Gavaria who surged ahead to take the win. Boasson Hagen had to be content with 10th place on the stage. The rest of our African Team all crossed the line safely and look forward to tomorrow’s 2nd stage.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
It was clear it was going to be a sprint today with so many sprinters in the race. We were happy with 5 guys in the break, the wind was quite strong so that made the race quite nervous. Lotto-Soudal did most of the chasing but we also put Johann in the front when the gap was more than 3 minutes. We road in the front as a team for the last 20km and Mark leading Edvald out for the sprint but Edvald lost the wheel and from there he didn’t have a clear path to sprint through. It was an okay day today but tomorrow is more of a GC day so we hope by this time tomorrow we will be represented well on the GC.