What a close victory for Magnus Cort Nielsen in Alto da Fóia! The EF Education-EasyPost cyclist celebrated after crossing the finish line, unlike Ilan van Wilder (Soudal Quick-Step), who thought he had secured the win in the second stage of the 49th Volta ao Algarve, when he saw the danish pass him in the very last moment.
Dramatic finish for the young belgian, with the well-known fighting spirit of Magnus Cort Nielsen fully alive in Algarve. He knew how to protect himself when, in the final 30 kilometers, the INEOS Grenadiers with the help of Soudal Quick-Step (mostly Kasper Asgreen) set a very strong pace. The danish rider wasn’t one of the favorites to win in Alto da Fóia, but he chose the right time to surprise and is the new owner of the yello jersey Turismo do Algarve.
“I felt good during the climb. I wasn’t in my comfort zone, but the kilometers passed and I felt I had strength for the sprint. With five kilometers to go, four kilometers the pace of the climb was hard, but steady which made me believe that I would have hypotheses”, said Magnus Cort Nielsen.
“In the last 500 meters everyone wanted to be close to the front, but there was headwind and I was afraid of going too early. I fought to find a good position, found an open in the last meters and managed to win”, he added.
Magnus Cort Nielsen leads four seconds ahead of Ilan van Wilder, with Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) third on the stage and occupying the same position overall, six seconds behind the yellow jersey. Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) are 10 seconds behind, with many riders having less than a 20 seconds difference to the leader.
That means, the first differences were made at Alto da Fóia, but nothing is decided in the general classification.
“For me to win, in these conditions, is phenomenal. I have one or two wins on climbs, but usually on breakaways and small groups. I had never beaten the favorites to the GC before. I’m super happy,” said the new leader of the race.
Sagres received the start for the 186.3 kilometers of the stage that took the cyclists to the Serra de Monchique, with the arrival at Fóia. The breakaway didn’t take long to form, but early on it was clear that teams with riders for the GC were not going to let it succeed. The advantage never went much beyond three minutes.
Matthew Gibson (Human Powered Health), Rafael Lourenço (AP Hotels & Resorts-Tavira-SC Farense), Tomas Contte (Aviludo-Louletano-Loulé Concelho), Gaspar Gonçalves (Efapel Cycling), António Ferreira (Kelly-Simoldes-UDO) and João Matias (Tavfer-Ovos Matinados-Mortágua) resisted until the final 30 kilometers, when the peloton increased the pace and INEOS Grenadiers took over.
The winner of the mountain classification in 2022, João Matias, and António Ferreira, who wears the blue jersey Cyclin’Portugal and fought hard to keep it, stand out. He holds that lead by by just one point. Ferreira was second in the third categories of Casais and Alferce, with Rafael Lourenço (AP & Resorts-Tavira-SCFarense) taking first place in both.
But Lourenço also had a place in the podium as the most combative of the stage, a distinction awarded by public vote. Matias, on the other hand, this time concentrated on winning the intermediate sprint in Monchique.
Approaching the second category climb at Picota – immediately before Fóia – there was a reduced group in front, with the general candidates positioning themselves for the final difficulty. Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step), Michael Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers) were the first at Picota. However, they were all focused on implementing a very high pace.
In the long-awaited 7.7 kilometers (6.3% average grade) final at Fóia, some cyclists lost contact, with INEOS Grenadiers controlling the front of the race. The decision came down to a sprint, with Magnus Cort Nielsen adding another victory in his career, being a cyclist who has triumphs in the Tour and Vuelta.
Another danish rider, but from BORA-hansgrohe, was also wears a leaders jersey at Volta ao Algarve: the white IPDJ. Frederik Wandahl is the best in the youth classification.
Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X), winner of the first stage, in Lagos, kept the green jersey Crédito Agrícola (points).