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“It was a pretty fast and chaotic finale. Fabio Sabatini risked a lot to bring me into a good position, and I can’t thank him enough for his effort. He took me to the front with one kilometer to go and did an incredible lead-out...

Photo: Tim De Waele

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ALEX DOWSETT

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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BORA-HANSGROHE

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DENNIS VAN WINDEN

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DYLAN GROENEWEGEN

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EF EDUCATION FIRST

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GERAINT THOMAS

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ILNUR ZAKARIN

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JENS DEBUSSCHERE

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MARCEL KITTEL

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PAOLO TIRALONGO

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PHIL BAUHAUS

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TEAM NOVO NORDISK

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TIAGO MACHADO

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TONY MARTIN

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VOLTA AO ALGARVE

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WOUTER WIPPERT

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20.02.2016 @ 21:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel continued his dream start to his Etixx-QuickStep career by claiming another sprint win on stage four of the Volta ao Algarve. Three days after winning the first stage, he was again delivered perfectly by Etixx-QuickStep and easily beat Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) in the uphill finish while his teammate Tony Martin retained the lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Marcel Kittel: I can’t thank Fabio Sabatini enough for this win

After being protected by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates throughout the day, Marcel Kittel put on another big sprint and roared across the finish line with his arms up in celebration of his 5th victory of the season, following the three he scored in Dubai and the one he got at the start of the week in Portugal. The dominant win he landed ahead of Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) in Tavira – same town which witnessed a Tony Martin success three years ago – helped Kittel open a bigger gap in the points standings, which he leads, with just one stage left to go.

 

“I can’t find the words to express my happiness. We did a great race today and we showed again a fantastic team spirit. We can all be very proud of what we achieved”, Kittel said right after the finish, before going into a more detailed analysis of the last kilometers: “It was a pretty fast and chaotic finale. Fabio Sabatini risked a lot to bring me into a good position, and I can’t thank him enough for his effort. He took me to the front with one kilometer to go and did an incredible lead-out, leaving me to open my sprint in the final 200 meters and finish off the job.

 

”Today’s victory is of the entire team, because the boys looked after me all the time, controlled the race and made sure I’m in a safe position.

 

“I have no words to express how proud I am. Two victories here, in Algarve, is very good. Today we did a great job. We can be super proud of our performance. I saw Andre [Greipel] crash, I hope he’s ok. ”

 

Tony Martin: I will do my best to follow Geraint Thomas

Not only Marcel Kittel was all smiles in Tavira, but also his teammate and countryman Tony Martin, who won the event in 2011 and 2013. Wearing the yellow jersey after the individual time trial in Sagres, the 30-year-old kept his lead and will now go into the last stage with a 3-second gap over Geraint Thomas.

 

“The stage was more or less relaxed, the riders weren’t nervous and everything was under control until the final 25 kilometers, when things became really hectic and many riders crashed. Even though the last kilometers weren’t easy, we did a perfect job and finished safely, which is equally important. Tomorrow it won’t be easy, but I will give my best and will try to stay with Geraint, although I’m sure attacks will come also from other riders. It’s going to be again a hard day, but I can count on a great team and we’ll see how things go”, Tony Martin said

 

“The peloton was rather nervous in the last 20 km, but we knew how to get organized and lead Marcel [Kittel] to victory. Tomorrow, I know it will not be easy. I will try to hang in with [Geraint] Thomas and then see how I stand. I’m feeling quite good, but only tomorrow I can confirm how I really am.”

 

Wouter Wippert: Marcel Kittel gave me a perfect lead-out

Wouter Wipper opened up his account at Volta ao Algarve with a fourth place finish against the WorldTour big guns on Wednesday. On Saturday’s stage four, he went two better, sprinting to second in Tavira behind Marcel Kittel (EQS).
 
“Two steps closer to the first,” said Wippert. “The team did a really good job. The boys kept me out of the wind the whole day, supported me the whole day and believed in me the whole day. I felt really strong.”
 
