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With a powerful surge on the final climb, Luis Leon Sanchez put 1 second into Thomas and three seconds into Roglic and Izagirre to win stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve and take the leader’s jersey; Contador lost 24 seconds

Photo: Sirotti

GERAINT THOMAS

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NEWS

LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

RIDER PROFILE
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PRIMOZ ROGLIC

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

VOLTA AO ALGARVE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
18.02.2016 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) confirmed the excellent condition he showed at the Volta Valenciana by coming out on top in the first battle in the mountains on the second day of the Volta ao Algarve. With a powerful surge in the final part of the uphill finish on Alto da Foia, he put 1 second into Geraint Thomas (Sky) and three seconds into Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Ion Izagirre (Movistar) which allowed him to win the stage and take the leader’s jersey on a day that saw Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lose 24 seconds.

 

It has been a few testing years for Luis Leon Sanchez who has gone from being a prolific winner to being a domestique at Astana. However, things seem to have been changed for the 2016 season as the Spaniard has looked like his former self.

 

Sanchez proved his good form by taking second overall at the Volta a la Valenciana and he was also fourth in the Vuelta a Murcia. This made him one to watch in this week’s Volta ao Algarve but in a star-studded field he had still flown a bit under the radar.

 

Today he proved that he is a very strong contender for overall victory as he managed to win the first mountaintop finish of the five-day race. With a powerful sprint on the climb of Alto da Foia, he took his first win in Astana colours and moved to the top spot of the overall standings.

 

The race ended with a hilly circuit around the city of Monchique where the riders had to tackle two climbs before they hit the bottom of the final 7.4km ascent. With 40km to go and after 4 fours of racing at an average of 41km/h, it was all back together after an early break had animated the first part of the stage.

 

The pace was fast and so nobody was able to attack until Dries Devenyns (IAM) gave it a go with 29km to go. One kilometre from the top of the second climb he had a 15-second advantage and he reached the top with 12 seconds ahead of the peloton that was led across the line by David de la Fuente (Sporting) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar).

 

Devenyns was unable to maintain his lead and with 16km to go, he was brought back. Astana had now positioned three riders on the front and they created a huge selection as they hit the penultimate climb. At the top, it was Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) who accelerated to lead Diego Rosa (Astan) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) to the top.

 

While Salvatore Puccio (Sky) punctured, a crash on the descent involved riders from Astana and Movistar but that didn’t slow the peloton down. No one managed to escape and it was a small peloton that hit the final climb.

 

Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) launched an immediate attack and was chased by Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Eduard Prades (Caja Rural) and later also by Rosa. Prades was quickly left behind while the peloton was trailing the lone Czech by 30 seconds with 6km to go.

 

Rosa, Oliveira and Gesink joined Stybar and they entered the final 3km with a 15-second advantage but one kilometre later they were back in the fold. Two riders, including one from Movistar, briefly tried to attack but it came down to an uphill sprint that saw the peloton explode to pieces.

 

Sanchez turned out to be the strongest and he managed to put 1 second into Thomas while Roglic and Izagirre crossed the line 3 seconds later. Some of the big names suffered in the finale as Fabio Aru (Astana) lost 15 seconds while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was 24 seconds off the pace in 21st.

 

With the win, Sanchez also takes the leader’s jersey as he goes into the time trial with a 5-second advantage over Thomas. It’s a completely flat affair over 18km and includes a technical first part while the second half is made up of long, straight roads where the big engines can make a difference.

 

A summit finish

After the flat opening stage, the first climbing challenges greeted the riders on stage 2 which brought them over 198.6km from Lagua to a mountaintop finish on Alto da Foia on the outskirts of Monchique. After a flat first half, the riders reached the top of the first climb with 58km to go and then headed to Monchique where they tackled a circuit with two climbs. In the end, they went up the Alto da Foia which averaged 6.6% over 7.4km.

 

It was a sunny and windy day in Portugal when the riders gathered for the start. All 189 riders that reached the finish of the opening stage were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.

 

Seven riders get clear

The hilly finale was an invitation to attacks and it took some time for the early break to be formed. After 8km of aggressive racing, five riders attacked and after another two riders bridged the gap, a front septet was formed. Naesen and Ada Stachowiak (CCC) were the first to try but they were quickly brought back.

 

Oliver Naesen (IAM), Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) and Alberto Cecchin (Roth) launched the next attack and were quickly joined by Gregory Rast (Trek).  Jonas Koch (Verva) and Ricardo Mestre (W52) also made it across to make it a septet which had pushed their advantage out to 2.05 after 15.5km of racing. Arthur Ershov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) was trying to bridge across but found himself 1.12 behind the leaders. LA Aluminios briefly tried to chase but they quickly gave up

 

Gazprom-Rusvelo start to chase

Ershov realized that it was mission impossible and waited for the peloton which was 3.25 behind after 21.3km of racing. It went out to 3.40 at the 26.5km mark but that was as much as they would get.

 

Gazprom-Rusvlo had failed to get a rider in the break and so they started to chase. After 34.5km of racing, they had reduced the gap to 2.50 and it was just 2.15 at the 37km mark. While the Russians were chasing hard, a crash split the peloton and forced Daniel Silva (Radio Popular), Antion Carvalho (W52), Mario Gonzalez (Sporting), Pedro Paulinho (LA Aluminios) and David Lopez (Sky) to abandon. Movistar, Verva and many Portuguese teams were also involved.

 

Lastra wins the spritn

While the peloton regrouped, the gap had been reduced to around a minute where it stabilized. Moments later, Lastra beat Cecchin and Mestre in the first intermediate sprint.

 

The riders covered 42km during the first hour after which the escapees started to increase their advantage. With 120km to go, it was again 1.45 and it soon passed the 2-minute mark.

 

Tinkoff take control

Tinkoff took over the pace-setting and as they entered the final 100km, they had brought the gap down to just 1.25. Meanwhile, Cecchin beat Rast and Mestre in the second intermediate sprint.

 

As the peloton passed through the feed zone, the gap went out to 1.30 but Tinkoff quickly went back to work. While Corentin Cherhal (Novo Nordisk) and Samuel Magalhaes (Louletano) became the next riders to abandon, they slowly brought the gap down to 1.05 with 68km to go.

 

The break splits up

Naesen beat Lastra and Mestre in the final intermediate sprint before they hit the first climb with an advantage of 1.16. Here Koch and Cecchin were left behind and the pace also proved to be too much for Lastra and Rast, leaving just Naesen, De Bie and Mestre in the front group.

 

While Cecchin and Koch were caught, the front trio extended their advantage to 2 minutes by the time Naesen led De Bie and Mestre over the top. The chasers followed at 35 seconds.

 

The break is caught

The peloton accelerated and had brought the gap down to 1.35 as they entered the final 50km. Meanwhile, Rast dropped Lastra and reduced his deficit to just 25 seconds.

 

Rast made it back to the leaders but it was all in vain as the peloton accelerated furiously. With 46km to go, the gap was only 20 seconds and as they hit the descent, Naesen was dropped. The front trio fought hard to keep a 10-second advantage and Rast quickly sat up. Moments later, it was back together for the exciting finale.

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