As I’m doing both Andalucia and Algarve previews this afternoon, no GC funny business here – straight into the opening day it is!

The Route

At over 2000m of climbing throughout the stage and with a profile that can be best described as “rolling”, it’s not exactly going to be an easy sprint stage.

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However, with the majority of the bigger climbs coming in the opening half, a sprint is what we should get. So the stage will come down to the final 5kms and how the teams approach it.

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The major “obstacle” in those closing 5 kms is a 600m rise that averages 4.4% so it shouldn’t be enough to drop any sprinters given how fast the peloton will travel over it. However, with it cresting at just over 2 kms to go, you don’t really want to be out of position here given that the next kilometre is almost all downhill and it will be hard to make up some ground.

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At roughly 1.2km to go the riders come to their first roundabout when entering Lagos, with them being forced to take the long way around the right side of it and exiting on the left. The turn at the bottom of the roundabout is quite tight so this will slow the bunch down a little and stretch things out.

They face another roundabout with around 800m to go but it is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t see any issues. After that, it is a straight drag race to the line for the final 750m so I expect things could be quite chaotic as that gives some teams enough time to try a hail mary, last-minute lead-out.

Another to note is that it is expected to get reasonably windy later on in the day, with roughly 18-20km/h winds coming in from the coast. With the direction it is forecast, the riders will more than likely have a head wind for the finish – so timing of the sprint is even more crucial.

Contenders

We have quite the sprint field here!

Dylan Groenewegen.

Fresh off of a narrow stage win in Valenciana, the Dutchman will want to prove why he is one of the best sprinters in the world. His 2018 was superb but no doubt he’d like to do even better and with a team that is built around him for this race, he’ll be hopeful of picking up another win or two throughout the week. Roosen and Teunissen are a powerful last two men to have in front of him but without the likes of Tony Martin, Jumbo Visma will probably revert back to type from 2018 and try to ambush the closing kilometre. As stated above though, it is quite difficult to improve your position coming off the descent and into the roundabouts but if there is one team who I think can bring their sprinter forward in the closing 500m it is Jumbo. Groenewegen starts as the favourite for me.

Pascal Ackermann.

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After a little warm-up in Murcia, Ackermann was quick to take his first win in Almeria on Sunday – where he just managed to edge out a fast finishing Marcel Kittel. I’m more than willing to dub the Bora man as the breakthrough sprinter in 2018, after he managed to pick up 9 pro wins. Not a bad tally considering he had none before the start of the year. Another rider with a team dedicated to him; there is an awful lot of horsepower in that Bora squad. If there is a team capable of drilling it up that incline and keeping things stretched out all the way to the finish then I think they could manage it. Does Ackermann have the top end speed to see off the competition here though?

Arnaud Démare.

The Frenchman is starting his season off here so it is difficult to know where his form will be. Looking at previous year’s results though, he seems to be there or thereabouts in the opening races so he should be trying to fight for the win tomorrow. However, with a lot of his contenders having already had a few races under their belt, then I think he’ll be a little off the pace.

Fabio Jakobsen.

Another rider beginning his 2019 in Portugal, Jakobsen was by far the most successful neo-pro in terms of wins last year with 7 to his name. As per usual, Quick Step have started the year in flying form so despite this being his first race, I would expect Jakobsen to be ready. He has a strong lead-out to help him here, with Lampaert and Senechal able to provide a lot of top end speed come the end of the stage. Can he get his team their 9th win of the year already?

Christophe Laporte.

The impressive Frenchman has started his year will with 2 stage wins and the GC title in Besseges – a race he completely dominated. Known more as a good climbing sprinter, you would be foolish to just class him as one of those though as he has a deceptively good kick on a flat run in. With there being the slight rise not too far from the finish tomorrow, I think that should help him be well positioned going into the final couple of kilometres, but can he finish it off?

John Degenkolb.

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It was nice to see Degenkolb get a win in Provence last week: maybe something to do with good karma after his fundraising campaign to save the junior Paris Roubaix? Trek have a team full of sprinting talent but I imagine they will all be on lead-out duty for Degenkolb, with Theuns possibly last man. They haven’t worked together as a unit before though so the few sprint stages could be more of a learning process than anything else. As the main classics group for Trek, it is important that they get on well and work together here. Despite how strong Degenkolb looked in Provence, I just can’t see him getting a win tomorrow.

Jasper Philipsen.

Will UAE work for him or Consonni? In more of a pure sprint like this I would say that it is the Belgian who is faster and we’ve already seen glimpses of that at the Tour Down Under where he took his stage win. Consonni obviously did some great lead-outs for Gaviria over in San Juan so he will hope to continue that here but he is a more than able replacement if going for the sprint himself. Although put it this way, I could see Philipsen sneaking a win against this field tomorrow but not Consonni.

Others to look out for who might nab a top 10 spot include Debuscherre, Dupont and Boasson Hagen.

Prediction

I feel like a little bit of an upset so I’ll go for Christophe Laporte to keep piling the pressure on Bouhanni by taking a surprise win here.

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Or Groenewegen wins comfortably.

Betting

Odds are up with Betway but I don’t really fancy anything there.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

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One thought on “Volta ao Algarve 2019 Stage 1 Preview: Portimão -> Lagos

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