Cannondale Pro Cycling Team dedicated the squad in Portugal to supporting Wippert’s efforts in the finale. The 194-kilometer stage had been earmarked for the fast finishers.
 
“We had two goals today initially,” noted Wipper.  “[André] Cardoso wanted to go into the break to try to get the mountain jersey. He was in the first break but it was chased back by Caja Rural. We just missed out on the second break. Three guys went and that was it. Roads blocked. After that team orders were to work for the bunch sprint.”
 
With 30 kilometers left to race, Wippert followed green argyle to the front of the peloton.
 
“The whole team went to the front,” said Wippert. “I was well-positioned and out of the wind, so I could save a lot of energy. The last 20 kilometers we had a tailwind, so it was a fast run-in.”
 
The sprint train began to take shape in the final 5 kilometers.
 
“They left me on the front with one-and-a-half to go,” explained Wippert. “I found Marcel Kittel’s wheel.”
 
Kittel led through the final corner. Wipper followed, braking through the turn. “I had to make up a little bit of a gap, but it was so fast that no one could come around us,” Wippert said. “Once I closed that little gap, I was in the perfect position. Kittel gave me the perfect lead-out, but he was too strong in the last 200 meters, and I couldn’t come around. So second. There was nothing more possible.”
 
It feels like it’s just a matter of time for the 25-year-old sprinter from the Netherlands.
 
“Wippert is starting to become a giant slayer in sprinting. It won't be long before David whacks Goliath,” CEO Jonathan Vaughters said.

 

Crash takes André Greipel out of contention in Algarve

André Greipel couldn’t participate in the sprint due to a crash, he rode bloodied across the finish line. Also Sean De Bie was involved in that crash. His teammate Jens Debusschere finished in a nice third place.

 

Tony Gallopin maintains his fourth sport in the GC, Tony Martin remains leader. Tiesj Benoot keeps his lead in the youth classification.

 

”Sorry @alexdowsett my ribs found out that you didn't make it to bunny hop me...sorry that I put you down...congrats @marcelkittel,” Greipel tweeted after the stage.

 

Alex Dowsett goes down, Jose Joaquin Rojas sprints to fifth

Not far away from their Movistar team-mates over at the Ruta del Sol, the Volta ao Algarve roster led by José Luis Jaimerena took all precautions to preserve Ion Izagirre’s third place overall, behind Tony Martin (EQS, -20”) and Geraint Thomas (SKY, -17”), before Sunday’s Alto do Malhao showdown. The bunch sprint in Tavira witnessed José Joaquín Rojas’ best result so far in 2016 with a 5th place behind winner Marcel Kittel (EQS), as calmness for the whole Movistar Team was only briefly disturbed by a crash from Alex Dowsett, who suffered only minor bruises into a pile-up also affecting André Greipel (LTS).

 

“First unscheduled lay down of the year. Couldn't bunny hop @AndreGreipel as hard as I tried, but I bounced well, minimal damage,” Dowsett tweeted after the stage.

 

Young Bora-Argon 18 sprinter shows his potential in Algarve

After a difficult start to the Volta ao Algarve in the last days, Phil Bauhaus managed to cross the line in 7th place in the bunch sprint of stage 4. For BORA - ARGON 18 this was the first top ten result in Portugal and a boost of moral for tomorrow’s last day.

 

"Most riders of our lead-out train are in Oman at the moment. But Zak (Dempster) and Michael (Schwarzmann) did a good job to position Phil well in the final. I think Phil can even score better results when he gets used to this last position in the train, I am sure he is fast enough,” said Christian Pömer, sports director.

 

Lack of trust costs Dylan Groenewegen top result in Algarve

Dylan Groenewegen finished eighth in the bunch sprint of the fourth stage of the Volta ao Algarve. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s lead-out ran smoothly, but Dennis van Winden and Groenewegen lost their positions with 800 metres to go. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) won.

