Volta a Portugal (2.1) 29/7 - 9/8

IT IS TIME! Yes, it's time to leave all of the unsavoury talk of doping and controversy that has dogged the Tour behind because it's time for A Grande - the Volta a Portugal. The longest European race outside of the Grand Tours, the race has historically been a litmus test for recovery, with a week and a half of suffering in blistering heat (often over 40º on many occasions) being battered by the national péloton serving as a real test. The pace is often almost as high as the temperature, even though the star power of the cast has dwindled considerably over the course of the last decade. Nevertheless, cue the terrible music, as it is time for the Volta!

Having shrunk from three weeks originally to two, and then from two weeks to its present format of eleven stages including a rest day, the race has chosen increasingly to abandon the mostly barren south of the country (Algarve and Alentejo have their own stage races of course) and focus primarily on the north of the country, where the bulk of the interest in cycling lies. This year follows the same format, beginning in the city of Viseu and circumnavigating the north of the country before curling back south again to finish in the capital. Along the way, there are a number of obstacles to be fought over by the péloton, which includes some duelling former champions, two of which never got the chance to defend their crowns.

Recent winners:
2006 David Blanco
2007 Xavier Tondó
2008 David Blanco
2009 David Blanco (after disqualification of Nuno Ribeiro)
2010 David Blanco
2011 Ricardo Mestre
2012 David Blanco
2013 Alejandro Marque
2014 Gustavo César Veloso

As you can see, recent years have been all about the Spanish imports at the front of the field, a practice which started in the post-Puerto phase when riders who were unable to get top tier rides were attracted by superior salaries in Portugal to those available in Spain at the time. This situation has now, by and large, changed, and the historically good salaries in Portuguese domestic cycling are now similarly poor to much of the rest of the area, however after the race really suffered a few years ago, a revision of the qualification criteria for Continental registration in Portugal has meant the number of domestic teams is on the rise again and a number of Spanish riders exiled by the deaths of many teams have found their way to Portugal to race, and several of them will be competing for the win here, along with the last Portuguese winner Ricardo Mestre and a number of other home interests.

Stages:

Prologue: Viseu - Viseu (6km)


Rather resembles the initial part of the 2009 closing time trial!

1: Pinhel - Bragança (197km)


A rare in recent years trip to the far north east, this is a stage which should see a reduced sprint or a late attack on the rolling run-in.

2: Macedo de Cavaleiros - Montalegre (Serra do Larouco)(176km)


The first uphill finish, after a successful introduction last year when David Belda won solo. Shouldn't create massive gaps owing to the long rolling run-in and the shortish (8km or so) length of the important part of the climb.

3: Boticas - Fafe (172km)


A bit of a waste of a weekend stage, this.

4: Alvarenga - Mondim de Basto (Alto da Senhora da Graça)(159km)


The now traditional first Sunday mountaintop finish on Monte Farinha, this year after O Barragem do Alvão like in 2009. Should be good.

5: Braga - Viana do Castelo (Santa Luzia)(169km)


A slightly punchy uphill finish after a long flat stretch exposed to the Mediterranean coastline. Could be interesting if the weather plays ball.

6: Ovar - Oliveira de Azeméis (153km)


Short, fast and flat, should be one for the more durable sprinter.

7: Condeixa-a-Nova - Seia (Alto da Torre)(171km)


After the rest day, straight to the summit. A much more anæmic stage than we've grown accustomed to here, however well worth noting that for the first time in many years they're climbing all the way to the top from Covilhã - almost invariably recently they've climbed from Seia, except in the abridged 2010 stage when they climbed the weaker Manteigas side.

8: Guarda - Castelo Branco (180km)


A now traditional finish, with the pretty flat run-in.

9: Pedrógão - Leiria (34,2km)


The main ITT, almost identical route to 2010 and 2012 but slightly longer due to an early detour.

10: Vila Franca de Xira - Lisboa (133km)


The parade stage we wish the Volta didn't go with.

Last year's top 10:
1 Gustavo César Veloso (OFM-Quinta da Lixa) ESP 42'40'23
2 Rui Sousa (Radio Popular-Boavista) POR +1'45
3 Délio Fernández Cruz (OFM-Quinta da Lixa) ESP +2'38
4 Joni Brandão (Efapel-Glassdrive) POR +2'54
5 Edgar Pinto (LA-Antarte) POR +3'10
6 Ricardo Vilela (OFM-Quinta da Lixa) POR +4'38
7 Victor de la Parte González (Efapel-Glassdrive) ESP +5'15
8 Virgilio Santos (Radio Popular-Boavista) POR +6'42
9 Amaro Antunes (Banco BIC-Carmim) POR +7'04
10 Sandro Pinto (Louletano-Dunas Douradas) POR +7'08

The majority of them will be there again, though there's no room for de la Parte, who now races in Austria with Team Vorarlberg, nor, more surprisingly, Edgar Pinto; with Mancebo as well I had thought Sky Dive Dubai would have been nailed on for the race.

The teams that are taking part are the usual mix - the national teams going strong, Caja Rural (who take Vilela as leader with a free role), a couple of the not-Spanish-registered-but-based-in-Spain teams, Lokosphinx, some Italian Continental riders and some German and Benelux teams that will likely place well in the early days but be cannon fodder in the high mountains.

