Day to climb Alto do Malhão (twice), but with the final time trial in mind. In the fourth stage of the 49th Volta ao Algarve, two tactics were played between those who will bet heavily this Sunday in Lagoa and those who sought to gain precious seconds to better defend themselves on the last day of the race.
Malhão once again did not disappoint. There was a warm up on the first pass, and a decisive acceleration on the second. Thomas Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers), Ilan van Wilder (Soudal Quick-Step) and Kevin Vermaerke (DSM) took the lead and that’s when João Almeida appeared. The portuguese from UAE Team Emirates managed to join, tried to gain advantage, but Pidcock didn’t give a chance.
The british rider was fully concentrated on the wheel of Almeida and chose the perfect time do attack for win in Malhão, 150 meters from the finish line. Almeida was second (by one second), followed by Ilan van Wilder (by five). The winner at Malhão in 2022, Sergio Higuita (BORA-hansgrohe), was fourth. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) couldn’t keep up the pace this time around and handed the Yellow Jersey Turismo do Algarve to Pidcock.
“It’s really nice to finally win. I think as a team we didn’t do very well on two occasions where we could have won. Yesterday [Friday] Filippo [Ganna] was strong and could have won. On the second day, after the brilliant job we did in the last kilometre, we complicated on the approach to the finish line and ended up being surprised. Today [Saturday] was one of the decisive days and we had to make sure we got things right”, explain Pidckock.
The INEOS Grenadiers rider admitted that he didn’t know that the finish line was a little higher than the first time he passed through Malhão. “I attacked, thinking that the finish line was at the top of the climb, like the first pass, and I didn’t expect to turn left, about 70 meters to go. I even thought I could be overtaken. The important thing is to give everything until the end”, he stressed.
“Tomorrow is a time trial. There is no plan other than to go full gas from beginning to end,” he added.
Int he GC, Pidcock has five seconds over Ilan van Wilder and seven over João Almeida. However, there are two cyclists who will be the center of attention.
Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) and Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) are 31 and 32 seconds behind, respectively. We are talking about a two-time time trial world champion and the current world champion. This Sunday in Lagoa, they will have 24.4 kilometers to try and get the first place of the Volta ao Algarve.
The points and mountain classifications were decided. Magnus Cort Nielsen, winner in Fóia and Tavira, won the Green Jersey Crédito Agrícola, while the Blue Cyclin’Portugal belongs to Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step), who was in the breakaway of the day.
The White Jersey IPDJ belongs now to Oscar Onley (DSM), leader of the youth classification.
The fourth stage had 177.9 kilometres, starting in Albufeira and being the day to climb Alto do Malhão, with two passages on the 2.6 kilometer climb, with an average slope of 9.2%.
Soudal Quick-Step, Trek-Segafredo and Groupama-FDJ played their cards right off the start, putting Kasper Asgreen, Mathias Vacek and Lewis Askey, respectively, in the lead. The trio got away, thinking about helping their leaders and not so much about winning the stage. The difference was at one point close to five minutes, but the three cyclists were caught just under 40 kilometers to go.
This presence at the front of the race made the pace very high, above 40 kilometers/hour. Kasper Asgreen was first in the third categories of Picota (47.1 kilometres), Vermelhos (111.1) and Alte (140.4). He took the lead in the mountain classification, thus “taking” the Cyclin’Portugal Blue Jersey from the portuguese António Ferreira (Kelly-Simoldes-UDO).
The danish rider wasn’t even in the group when the first ascent of Malhão began, but what he did before earned him the public’s election as the most combative of the day. He was also the first in the intermediate sprint in São Brás de Alportel.
But what everyone wanted to see was how the double passage in Malhão would be faced. In the first, Rémi Cavagna (Soudal Quick-Step) and Kobe Goossens (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) stood out. The difference to the group that included, at that time, still included the yellow jersey Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost), was close to 40 seconds.
However, they would not resist, as teams such as UAE Team Emirates and INEOS Grenadiers worked to ensure that João Almeida and Thomas Pidcock would fight for the stage and the GC.
After four intense stages and with the general classification to be decided, the Lagoa time trial promises strong emotions.