The Tinkoff team will line up behind Alberto Contador at the upcoming Volta ao Algarve with a "strong and motivated squad" with the aim of putting their leader in the best possible position in the final classification. Contador can count on his long-time Tour de France lieutenant Jesus Hernandez, and Sergio Paulinho, Ivan Rovny and Matteo Tosatto, who helped Contador win last year's Giro d'Italia. Robert Kiserlovski, Yuri Trofimov and MIchael Valgren round out the team.
Contador said earlier this week that he had a solid off-season of training thanks to the mild winter, and is motivated for a good result.
Team director, Steven de Jongh is not putting any undue pressure on his team leader, however. "Alberto is in good shape after a sound winter training period. We will approach this race as a good preparation for him and the rest of the squad but we, obviously, are a top, professional team and we have ambitions every time we compete. The main goal is to obtain the best possible GC result for Alberto, although, this being his first race in a long season, I wouldn't like to put too much pressure on him. For me, it is important to have a good start to the year".
The Volta ao Algarve begins on Wednesday, February 17 in Lagos with a flat stage for the sprinters, but quickly transitions to the mountains on stage 2. "The second one is surely the queen stage. It is nearly 200km long, from Lagoa to Fóia, the highest point of Algarve at 904m," De Jongh said. "In the last 67km the riders will tackle three third-category climbs, before attacking the finish, at the top of a first-category climb, 7.5 km long with a 6 per cent average incline."
The riders face a technical 18km time trial on stage 3, another sprint-friendly stage on day four, and another difficult stage for the finale on Sunday. "The battle begins in Almodôvar and ends, after 169km, at the top of Malhão, a second-category climb, 2.5km long with and an average gradient of 9.4 per cent. At 45km from the final, riders will pass for the first time at Malhão, before a hilly terrain that resembles the Spring Classics, with short but steep ascents," he said.
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