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Volta ao Algarve Stage 4 - Live coverage

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve. 

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the stage is underway, with the early kilometres covered.

The only non-starter today was Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo) after the team's multiple crash on a dirt section of road.

There were a number of early attacks but nothing stuck until after the intermediate sprint after 12km.   

João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) won the sprint and inspired the early break. 

In the move are Dries de Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), David González (Caja Rural), Tom Devriendt (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Daniel Hoelgaard (Uno-X), Luís Mendonça and Tiago Antunes (Efapel), Rafael Lourenço (Kelly-InOutBuild-UDO), Daniel Freitas (Miranda-Mortágua) and João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto).

The peloton has let them go, after 20km their lead is up to 2:00.   

This info shows how twisting ands hilly today's stage is. The climb top the finish is only 2.6km long but has a gradient of 9.4%.

Cees Bol (Sunweb) won stage 3 of the Volta ao Algarve on Friday, beating Sacha Modolo (Alpecin-Fenix) and Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in a bunch finish in Tavira. 

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) came home in the main peloton to retain the overall lead ahead of Saturday's hilltop finish at Malhão.

To read our full stage report and see our photo gallery, click here.

TAVIRA PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 21 Arrival Cees Bol of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Celebration Fabio Jakobsen of The Netherlands and Team Deceuninck Quick Step Red Points Jersey during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 3 a 2019Km stage from Faro to Tavira VAlgarve2020 on February 21 2020 in Tavira Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took an emotional victory on stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve, stamping his authority on the five-day race and taking the leader's yellow jersey that he wears again today. 

Evenepoel attacked in the final 500 metres and powered across the line at the top of the Alto da Fóia just ahead of Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) for his third success of 2020.

The 20-year-old dedicated his victory to Lotto Soudal rider Nikolas Maes, whose son Maurice was stillborn last week.

Click here to read what Evenepoel said.

Volta ao Algarve 2020 66th Edition 2nd stage Sagres Alto da Foia 1839 km 20022020 Remco Evenepoel BEL Deceuninck Quick Step Maximilian Schachmann GER Bora Hansgrohe photo Nico VereeckenPNBettiniPhoto2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

With some 135km to race, the nine riders in the break lead the peloton by 2:00.  

The break's lead has grown to 2:30 after a first hour at 43km/h. 

The first part of the stage is flat but the hills begin after 53km of the 170km stage.

Deceuninck-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere made his way to the Volta ao Algarve on Thursday evening, hours after one of his stars, Remco Evenepoeltook the stage win and race lead on the Alto da Fóia.

The Belgian held court outside the team bus at Friday's stage 3 start in Faro, talking to the assembled reporters, including Cyclingnews, about Evenepoel's performance and near future.

"Our plane was 50 minutes late and I have never been so happy to be delayed. I was impressed when I saw his attack. It's a long climb and everyone was on the rivet when López attacked, but Remco still rode away and had that in his legs," he said.

With victory in San Juan already under his belt this season, and debuts at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d'Italia on the horizon, it's no surprise that people are already wondering how far he can go as a professional.

"I don't know where it will end," said Lefevere. "We're still discovering his potential. After last year he took steps again during the winter, and while it might sound pretentious, he's not in top form yet. There's still some gains to be made."

Click here to read the full story on what Lefevere said about Evenepoel.

TAVIRA PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 21 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Deceuninck Quick Step Yellow Leader Jersey Fabio Jakobsen of The Netherlands and Team Deceuninck Quick Step Red Points Jersey during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 3 a 2019Km stage from Faro to Tavira VAlgarve2020 on February 21 2020 in Tavira Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Eddy Merckx has backed Remco Evenepoel to perform strongly at the 2020 Giro d’Italia, although he stopped short of predicting whether the 20-year-old can contend overall victory on his Grand Tour debut.

Merckx watched Evenepoel’s victory in Portugal on television and was contacted afterwards by Het Nieuwsblad to provide an assessment of the youngster and his prospects over three weeks.

"We have to wait," Merckx said when asked about Evenepoel’s Giro hopes. "To start with, the cols in Italy are much steeper than what he has already tackled. The percentages of the gradients are much higher.

"But based on what he is already showing, it should not be a problem. I also don't see why he can’t handle a three-week race. Can he already participate for the overall victory? Call me back after the Giro…"

Click here to read the full story on Merck'x comments on Evenepoel.

It's another busy weekend of early-season racing, we'll have live coverage of the Volta ao Algarve and then a full stage report, photo gallery and news. 

We'll also have reports and photos from stage 4 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol in Spain and stage 2 of the  Tour Cycliste International du Var et des Alpes Maritimes.

We'll also have info from the women's Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, while the UAE tour kicks off in Dubai on Sunday. 

Cyclingnews Editor-in-chief Daniel Benson is in Dubai and the riders have just spoken at the pre-race press conference. We'll have all the news as Chris Froome returns to racing and  the likes of Tadej Pogacar, Mark Cavendish and Cael Ewan clash in the WorldTour stage race.

