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Rain-soaked misery for the peloton in Portugal

André Greipel (Team HTC - Columbia) was no match for the field as he powered to victory on the uphill finish.

André Greipel (Team HTC - Columbia) was no match for the field as he powered to victory on the uphill finish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Last year the peloton basked in 25-degree heat at the Tour of the Algarve, and this year they seem to be paying the price. After wind, rain and cold with a touch of sun on day one, day two brought incessantly heavy rain and biting cold.

The stage, at 207km through some rugged Portuguese mountain terrain, would have been tough enough on a decent day. On an appalling one, it was brutal. So it was no wonder that André Greipel's winning time of six hours plus was 75 minutes beyond the scheduled finish.

There was no chance of a quote at the finish from riders who looked as stony-faced as Lot's wife. It would have been unfair to ask. However, Greipel and runner-up Jurgen Roelandts did hang around long enough to give the riders' perspective.

"It was horrible out there," said Greipel. "It's not really healthy to do 207km in rain like that, and if I've got a cold tomorrow I'll know why. It was very hard all day and I just tried to eat as much as I could to keep off the cold. I told the team not to do any work at all as I felt really bad all day. I didn't want them riding to chase the break down, we let the other teams do that for a change.

"To be honest, we didn't expect to catch the last breakaway rider [Footon's David Vitoria] at all. We got up to him at the last roundabout with 200m to go just as we hit the steep climb up to the finish. I don't know what happened then, I can't really remember anything about the sprint, who I beat or what happened. But it certainly helped that we looked over the last 3km of this stage in the team car yesterday."

Roelandts was pleased with his ride, although disappointed to have finished second once again. "At some points today I couldn't feel my legs because of the rain and the cold, but they must have been good because I was climbing alongside [Alberto] Contador and [Levi] Leipheimer. I do like cold and wet conditions. I won last year at the Tour of Poland when it was very similar.

"When we came to the last hill I just followed the first attack and went by that guy. But I just knew that Greipel was on my wheel and I knew there was probably nothing I could do to hold him off as he was coming up alongside me. But at least this does show that my form is good and I've got to be pleased about that."

The good news for all is that the forecast for tomorrow's key stage to the Malhao summit finish is good. At least that's what the local weatherman is telling us…

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).