Having only returned from Australia last week, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) came into the Volta ao Algarve with limited ambitions. The long travel and jetlag meant that he was always going to come to Portugal with modest goals, despite being a previous race winner.
On the first summit finish of his European season he finished 10th, three seconds down on stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), and the Australian later admitted that his condition was not at its highest level at this point.
"The sensations weren't great," he said. "I didn't feel all that good coming into it, but I was happy to be top 10. It was a long climb but not terribly hard."
BMC Racing had worked on the front of the peloton as the final climb approached, with Porte and teammate Tejay van Garderen well placed to mount attacks. Van Garderen told Cyclingnews that the nature of the stop-start pacing on the climb didn't suit his style, but he and Porte should both feature in Friday's 20.3km individual time trial around Lagoa. Although not a WorldTour race, Algarve is a well-respected event, and one that any GC rider would want on his palmares.
"I think our guys did the lion share of the work," Porte said. "With Tejay and I we have no massive ambition but we still took the race up. All the guys were really good, especially in the finale. Tejay went in some moves, and that's a good sign for his season.
"We'll see how the time trial goes, but I think going forward this gives me a little bit of confidence. I came here with no real goals, but I was still able to be up there with some of the stronger guys today when they went for it."
Unlike Porte, who had raced and won a stage at the Tour Down Under in January, van Garderen is making his season debut here in Portugal. He conceded six seconds on the line but remains a GC prospect with two important stages still to decide the overall outcome of the race.
"Sunday's climb will be better for me and Richie," the American told Cyclingnews. "Today's climb wasn't super steep or selective. That means there's stopping and going and I prefer more attrition, where people are off the back and you're in your tempo.
"I'm feeling good and the TT and Sunday will be more of a test," van Garderen said. "There will be less hiding in those two stages."
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