Omega Pharma-Lotto returned to early season victory at the Tour of the Algarve on Wednesday when Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert launched a late attack to win a stage expected to go to the sprinters. But as teammate and star sprinter Andre Greipel explained, the outcome had been planned earlier by the team.
“Already this morning in our team meeting, we had made the plan that Phil would attack in the finale 1000 metres, since the finish was on a small climb,” Greipel said on his personal website.
Gilbert took the field by surprise with his attack and easily won with a five-second gap.
The Belgian team lost out on a possible one-two finish when Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step) attacked with 400 metres to go to take the sprint of the field, leaving Greipel with third place.
Greipel and the other sprinters should have their next chance in Thursday's second stage, which runs 186.5km from Lagoa to Lagos – if Gilbert doesn't take off again at the end.
In 2010 Griepel, then riding for HTC-Columbia, won the race's second stage, which also ended in Lagos, to take over the leader's jersey for one day.
It was by far the earliest win for the team since 2008. Last year Gilbert brought in the first season victory, but not until Amstel Gold Race on April 18. In 2009, it was Cadel Evans winning a stage at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali on March 28.