Gerben Thijssen wins sprint finish in Lagos

Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty) won the first stage of the 50th Volta ao Algarve. The Belgian exploded to victory with a powerful sprint in the final meters, overtaking Marijn van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) and Jordi Meeus (BORA-hansgrohe), second and third respectively.

“Last year I didn’t manage to start the season well, so it was very important to get off to a good start this year. I’ve already got two wins in the middle of February. That’s incredible! And at this level, it proves that I’ve worked hard over the winter to get in this shape”, said Gerben Thijssen at the end of the stage.

“It was a difficult sprint because of the headwind and also because of the very steep climb two kilometers from the finish. The team did an extraordinary job. I had all six of my teammates fighting for me throughout the stage. Tomorrow we’ll work for our overall man, Rune Herregodts”, he added.

The longest stage of this edition, a total of 200.8 kilometers between Portimão and Lagos, had the first breakaway at kilometer 11, with Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Fábio Costa (ABTF Betão-Feirense), Tomás Contte (Aviludo- Louletano-Loulé Concelho), Diogo Narciso (Credibom-LA Alumínios-Marcos Car), Noah Campos (Kelly-Simoldes-UDO), César Fonte (Rádio Popular-Paredes-Boavista) and Gonçalo Amado (Tavfer-Ovos Matinados-Mortágua) escaping from the peloton.

The peloton never allowed the fugitives to reach the four-minute mark, but it was enough for Tomas Contte to secure the first Água é Vida jersey of this Volta ao Algarve. Involved in the escape, the Aviludo-Louletano-Loulé Concelho rider was the fastest in the mountain passes at Aldeia dos Matos (kilometer 37.6, 4th category) and Nave (kilometer 96.5, 3rd category).

This scenario continued until about 50.5 kilometers to the finish line, when Tobias Bayer attacked in the front group and isolated himself at the head of the race. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider, who won the intermediate sprint at Vila do Bisto and was voted the most combative of the stage, was the last to resist the peloton’s pursuit, but was eventually caught with 22 kilometers to go.

From that point on, the peloton remained cohesive and avoided any risks until the final kilometers. The moves, in fact, only energized the race in the final three kilometers, with Akea-B&B Hotels leading the peloton. However, only the Intermarché-Wanty men were able to put Gerben Thijssen in a position to explode to victory in this first stage, after 4h52m04s.

When all was accounted for and bonifications were added, Gerben Thijssen took the lead in the general classification with 4h51m54s, four seconds less than Marijn van den Berg and Tobias Bayer, respectively. In addition to the Turismo do Algarve yellow jersey, the Belgian is also the owner of the Crédito Agrícola green jersey in the points.

In the remaining standings, in addition to the aforementioned mountain leader, Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers) won the youth race, taking over the IPDJ White Jersey, and INEOS Grenadiers secured the lead among the teams.

The second stage of Volta ao Algarve takes to the road this Thursday, on a 171.9-kilometer ride from Lagoa to Alto da Fóia, in Monchique. An early selection of candidates for the final triumph is expected, as the stage finish will be a first category mountain prize.