 

The fourth stage of the Volta ao Algarve on Saturday finished with a bunch sprint and Team LottoNL-Jumbo approached it with hope.

 

“We wanted to lead-out Dylan as well as possible to grab a good result,” sports director Merijn Zeeman said after the race. “That lead-out went great for a long time, but failed because of a detail. We wanted to take the head of the peloton with 1.3 kilometres to go and that succeeded. Because of that we were able to come through the final turn in front. It became nervous afterwards and Dennis and Dylan lost the wheels of Sep Vanmarcke and Tom Leezer in the chaos. That happened in a split second and we lost our position there.”

 

“Dennis had a little moment of doubt,” Groenewegen explained. “That’s why we lost our positions. Until that moment, it went well. We can learn from this. I try to coach my teammates in front of me as much as possible and that went quite well. It’s our goal to trust each other completely and we did most of the time today. We have to get used to each other a little more and we need some time to realise that.”

 

Primoz Roglic and Robert Gesink didn’t need to lead-out on Saturday.

 

“Primoz saved as much energy as possible today and he can go for it tomorrow another time,” Zeeman said. “We’re going to help him as much as possible. Robert lost some time today, but he did that on purpose to create some space to attack tomorrow.”

 

Successful day for Team Novo Nordisk in Algarve

Team Novo Nordisk’s Charles Planet starred in the main breakaway on Saturday’s Stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve while teammate Andrea Peron sprinted to a top 15th finish.

 

“My goal was to get in the break and I lined up from the start with that in mind. When the first attacks went, I was in there and I thought we had made it. Then I heard on race radio that we were all back together,” Planet said. “I waited a few moments and then I attacked again with two other riders. Eventually another rider bridged up and we raced well together until Adam Stachowiak (VERVA ActiveJet Pro Cycling Team) attacked the break with around 50 km to go. I caught his wheel and we stayed out front just the two of us as long as possible.”

 

Geraint Thomas: On a scale from 0 to 10, my confidence is 10

Geraint Thomas retained second place overall to set up a final day showdown at the Volta ao Algarve.

 

The Welshman came back from a puncture to finish safely in the pack on day four into Tavira, ensuring he remains within touching distance of chief rival Tony Martin.

 

On a day for the sprinters Marcel Kittel (Etixx - Quick-Step) came out on top, taking his second victory of the race as he held off Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) over the stripe.

 

Martin (Etixx - Quick-Step) kept possession of the yellow leader's jersey and now holds a slender three-second advantage over Thomas heading into Sunday's deciding summit finish.

 

Thomas will be hoping he can continue Team Sky's run of success on the Alto do Malhao, which includes four stage victories in the team's last four appearances in Portugal.

 

Earlier in the day four riders pushed on out front and were gradually chased down by a combination of Etixx - Quick-Step, Lotto Soudal and LA Aluminios.

 

With the day's two categorised climbs complete Thomas still held enough points to retain the mountains jersey. The break were finally swept up inside 10km to go after Movistar and Tinkoff has upped the pace.

 

Thomas finished on the wheel of team-mate Salvatore Puccio after receiving the support of the team during the day. Those riders will be called upon again during Sunday's decider.

 

Sport Director Gabriel Rasch was happy to report back after a good day which saw the team avoid a spate of crashes and incur no time loss after Thomas' puncture.

 

"When G got the puncture it was on a big road with around 35 kilometres to go," he explained. "We had some guys waiting for him a little bit further up so it wasn't too bad and there was no panic. 

 

"It was a good day and all the guys did a really good job helping G and keeping him fresh. There were three or four crashes in the last 50km and they managed to avoid all of those.

 

"Tomorrow it's a big day and we need to try and put some time into Martin. But at the same time we also need to be wary of Izagirre behind because he is looking very strong. It should be a really exciting stage.”

