Let’s take a deep breath! The third stage of the 49th Volta ao Algarve was breathtaking, with a spectacular finale! Cycling is not linear. The arrival in Tavira is a traditional sprint, but given the quality of the cyclists in the race, there was an attack that thwarted the sprinters plans. Magnus Cort Nielsen was the main protagonist for the second consecutive day.
In Alto da Fóia he beat the best climbers. In Tavira he surprised the sprinters. The danish rider from EF Education-EasyPost is well known for believing that anything is possible and he is showing just that in Volta ao Algarve.
Two wins not only earn him the Yellow Jersey Turismo do Algarve, but also the bonuses (10 seconds per victory and six more for the intermediate sprint) means that he is definitively in the fight for the win.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, nor was it planned. In fact, the idea was to go through the stage as comfortably as possible and not even sprint”, admitted Magnus Cort Nielsen.
With the Alto do Malhão stage and the individual time trial still to face, the fight for the GC in the Volta ao Algarve is exciting, after the longest stage: 203.1 kilometers.
It even seemed that it would be a day with a story identical to previous editions, in Tavira. It seemed… but it turn out to be completely different! Those final 25 kilometers made this stage one that will be hard to forget.
The attacks to form an breakaway began right after the start in Faro and it was the portuguese teams that put men in the front of the race.
Gonçalo Amado (Tavfer-Ovos Matinados-Mortágua), Pedro Andrade (ABTF Betão-Feirense), Daniel Viegas (Aviludo-Louletano-Loulé Concelho), Aleksandr Grigorev (Efapel Cycling), Fábio Costa (Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor) and Guillermo García (Popular Radio-Paredes-Boavista) were the six cyclists who competed for the points int the two mountain passes, as well as the nomination of the most combative of the day.
The holder of the Blue Jersey Cyclin’Portugal, António Ferreira (Kelly-Simoldes-UDO), wasn’t in the breakaway and Grigorev took the opportunity to “say” that he is also interested in the classification. He was first in the third categories of Portela de Corcha and Cachopo, and is now three points behind the leader.
With the Soudal Quick-Step and INEOS Grenadiers keeping an eye on the peloton, the breakaway gap was never much beyond three minutes. Tavira seemed to be destined for the usual sprint finish…
The men in front were caught within the final 50 kilometers, with Fábio Costa resisting until 30. The public named him the most combative of the day.
It was at the intermediate sprint in Vila Real de Santo António, 25 kilometers from the finish line, that a group of GC candidates went looking for bonuses. Magnus Cort Nielsen was not only paying attention, but also conquered precious seconds (six), beating the illustrious competition.
And it was the beginning of a crazy ending! With Magnus Cort Nielsen were Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) – second and third in the intermediate sprint, respectively – and also Filippo Ganna (also from INEOS Grenadiers), Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ). The group that stayed ahead of the race and forced the peloton to do extra work.
“I had no intention of continuing the effort, but the INEOS men and Tobias Foss passed me and challenged me, ‘let’s go’ and I took the opportunity. It was a perfect team time trial”, said the stage winner.
The advantage reached around 25 seconds and it was only on the curve towards the last 300 meters that it was caught. If in Fóia Magnus Cort Nielsen knew how to beat Ilan Van Wilder, in Tavira he knew how to choose the right moment to attack. Precisely on that curve. Ganna responded, sprinters Jordi Meeus (BORA-hansgrohe) and Paul Penhoët (Groupama-FDJ) were the ones who still tried to fulfill the traditional finish in Tavira. Unsuccessfully.
“I knew I had a last chance to open the sprint early and get a small advantage. I started and nobody could pass me”, explained the danish rider.
In the GC, on the eve of the Alto do Malhão stage, Magnus Cort Nielsen now has an 18-second advantage over Rui Costa, who is now in second place, having been seventh in the stage. Belgian Ilan van Wilder (Soudal Quick-Step) is third, at 20 seconds.
Magnus Cort Nielsen also became the holder of the Green Jersey Crédito Agrícola (points), while compatriot Frederik Wandahl (BORA-hansgrohe) kept the White IPDJ, symbol of the youth classification.