Manuel Cardoso made his mark at the highest level of cycling at the Tour Down Under, beating Alejandro Valverde and world champion Cadel Evans in his very first Pro Tour event on stage three.
"This kind of uphill finish is exactly what I like in cycling", he told Cyclingnews. "With 300 metres to go, I gave it everything I had."
It was a shock, especially for the Caisse d'Épargne team that had worked flat out for Valverde during the final lap. "We’d done everything we could for the win", Caisse d'Épargne's team manager Eusebio Unzue said. "When Cardoso attacked, we had a moment of doubt. Evans looked like he'd go across but he stopped his effort and Alejandro reacted too late. It's a disappointment but not a drama. It's good to see that kind of teamwork."
Cardoso, 26, was also full of praise for his Footon-Servetto squad, a team he joined after the dissolution of Liberty Seguros in Portugal. His previous team and sponsorship was affected by a string of positive doping tests last year with Hector Guerra, Isidro Nozal and Nuno Ribeiro all caught.
"It's an opportunity for me to join Footon-Servetto after winning 34 races in four seasons in Portugal", said Cardoso, who turned pro with Carvalelhos-Boavista in 2006 and joined Liberty Seguros in 2008. "This is my first Pro Tour race. To win here is different... and much better! All my preparation has been based on the idea of performing here in Australia. I felt strong in the final hill today. This year I'm going to take part in some of the world's best races. I even have the Tour de France on my programme but I'll take it day-by-day."
The current Portuguese champion didn't know what to expect with the climate change as it was only 1°C in his home town of Paços de Ferreira when he left.
"I didn't think he'd be at this level," admitted his directeur sportif Stefano Zanini. "The level of the Santos Tour Down Under is very high. To beat Valverde adds a lot of value to his victory."
The Footon-Servetto is also leading the Tour of San Luis in Argentina with stage two winner Rafael Valls.