As I pointed out in the Algarve thread, I find it interesting that since Liberty Seguros Continental folded back in 2009, the only Portuguese team to have any success in the Volta ao Algarve, the one time we see a comparatively A-list field in Portugal and therefore, you would think, one of the best shop windows these guys could have, is LA-Antarte, who tend not to be as competitive in the Volta against the might of Efapel and OFM/W52. Twice in recent years they've had riders in the lower edges of the top 10 (Edgar Pinto in 2014 and Amaro Antunes this year) and they also had the highest-placed domestic rider in the year in between. Cleanliness in the Portuguese péloton is a relative measure, of course, but it is very interesting to see how little a role the older guys who are all over the Volta play in those races, compared to the more comparatively young riders (Vilela for example had a few successful rides in the Algarve before escaping to Caja Rural).pmcg76 said:Will Routley finished 2nd overall and won a stage in a race in Portugal recently. People may recall he was one of the guys who was very vocal on the Garmin bans. Had a very strong anti-doping mentality. Great admiration for Routley as he is still an active cyclist who choose to speak out. Not sure what that says about the state of play in Portugal, maybe not as bad at this time of year.
I think for a period, Portuguese cycling was improving its position. After the collapse of two well-established teams (Maia in 2008, Liberty in 2009) there was a good deal of soul-searching, and we saw estrangeiro teams up at the front of the Volta for the first time in a while as well; riders like Hernâni Brôco, passed over for Volta selection at Liberty Seguros because "he didn't fit in", were putting in good results, and though there were still the likes of Blanco up there, it seemed like some progress had been made. The Volta really suffered from the economic downturn and especially from the collapse of so many of the Spanish second tier teams that had filled out the race as well, and this downturn hurt race fields and turned it into a largely provincial affair again, and led to the birth of the temp, riders hired in late June to ride the Trofeu Agostinho and the Volta, and a revision of the requirements for a Continental licence in order to re-energize the Portuguese péloton. The loss of a lot of those Spanish teams - in particular the Xacobeo-Galicia team, since riders from Galicia have traditionally seen Portugal as a good fit - has rather flooded the market with experienced Spanish pros who can command leadership positions again, although this time they've not come because of Puerto, but a lot of them have been around the block a few times and know what's what (César and Délio Fernández (who's now escaped to Delko) were both on Álvaro Pino's Xaco team for example) or are gambling to try to escape to the upper tiers (Alberto Gallego, for example, who tested positive less than a week into his contract with Caja Rural).
It once was that Spanish riders would go to Portugal for the better salaries. It isn't that anymore; it's more simply that Portugal actually has some teams, so while the calendar isn't great, riders can hope to catch enough eye to escape. A rider like Antunes can look at what people like André Cardoso and Tiago Machado have done in getting out of the scene and carving out a decent niche for themselves at the top tier; somebody like Gustavo César is 36 years old; he's probably thinking that he's not going to get out of the Portuguese domestic scene to a higher level at that age, and he's not going to beat the WT guys in February, so he may as well fill his boots in August.