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Having escaped on the final climb, Thomas managed to hold off Taaramae and a select group on the 5km descent to win the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve and take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

GERAINT THOMAS

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REIN TAARAMAE

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TEAM SKY

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VALERIO AGNOLI

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VOLTA AO ALGARVE

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19.02.2015 @ 17:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Geraint Thomas (Sky) put himself in the perfect position to win the Volta ao Algarve overall when the Brit took an impressive solo win on stage 2 of the Portuguese race. Having launched an attack on the final climb, he passed lone leader Rein Taaramae (Astana) and managed to hold off both the Estonian and a select group to take the victory and the overall lead in the race.

 

Going into the Volta ao Algarve, Geraint Thomas was expected to play his usual role of luxury domestique for Richie Porte who was the clear Sky leader for the five-day Portuguese race. After today’s first big clash among the GC riders, however, the roles may have been changed after Thomas has given himself the perfect position to win the race overall.

 

The hilly second stage of the race ended with a tough 4.5km climb with an average gradient of 7.8% before the riders descended for 5km to reach the finish and it was on the ascent Thomas made his move. After Etixx-QuickStep had worked hard all day to control the race and whittle the peloton significantly down, Thomas had saved his energy for one big move on the climb.

 

While the Belgian team rode on the front, an in-form Rein Taaramae was the first to strike and things were looking promising for the Estonian as he quickly got a solid gap. However, Thomas was quick to respond and he not only caught the Vuelta a Murcia winner. He even managed to drop the strong Astana rider and when he crested the summit, he was 11 seconds ahead of his chaser and 20 seconds ahead of a select group of favourites.

 

Thomas went into time trial mode on the descent and impressively he didn’t lose any ground to his chasers. In fact, he even managed to extend his advantage and he took a hugely impressive solo win in Monchique where Michal Kwiatkowski had taken a similar win 12 months ago.

 

Taaramae managed to hold off the group and took second, 19 seconds too late. 4 seconds later Valerio Agnoli and Luis Leon Sanchez led the group home to make it three Astana riders in the top 4 but the Kazakh team could do nothing to stop Porte.

 

Race leader Gianni Meersman was unable to keep up with the GC riders and Thomas is now the new leader of the race. He leads Taaramae by 30 seconds but he already faces a big test tomorrow in the 19km time trial. A big group with the likes of Tony Martin, Michal Kwiatkowski and Porte are 33 seconds behind the Brit but being a strong time triallist, he is in a good position for the test which is held on a mostly flat course that has a downhill first part and ascending finale.

 

A hilly stage

After the flat opening stage, it was time for the GC riders to come to the fore in stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve which brought the riders over 197.1km from Lagoa to Monchique. After a flat start, the terrain got much hillier in the finale as the riders tackled a big climb in the final third before they headed along rolling roads to the exciting finale. Here they went of a 4.5km climb whose average gradient of 7.8% was expected to provide the climbers with a first chance to make a difference before they descended the final 5km down to the flat finish.

 

The riders took the start under a beautiful sunny sky and enjoyed temperatures of 17 degrees. With the hilly terrain later in the stage, it was no surprise to see a lot of attacks in the early part of the race and it took some time before anyone was able to escape.

 

The break is formed

At the 13km mark, things were still together but finally Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto NL-Jumbo), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal), Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18), Fabricio Ferrari (Rural-Seguros RGA Caja), Wesley Kreder (Team Roompot) and Ivan Balykin (RusVelo) managed to escape. As the peloton slowed down completely, they were already 2.24 ahead after 18km of racing.

 

The peloton was in no mood to let such a strong break get too much of an advantage and as Etix-QuickStep started to chase, they kept the gap stable at around 2.30. Meanwhile, Vanmarcke decided to drop back to the peloton.

 

Etixx-QuickStep in control

Ferrari beat Balykin and Sieberg in the first intermediate sprint while the peloton decided to slow down a bit. After 50km of racing, the gap was 4.05 and even reached 4.56 at the 67km mark.

 

The gap stabilized again as Etixx-QuickStep continued their work while Balykin beat Sieberg and Schillinger in the final intermediate sprint. While the gap stayed around the 5minute mark, Balykin beat Ferrari and Kreder in the third intermediate sprint.

 

The peloton accelerates

It signaled the start of the climbing action which the riders started with an advantage of 3.49. Sieberg was first over the top ahead of Schillinger and Balykin while Etixx-QuickStep used the slopes to bring the gap down to 2.46.

 

The escapees managed to extend it back to 3.20 before the peloton accelerated hard. Under the impetus of Etixx-QuickStep, the break lost ground quickly and at the 169km mark, the break was caught.

 

A new break

This opened the door for new attacks and just 2km later, Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Ian Boswell (Sky), Phil Gaimon (Optum) and Albrto Gallego (Radio Popular). They fought hard to keep a 7-second advantage for around 15km but the 184.5km mark, it was all over.

 

The peloton had been whittled significantly down as they hit the final climb and it was still Etixx-QuickStep setting the pace. Taaramae was the first to kick off the action but it was Thomas who emerged as the strongest.

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