Stage five of the Volta ao Algarve takes us up into the mountains, with a mountaintop finish to end the race!
The final stage of the Volta ao Algarve 2018 is anything but an easy one! There are five ranked climbs along the way, including a mountaintop finish, which includes sections of more than a 10% gradient.
Tim Wellens was naturally happy to have secured overall victory. He gained some vital seconds on Saturday's uphill finish on the cobbles and defended his lead well in the time trial.
He said his next goal is Paris-Nice in early March.
A group of 31 got away after about 15 km. It contains such top riders as Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), and Igor Anton (Dimension Data). But the biggest is Michal Kwiatkowski, who comes into the race second in GC.
By km 88, the group started breaking up, with Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis) and Timothy Dupont (Wanty) up front, being chased by Jurgen Roelandts (BMC) and Rúben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo). The leaders have a gap of 3:35 over the field.
Sorry about that Wellens posting, things are a little confusing at times aound here with two live reports at once!
Our race preview says: The final stage to Malhao is the second summit finish of the race and could decide the final overall standings. The riders will climb the Malhao twice and the approach to the final ascent is technical and far from flat but it’s the final 3km that should see the peloton burst into action. The road kicks up violently with pitches over 10 per cent and only begins to level off with a few hundred metres to go. If the first summit finish and the time trial have not created significant gaps, then this stage will surely be decisive.
Things seem to be changing here by the minute. We now hear that at km 101, there are 25 riders in teh lead group, with 5:15 on the peloton.
Jasha Sutterlin and Rafael Valls (Movistar Team), Mathias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) and José Neves (W52-FC Porto) did not start today.
And what does Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) have to say about this stage?
"On paper it suits me but last year I really suffered on this stage. We’ll see but I seem to be feeling better each day here. The first mountain stage really hurt but hopefully we’ll have a good day.
"I’m a fair way off in GC so I guess I have some leeway in that sense but there are a lot of guys in that position. It will be interesting to see who rides for the stage. It’s the last chance for the home-teams. It’s going to be a long hard day for the break."
Here is the GC coming into today’s stage:
1 Geraint Thomas (Sky) 14:35:50
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) 0:19
3 Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) 0:32
4 Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) 0:52
5 Tejay van Garderen (BMC) 0:53
Dylan Groenewegen, who has won two sprint stages here, naturally leads the points ranking. He has 50 points, ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski with 26 and John Degenkolb with 24.
The appropriately named Ben King was King of the Mountains coming into today’s stage. The Dimension Data rider led ahead of Joao Rodrigues (W52 – FC Porto) and Michal Kwiatkowski.
41km remaining from 173km
The group has fallen apart after 132km, and we now have Lukas Postlberger (Bora-hansgrohe) alone, followed at 30 seconds by Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo), Serge Pauwels (Team DImension Data) and Simon Geschke (Team Sunweb). The others from the break group are at 1:10, with the Sky-led peloton at 4:30.
28km remaining from 173km
It looks like the chasers have come back together. Postlberger has 50 seconds over the group.
Postberger is no longer alone. Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step) has joined him on teh way up the cat 3 climb Vermelhos. Only one more climb after this one!
23km remaining from 173km
The chase group is now olny 36 seconds back, with 23 km to go. We don't have a time gap back to the peloton.
We don't have the time gap back to the field, but apparently it is big enough that they are out of question. In other words, Geraint Thomas will not win the race.
Tha gap between the two leaders and the chase group is now down to 17 seconds.
23km remaining from 173km
The peloton is 3:38 behind the two leaders, with 23 km to go.
If Sky can't win with Thomas, then maybe they will win with Kwiatkowski. He was second on GC coming into this stage, so he looks like the likeliest candidate for the title.
At any rate there will certainly be some changes in the GC!
15 km to go, with the chase group at 24 seconds and the peloton at 3:30.
Postlberger and Stybar grinding their way up a very steep section, and it is just too much for the Austrian. He falls back as Stybar goes on alone. With 11 km, the gap is shown as 18 seconds, but it is much less than that.
The chase group has now caught and passed Postlberger, barely looking at him.
Some of the roads here are newly paved and smooth. Others are not and look as if they could be dangerous. Not really what one wants in a mountain stage.
Stybar is showing his skills and speed, and has built his gap up to 31 seconds.
Sky at the head of the chase group.
3km remaining from 173km
Only 3 km to go for Stybar, and he has 45 seconds on the chase group.
Kwiatkowski wants to win the stage as well as the race, and has taken off from teh shattered group. He is rapidly approaching a tiring Stybar.
2 km to go and Kwiatkowski rides easily past Stybar. Three more riders are approaching.
Pauwels was the next to jump as the trio zipped past Stybar. Kwiatkowski soloed in with a sizeable gap under the 1 km marker.
Kung and Pauwels will fight it out for second place.
Kung wants this second place, Perhaps he even hopes to catch Kwiatkowski.
He doesnt, of course, as the Sky rider easily takes thw in. Kung is second and Pauwels third.
The peloton made up time on the ascent, as Geraint Thomas comes in only 1:47 down. He has lost the overall title to his teammate.
We apologize. It was not Kung of BMC, but Ruben Guirreiro of Trek-Segafredo who was second.
Kwiatkowski indeed has won the overall title here. He swaps places with teammate Geraint Thomas, who drops to second in GC, with Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) in third.
Winning the Volta ao Algarve is nothing new for the Polish rider, as he also won here in 2014.
Top ten on the final stage:
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 04:18:02
2 Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo 00:00:04
3 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data 00:00:08
4 Stefan Kung (Sui) BMC Racing Team 00:00:13
5 Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:15
6 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 00:00:17
7 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb 00:00:17
8 Julen Amezqueta (Spa) Caja Rural Seguros RGS 00:00:23
9 Ben Swift (GBr) (UAE Team Emirates) 00:00:29
10 Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 00:00:35
Final General Classification
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 18:54:11
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 18:55:42
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 18:56:27
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 18:56:33
5 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors 18:56:44
6 Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar Team 18:57:00
7 Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 18:57:01
8 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data 18:57:01
9 Felix Grosschartner (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 18:57:02
10 Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team 18:57:05
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