We have:

W52-Quinta da Lixa (led by reigning champion Gustavo César, Délio Fernández is his wingman as per the last two years)

Radio Popular (led by the evergreen Rui Sousa, who's getting closer to winning the race in his late 30s than he ever managed in his peak - but watch out for Alberto Gallego who has been going well this year - he podiumed the main warmup race, and was 7th in the Route du Sud)

Efapel (led by 2013 champ Alejandro Marque, who never got to defend his crown thanks to his Movistar call-up being annulled after a suspect sample due to a clerical error around a TUE; he is ably backed up by Brandão, but also look out for David de la Fuente, who won the queen stage of Torres Vedras; I will also be keeping an eye on Arkaitz Durán)

LA Aluminios (led by pure climber Amaro Antunes, they also have the aging nearly man and sentimental favourite of mine, Hernâni Brôco)

Team Tavira (led by 2011 winner Ricardo Mestre, they also have former youth phenom Rafa Reis and former World Tour sprinter Manuel Cardoso)

Louletano-Ray Just Energy (Sandro Pinto leads by virtue of his top 10 last year, but João Benta won the Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho a couple of weeks ago so is the man in form. Marcos García is a proven commodity and they recently acquired Moisés Dueñas)

Of the out-of-towners, the obvious main threats are Caja Rural, whose odds-and-sods lineup with their top names being in Burgos is led by Ricardo Vilela. Gonçalves will also be motivated in front of his home crowd. Ecuador will be able to contribute with Jordi Simon and Byron Guama at times. Lokosphinx have plenty of useful names such as Sergey Shilov and Evgeny Shalunov who could easily involve themselves in the stage battles. For Idea, Cappelli is in form but it's most likely to be all about hunting a stage for Davide Vigano now that Reda is suspended. Of the other teams the most name value is provided by Verandas Willems, who bring Gaëtan Bille, Dmitri Claeys and the most unlucky man in cycling, Kai Reus. De Rijke have Wouter Mol, Jetse Bol and Coen Vermeltfoort, the latter two of which were here with Rabo Continental back in around 2011. For Parkhotel Valkenburg Jasper Ockeloen has been having a surprisingly effective year in hilly races against odd opposition, while Marco Zanotti picked up a large number of placements in the sprints at Qinghai Lake so his form is good.
 
Yes, great!

I'll be mainly cheering for António Carvalho, Nuno Bico and Fred Figueiredo, though these last two will most likely be working for Rui Sousa.

And lol at your inevitable remark towards Rui Sousa. :D
 
Re:

BigMac said:
Yes, great!

I'll be mainly cheering for António Carvalho, Nuno Bico and Fred Figueiredo, though these last two will most likely be working for Rui Sousa.

And lol at your inevitable remark towards Rui Sousa. :D
Hey, Cândido's retired and Sérgio Ribeiro's banned, the race needs somebody to uphold tradition.
 
Some small remarks to the excellent OP.

Arkaitz Durán was replaced by Oscar Gonzalez in Efapel

And in stage 5 they run alongside the Atlantic coastline and not the Mediterranean coastline. :p
 
Re:

thrawn said:
Those profiles are hilariously bad. How difficult are the MTF's?
Ye, Portuguese races profiles have been this bad for some time now. They're clearly designed by someone who hasn't got the slightest clue about the sport - not that they're good looking either.

Larouco is a fairly new addition and as said in the OP not big gaps are to be expected, just as last year. It's around 8km's @ 6.5% but can't be sure as the Volta organizer is never fan-friendly with this info. I don't think they even bother. I tried to trace it but again can't be sure if I got the route right, Netserk will probably correct me.



Monte Farinha is my favourite climb of the Volta. Brutal and scenic, often climbed under scorching heat. Plus the crowds that gather in Mondim de Basto are simply the best.




Torre deserves a better description so I'll leave that to someone else, Libertine probably. Here's this side profile though.
 
Jun 8, 2015
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One of my favourite race, shame it dont have the level of team of late 90s and the 2 weeks but still have the most scenic finish at senhora de graca, always remember Vitor Gamito crying after losing the race in the last time trial.....
 
Sep 8, 2009
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my favourite race of the year
as always, lovely preview by libertine.

now that bala made the podium of le tour, i'm sure

this man will finally win it!



rui sousa idoloooooo
 
Aug 4, 2010
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Re: Re:

BigMac said:
thrawn said:
Those profiles are hilariously bad. How difficult are the MTF's?
Ye, Portuguese races profiles have been this bad for some time now. They're clearly designed by someone who hasn't got the slightest clue about the sport - not that they're good looking either.

Larouco is a fairly new addition and as said in the OP not big gaps are to be expected, just as last year. It's around 8km's @ 6.5% but can't be sure as the Volta organizer is never fan-friendly with this info. I don't think they even bother. I tried to trace it but again can't be sure if I got the route right, Netserk will probably correct me.



Monte Farinha is my favourite climb of the Volta. Brutal and scenic, often climbed under scorching heat. Plus the crowds that gather in Mondim de Basto are simply the best.




Torre deserves a better description so I'll leave that to someone else, Libertine probably. Here's this side profile though.
Thanks BigMac, I wanted to ask for those too, cuz official profiles are hillarious. :D

I hope this race will be blown apart again :cool:
edit: btw great OP Libertine ;)
 

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