Daniel Ostanek is in Portugal  for Cyclingnews and will have more news and interviews from today's uphill finish at alto do Malhão. 

With 110km to go, the gap between the break and the peloton remains at 2:30.

These photos show the climb to the finish. 

In other news, the UCI has confirmed the 2020 Tour of Chongming Island will not take place as scheduled, as the UCI has postponed upcoming races in China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Cycling's governing body issued a statement on Friday, providing information on the virus and announcing the postponement of all UCI races in China in April and May. 

The Tour of Chongming Island, a Women's WorldTour event, was due to take place from May 7-9 but will now be rearranged for a later date, which will be confirmed on March 15.

Click here to read more about the impact of the virus on racing.

João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) won the intermediate sprint after 52km but the flat roads will soon head into the hills.

The Cat 3 Picota climb is the first real climb of the stage after 66km of racing. 

Tiago Antunes (Efapel) was first to the top. 

Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) lies second overall at the Volta ao Algarve heading into the decisive final weekend, level on time with race leader Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep). But with the hilltop finish at Alto do Malhão and the final day time trial lying ahead, the German isn't putting pressure on himself to overhaul the young Belgian.

Instead, the race, his first of the season, has been all about getting back into rhythm. That's not to say the results so far – a close second place on Alto da Fóia – aren't encouraging.

"I don't really put a lot of pressure on myself because I came here just to get into the racing rhythm," Schachmann told Cyclingnews at the end of stage 3 in Tavira. 

Click here to read the full interview with Schachmann.

Volta ao Algarve 2020 66th Edition 3rd stage Faro Tavira 2019 km 21022020 Felix Grossschartner AUT Bora Hansgrohe Maximilian Schachmann GER Bora Hansgrohe photo Nico VereeckenPNBettiniPhoto2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Today's finish will again reveal the form and strength of the overall contenders and shape the GC before  Sunday's final 20km TT around Lagoa. 

Evenepeol and Schachmann lead Dan Martin by just 2 seconds, with Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) at the same time.  

Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Astana Pro Team) is sixth at five seconds. But of course, Evenepoel is the huge favourite due to his superb TT skills. 

It is arguably his race to lose at this point. 

After 91km of the 179km stage, the break has lost some time to the peloton. Their lead is down to 2:20. 

As expected, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team is leading the chase of the nine-rider break.  With Evenepoel in the leader's yellow jersey, it is their responsibility to ensure the break does not gain too much time and take the race lead.

This is the list of the last four years on the Alto do Malhão climb, confirming it is a finish for the GC riders but also power riders.

2019 - Zdenek Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) 

2018 - Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) 

2017 - Amaro Antunes (W52-FC Porto) 2

2016 - Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) 2015 - Richie Porte (Sky)

2015 - Richie Porte (Sky).

The climbs are getting steeper and hurting more now. The Barranco do Velho is short at 1.7km but includes several other climbs before it.  

Dries de Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) is the first over the Barranco do Velho climb.

The break leads the peloton by 2:10, with the portuguese team Atum General-Tavira-Maria Nova Hotel helping with the chase. 

with 60km of the stage to go, the gap to the peloton is down to 2:10. The overall contenders will not let the chance of a stage victory escape their grasp today. 

It's a beautiful day in the Algarve, look at those blue skies!

There is a slight wind at the top of the Alto do Malhao climb and so it will be interesting to see if it impacts the racing.   

As the sun lowers over the Algarve, the shadows are growing and producing a great light. We'll have some great photos from the stage later.  

The riders are on the way to the Alto do Malhao. they climb it a first time with 25km to go. This could make it a day for the best climbers rather than the power riders like in 2019. 

It seems another perfect finish for Evenepoel. 

With 40km to go, the gap to the peloton is down to 1:35.

As the break hits the steep Alte climb, João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) attacks, chasing the mountain points.

The peloton is hunting down the rest of the break.

João Rodrigues is giving his all on the descent through the olive trees but behind Bora and Deceuninck are driving the peloton along.

Crash! 

A few riders touched wheels on a narrow country road but nobody seems to have gone down hard.

João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) is fighting on, his effort showing  on his face. 

30km to go.

The peloton is now 2:00 down. That's significant but João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) will no doubt fade on the climbs.  

This is the profile of the Alto do Malhao.

Behind the race is on for the front of the peloton before the climb.

João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto) starts the climb with a lead of 1:25. 

The race is on behind too as they start the climb.

Jasper Stuyven surges away, with Vincenzo Nibali on his wheel. Race on!

26km to go, during the first climb of the Alto do Malhao, Nibali is away alone.  

Nibali is chasing after João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto). The gap is down to 45 seconds now as the peloton splits. 

25km to go.

The crowds are huge on the short climb. They're cheering on local hero João Rodrigues.

The UAE team is leading the chase of Nibali. 

