Volta ao Algarve Stage 1 Preview
The race starts off with a flat stage, almost a perfect loop along the most known areas of the Algarve and will give the sprinters a chance to fight for the stage win and take the first leadership of the race.
The finish in Lagos is one familiar to those who've raced here, it isn't a very hard finish but there are several challenges, firstly a slight uphill noted in the final 3Kms which will lead to a slight downhill and very fast approach to an almost complete loop around a roundabout that will leave the riders in the flamme rouge. From there, a slight turn on the outside of a roundabout with 650 meters to go and then full speed ahead.
Unlike the usual, the wind won't be strong, won't play a part tomorrow. There may be a little headwind finish but I doubt that'll influenciate the results.
It's a fairly flat stage and plenty of teams will be looking to test their luck (and experience in some cases), so a breakaway shouldn't be an issue, the fast men will be all in.
You should firstly focus in two names, with different approaches to the race. In one side you have Elia Viviani who came into the season as a throbbing winner but hasn't yet tasted victory yet despite a long stint in Australia. He's got Simone Consonni and Fabio Sabatini with him, it is a strong enough leadout to have him in prime position for the sprint, but I think his main rival will be the confidence he's yet to gain. And on the other side is Fabio Jakobsen who has, in fact he's beat Gronewegen face-to-face already this season, with a team with great support, whilst Keisse and DeClercq big engines that'll keep everything in control, classics specialists Yves Lampaert and Florian Senechal have a big dose of experience in these finishes and should be as fit to leave the Dutchman in second wheel until the final meters.
These are the men to beat, so who are the men who can beat? Well you may have seen him a lot throughout the winter, but actually in his road season debut this season it isn't crazy to consider Mathieu van der Poel a big favourite, the Dutchman is a big powerhouse and he has gotten a strong Italian leadout in Modolo and Sbaragli. Wether they can make it work is a doubt, but they surely have the firepower to do so. You've got Alexander Kristoff as a joker, usually a strong starter to the season and had a close call in Almeria this weekend, Cees Bol who's starting his season after a really impressive 2019, Sunweb bring a strong yet young team for the sprints, but I wouldn't be surprised if he easily cracks the podium. As far as victory contenders, Eddy Theuns is my last contender, Trek absolutely nailed the leadouts last year, he hasn't yet taken the big step but nothing says that can't happen this year, with Jasper Stuyven and Ryan Mullen has a leadout he can repeat those top results.
Outside there's still a very nice list, Matteo Trentin for a start, a mega rider but he hasn't quite been able to show his top speed this year yet, with Patrick Bevin and Greg van Avermaet there's a chance the team may try to pull something off in that small rise though. Danny van Poppel will have his brother Boy and both can represent Circus in a strong result, Caja Rural have the Aberasturi/Malucelli duo that also has a strong top speed, Davide Cimolai represents Israel's sprint side of the squad and is also looking for a strong result. From the Bora squad, they have a strong leadout but no real good finisher, still from Jempy Drucker or Martin Laas we could expect a Top10.
⭐ Aberasturi, Malucelli, Trentin, D.van Poppel, Cimolai
My first (stage) call of the season though goes to Fabio Jakobsen. He's got the speed in the legs and the leadout is the best in the race. Deceuninck know how to win and never come without that mentality, so I expect to see this image above repeat itself.
Make sure to let me in on your opinion, and of course follow me on twitter for the latest updates!