 

“I look forward to tomorrow. The team is strong, I think we will do a good job. It’s nice of [Tony] Martin to consider me the favorite, he who has won the race twice. He has no need to be greedy and may well let me win tomorrow… I hope to have good legs on the final climb to Malhão. I would say that, in terms of confidence, on a scale from zero to ten, I would choose ten,” Thomas said.

 

Katusha target stage win with Machado or Zakarin in Algarve

The last flat stage in the 42nd Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta gave the sprinters one more chance for glory on Saturday, with Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step)  able to outsprint Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) by one second.  But for Team KATUSHA, it was all about the team climbers being focused on staying safe and looking ahead to the mountains on Sunday.

 

”This was a flat stage for sprinters. Tomorrow is a hard stage. The final will make some selection and we are here fighting for the GC. We come to tomorrow with the goal of moving up some places on the classification. We knew today would be a sprint and our riders just needed to pay attention to crucial moments in the race and save their legs for tomorrow. We have two riders in the top ten and have a plan with them for the last climb tomorrow,” said sports director José Azevedo, holding his cards close to the vest regarding team strategy.    

 

Tiago Machado holds seventh place at 59-seconds with teammate Ilnur Zakarin just behind him by five seconds. The yellow jersey is currently worn by Germany’s Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) with Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Ion Izaguirre of Movistar rounding out the top 3 at 3- and 20-seconds respectively. 

 

Alberto Contador optimistic ahead of Algarve queen stage

On a day that ended, as expected, with a bunch sprint, the Tinkoff squad kept Alberto Contador out of trouble, allowing him to safely navigate his way in the main group. According to Sport Director Steven de Jongh, the team is motivated for tomorrow's closing mountain stage of the race that finishes atop Alto de Malhão .

The 194km-long stage from São Brás de Alportel to Tavira held no surprises and finished with a fast bunch sprint. A four-man breakaway was formed in the initial kilometers, gaining a gap that peaked at 4 minutes. However, the sprinter teams took the matter into their hands, working hard to keep the race under control.

With just five kilometers to go, the last escapees were brought back in the peloton and the sprinters fought for victory in the fast finale.  Contador's teammates kept him safe until the finish line where he crossed in the main group.

 

"It was a long day and like I already said there was going to be a bunch sprint," commented Sport Director Steven de Jongh. "There was a lot of control from Etixx-Quickstep for Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin and at the end it was Kittel that took the stage. Our guys worked well to keep Alberto in a safe position, and that was it."

 

"Tomorrow is an interesting day because we have a mountaintop finish and we're motivated for this," concluded de Jongh.

 

Alberto Contador confirmed his good sensations regarding his form: "The confidence I have in my form is increasing every day and I feel my shape gradually improving. It's true I'm not very satisfied with my result in the second stage but I have been out of competition for so many months, so it was something that I knew could happen. We have to take each day as it comes and we will see what we can do tomorrow."

 

Tomorrow, the battle for the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve will start in Almodôvar and end, after 169 km, at the top of Malhão, a second-category climb, 2.5km long with and an average gradient of 9.4%. At 45 km from the finale, riders will pass for the first time at Malhão, before a hilly terrain that resembles the Spring Classics, with short but steep ascents. The final 2.5km, ascending to the top of Malhão are expected to be really exciting, with huge crowds and a fight among the GC contenders and the riders that will go for a stage win.

 

Astana have quiet day in Algarve to refocus after loss of Sanchez

“After yesterday’s troubled stage, today was a quiet day for us with the bunch that rode, thinking about the bunch sprint finish that finally occurred,” explained Astana’s Paolo Tiralaongo.

 

“It seemed that everyone in the bunch was paying attention to not taking any risk and recover some energy for tomorrow’s final stage so we did almost the same, keeping the safest position in the bunch.

 

“I can say, everything went well today, let’s see how the race will develop but we are in good shape.”

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