Campenaerts denied at the last in Volta ao Algarve

A sympathetic round of applause was all Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) was left with after the Belgian rider narrowly missed out on victory in the stage 3 time trial at the Volta ao Algarve.

The European champion and one of Lotto's newest recruits spent two and half hours in the hot seat on Friday after setting the best time earlier in the day. The 'hot seat' in this instance was an office chair positioned front and centre on the podium, meaning that Campenaerts cut a lonely and almost bizarre figure as he looked out upon the crowd as rider after rider came across the line.

In return, the crowd were rewarded with watching either the race on the big screen or Campenaerts tucking into a sandwich and checking his phone. At various points during the long day, it was hard to know which view was more interesting. What was in Campenaerts sandwich? Was Tony Martin going to challenge? In the end, we only found out the answer to one of these significant mysteries.

At the last, it was Team Sky's Geraint Thomas who denied the European time trial champion the victory. Martin, Richie Porte and a host of other big names failed to trouble Campenaerts' time of 24:20 with only last-man and race leader Thomas able to sneak home 11 seconds faster.

A desolate Campenaerts put his head in his hands as he sat in perhaps the drabbest of thrones, before trudging back to the Lotto Soudal team bus.

"I was in that seat for a long time and you can imagine I was hoping for something else but Geraint Thomas is a really strong rider," he told Cyclingnews during his walk back to the Lotto sanctuary.

"Thomas and Kwiatkowski were my strongest competitors, and we could see that on stage 2. I beat a lot of strong time triallists but the only thing that really counts is winning. Second is a good result, and the shape is good but…."

Campenaerts came to the race with the sole purpose of winning the 20.3km test. He moved to Lotto Soudal after establishing himself as a prominent time trialist at LottoNL- Jumbo. On stage 2 in Algarve, he sat up and lost considerable time in the hope of being as fresh as possible for the time trial. Although he was competitive and put in a sterling ride, he couldn't hide his disappointment. However, he also acknowledged that the race's strongest rider came out on top.

"I came here just to win and when you get beaten…. It was 11 seconds, so he was just stronger. There are no excuses."

Next up for Campenaerts is the time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. The field there will arguably be tougher but the Belgian should still be in with a decent shout.

"Tirreno is the next objective for me. Let's hope I can go one better," he said.

In a press release later sent out by his team, Campenaerts added:

"I want to win a WorldTour time trial this season. Today was a Europe Tour race, but with strong time trialists at the start. To win a time trial at WorldTour level, you need to be world class and I am getting there, but I need a super day and everything needs to fall into place to be able to win."

Sadly the press release had no mention of the contents of Campenaerts' sandwich.

Cruel day for Campenaerts. Spent hours in the hot seat just to be beaten by the last rider home. Crowd still gave him a warm round of applause. #VAlgarve18

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.