Nibali is testing his form and trying to form an attack. He is only 40 seconds down on João Rodrigues, with the peloton at 15 seconds.

Rodrigues leads is down to 30 seconds bit he refuses to give in.

Nibali has  been caught  by the peloton as they reach the 20km to go point.

Rodrigues is tucked over his bars but will soon be caught.

As the road kicks up, here comes Deceuninck to lead and protect Evenepoel. 

15km to go.

The riders are on a plateau but will soon descend and then climb back up to Alto do Malhao.

With 11km to go the peloton hits a steep section. Rodrigues has been caught. 

Now Bora take control and try to set-up Buchmann and isolate Evenepeol. 

There are just 30 or so riders in the front group. 

The tactics has worked because Evenepoel only has João Almeida with him now. 

10km to go.

Lukas Pöstlberger is doing the hard work for Bora and Schachmann.

Evenepoel is sat behind Bora today, waiting for his teammates to get back on and perhaps letting Bora burn themselves out before attacking himself.

7km to go.

The roads is flat until the final two kilometres up to the finish.

Position is vital for the turn onto the climb.

Lampaert is back up front to help Evenepoel.

5km to go. 

The CCC Team moves up to the front.

Are they riding for Greg van Avermaet?

Here we go. The rider swing right onto the climb. 

Greg van Avermaet is there for CC, with Simon Geschke on his wheel.

Astana set a high pace.

That cracks Thomas and Kwiatkowski of Ineos.

Evenepoel is still there, with only 15 riders left up front. 

2km to go!

Riders are being spat out of the back.

Amaro Antunes kicks away but they pull him back.

Now Lopez goes!

Evenepoel is there. 

They catch Lopez with 1km to go.

Seven riders up front now.

The paces and so other riders get back on.

Lopez attacks again.

Martin goes after him.

Evenepoel is fighting to stay on. 

Lopez stays away to win.

Dan Martin tried to chase him down but ran out of road.

Remco Evenepoel struggled slightly to hold the wheels but finished third at three seconds. 

Schachmann was glued to Evenepoel's wheel and so finished fourth.

This is the top ten on the stage.

1 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team 4:16:25
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation 0:00:02
3 Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:00:04
4 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:05
6 Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team 0:00:14
7 Amaro Antunes (Por) W52/FC Porto
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
9 Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:19
10 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:21

This is the new GC: 

1 Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 18:59:35
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
3 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
4 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:01
5 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:03
6 Amaro Antunes (Por) W52/FC Porto 0:00:18
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
8 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:19
9 Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team 0:00:24
10 Federico Figuieredo (Por) Atum General/Tavira/Maria Nova Hotel 0:00:31

Daniel Martin fought to close the gap when Lopez surged away but finished two second down. 

Evenepoel was not quite as strong but fought all the way to the line. He chase Lopez and Martin but finished a further two seconds behind.

Despite the time loss, Evenepoel managed to hold onto the leader's yellow jersey before Sunday's decisive 20km time trial. However he is now on the same time as Martin and Schachmann.

ALTO DO MALHO LOUL PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 22 Arrival Miguel ngel Lpez of Colombia and Team Astana Pro Team Celebration during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 4 a 1697km stage from Albufeira to Alto do Malho 518m Loul VAlgarve2020 on February 22 2020 in Alto do Malho Loul Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Miguel Angel Lopez celebrates as he nears the line. (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Evenepoel remains the big favourite to win the Volta ao Algarve but today's finish proved he's beatable and perhaps even human. 

"We wanted to win the second stage but things did go right. Today they did. I've got to thank the team for great work today all day. This is the first fruit of the great work we've done. It's for them and my family in Colombia," Lopez said post stage.

"The Tour de France is my big goal in 2020 and we're working towards that. Before that I'll ride Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, riding more or less the same calendar. The goal is to be at my best for the Tour."  

Remco Evenepole went deep to try to keep his race lead, collapsing on the ground after the finish.  

"I was a bit boxed in behind Costa, so on the wrong side, so I could have reacted earlier. But it doesn't matter, I'm still the leader and tomorrow I hope it's going to be my day," he said after recovering. 

"It was really important to keep the jersey. The two climbs of the Malhao were really hard, especially after the attack from Miguel."

"Maybe I've lost three seconds or something but we'll see. The most important thing is that im still the leader and so can start the time trial in the yellow jersey. It gives me a lot motivation. I just have to trust my power and shape. It'll be 20km full gas and then I hope I can take this yellow jersey home."  

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage from the Volta ao Algarve.

Click here to read our full stage report and see the full results and photo gallery of all the action.

ALTO DO MALHO LOUL PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 22 Arrival Miguel ngel Lpez of Colombia and Team Astana Pro Team Celebration during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 4 a 1697km stage from Albufeira to Alto do Malho 518m Loul VAlgarve2020 on February 22 2020 in Alto do Malho Loul Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Join us on Sunday for full coverage of the final TT stage to see if Remco Evenepoel can win the overall classification. 

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