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After their team had controlled the final climb completely, Fernandez and Veloso accelerated inside the final kilometre to make it a 1-2 for W52 in the Volta a Portugal queen stage; Veloso defended his lead

Photo: Kennet Kirkensgaard (BIKEnNET/BIKEHEAD

GUSTAVO CESAR VELOSO

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VOLTA A PORTUGAL

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06.08.2015 @ 19:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Delio Fernandez and Gustavo Cesar Veloso confirmed their status as the strongest riders in the Volta a Portugal when they made it a 1-2 for W52 in the queen stage to the top of Alto da Torre. After their teammates had set a fast pace throughout the entire ascent, the pair accelerated inside the final kilometre to distance the rest and it was Fernandez who took the stage win while Veloso extended his overall lead.

 

In the first part of the Volta a Portugal, it has been hard not to be impressed by the W52 pair of Gustavo Cesar Veloso and Delio Fernandez who have clearly proved that they are the strongest riders in the race. In fact, the former leads the race ahead of his teammate and has been in the top 3 in all but one stage.

 

Hence, it was no surprise that the pair turned out to be in a class of their own in the traditional queen stage which ends at the top of the brutal mountain of Alto da Torre. Not only did they prove to be stronger than the rest by making it a 1-2 for W52, their teammates delivered a splendid performance to set up their leaders.

 

With 15km to go, it was Joni Brandao (Efapel) who had made a big gamble by attacking from afar and he was the lone leader after having dropped Virgilio Santos (Radio Popular) and Amaro Antunes (LA Aluminios). The latter had been caught by the peloton from which Rui Sousa (Radio Popular) was the next GC rider to make a brave move.

 

Sousa caught his teammate Santos and those two riders joined Brandao. The trio had a 30-second advantage with 13km to go.

 

Behind, the W52 machine was riding at full gas, constantly sending riders out the back door of the rapidly dwindling peloton. With 10km to go, only 13 riders were left in the main group which kept the gap at around 30 seconds.

 

The peloton briefly seemed to lose control when the gap went out to 40 seconds but then Helder Olievira took over. He did some strong work and when he swung off with 3km to go, the gap was only 10 seconds. At this point, Santos had ended his work and had left his captain Sousa with Brandao.

 

Sousa rode strongly in the front group while Antonio Carvalho took over the pace-setting in the peloton. As they passed the flamme rouge, Alejandro Marque (Efapel) made an attack but he only managed to bring the two W52 riders back to the front of the race. Marcos Garcia (Louletano) was the final rider who manage to keep up with them.

 

This was the signal for Fernandez to go full gas and when he hit the front, only Veloso could match his speed. The pair gapped the rest and the yellow jersey didn’t even try to pass his teammate who took the stage win. Brandao was next, 4 seconds later.

 

With the performance, Veloso defended his overall lead but Fernandez reduced his deficit to 14 seconds. Brandao is their nearest rival in third, 57 seconds behind.

 

Things should get a bit easier in tomorrow’s stage which only had a small category 3 climb at the midpoint. The roads are mostly flat and so a sprint finish is expected but like in stage 6, a slightly uphill finish could produce a surprise.

 

The queen stage

After a well-deserved rest day, the riders faced the queen stage of the race when they covered 171.3km from Condeixa a Nova to a mountaintop finish on the Alto da Torre. The first part was relatively flat with just a small category 4 climb but the second half was brutal. First they went up a small category 3 climb before they descended to the bottom of the most famous cycling climb in Portugal which has often decided the national tour.

 

It was another hot and sunny day in Portugal when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was not present as Timur Maleev (ISD) had used the rest day to head home.

 

Lots of attacks

The tough terrain inspired many riders to go on the attack and so it was an extremely fast start to the stage. When the riders got to the 30km mark, no one had managed to get clear despite lots of attempts.

 

Bruno Silva (LA Aluminios) and Rafael Silva (Efapel) escaped as they approached the first climb and they had a 15-second advantage over lone chaser Henrique Casimiro (Tavira) and 20 seconds over the peloton at the 32.5km mark. When Bruno Silva led Rafael over the top of the first climb, Casimiro had been brought back and it was Ronan van Zandbeek (De Rijke) who was first from the peloton.

 

The break is formed

At the 40km mark, the break was caught and but the two Silvas refused to give up. They attacked again and this time they had Filipe Cardoso (Efapel) for company.

 

Cardoso beat Rafal Silva and Bruno Silva in the first intermediate sprint at the 44km mark but the break was caught moments later. Instead, David Rodrigues (Radio Popular), Cardoso, Bruno Silva, Daniel Livramento (Tavira), Micael Isidoro (Louletano), Heiner Parra, Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) andChristophe Premont (Verandas Willems) escaped and they had an advantage of 30 seconds at the 50km mark.

 

The peloton keeps the break under control

Thijs van Beusichem (Parkhotel) and Matthijs Eversdijk (De Rijke) left the race while Rodrigues had bad luck to puncture out of the breakaway which had a 40-second advantage at the 59km mark. However, the peloton was in no mood to let the group escape and so they only had 1.10 after 68km of racing.

 

It was the Louletano team that had taken control of the peloton and while Sandro Pinto (Portugal) abandoned, they reduced the gap. It was down to 40 seconds at the 73km mark.

 

Knaup bridges across

Cardoso beat Livramento and Isidoro in the second intermediate sprint while the peloton crossed the line 1.05 later. For a long time, the gap hovered around the 1-minute mark and it was now W52 setting the ace in the peloton.

 

Tobias Knaup (Kuota) made an impressive performance to bridge the gap to the leaders who were still 1.15 ahead with 60km to go. Moments later, Silva beat Molina, Isidoro, Cardoso, Livramento and Premont  in the KOM sprint on the category 2 climb.

 

The break splits up

The attacking started in the front group when Cardoso and Premont took off. Livramento, Isidoro, Molina and Knaup tried to make it back while the rest of the break was caught.

 

Rodrigues attacked again and made it back to the chase group. Later Hugo Sabido and Domingos Goncalves also managed to join that group but with 20km to go, they were brought back. A few minutes later, the front duo was caught and it was back together with 20km to go.

 

Fernandez beat his teammates Raul Alarcon and Samuel Caldeira in the final intermediate sprint before Santos, Brandao and Antunes took off. They worked well together to get a small advantage before Brandao dropped his companions. Moments later Sousa took off to set the scene for the exciting finale.

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