João Rodrigues snatched the Volta ao Algarve victory from Ethan Hayter after a punishing final climb of the race that was won by Élie Gesbert of Arkéa-Samsic.
The W52-FC Porto rider was 12 seconds shy of overnight leader Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and the 26-year-old was stronger than the young Briton in the crucial last few kilometres that were characterised by their steepness.
Knowing overall victory was his, Rodrigues was happy to led Gesbert take the stage honours, the Frenchman crossing the line first for just his second professional victory that also secured him fifth place overall.
Rodrigues is the first Portuguese rider to win the race since João Cabreira in 2006, coincidentally also the last time a rider not from one of cycling’s top tier teams triumphed in the stage race.
In denying Hayter victory, Rodrigues stormed to the third GC victory of his career, and his first since winning the Volta a Portugal and Volta ao Alentejo in 2019.
For Hayter, there was a case of what might have been had he not crashed during stage four’s time trial 24 hours earlier. The Londoner, however, can be content with his stage two win subsequent performances as race leader.
How it happened
A large group of 12 was allowed to form relatively early on in the race and included riders that typically don’t populate breakaways: the Deceuninck - Quick-Step pairing of Sam Bennett and Michael Mørkøv joined by Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën).
The presence of Ackermann and Bennett was due to the intermediate points on offer for the sprinter’s jersey, worn overnight by Bennett, while the Irishman and Mørkøv would later assist their team-mate Kasper Asgreen in the run-in to the finishing climb, with the Dane sitting just 21 seconds adrift of Hayter overnight.
Bennett secured the points jersey during the stage and the dozen were allowed a time gap of around four minutes. At 40km to go, Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) clipped off the front together, but the pair didn’t lead the race for too long with their previous breakaway companions reeling them in.
With the leaders in sight at 15km from the finishing line, Asgreen put in his first attack on a steep ramp, but Hayter and his team-mates were able to nullify it. Bolstered by the arrival of Bennett and Mørkøv, Asgreen was in a good position but Hayter sat behind the trio comfortably and thus prevented Asgreen from making any move until the final climb.
At just 2.7 kilometres in length but with an average gradient of nine percent, the ascent presented a tough test and there was only around 30 riders in the leading group when the ascent began.
Asgreen went to the front almost immediately but his face was a picture of pain and struggle. Nevertheless, Hayter was caught behind and slightly adrift.
The Briton didn’t appear to be able to respond to the pace set by Asgreen but still remained in close proximity, with Rodrigues then launching his own attack and going clear with his teammate Joni Brandão and Gesbert.
Hayter and Asgreen were once again in the same group, chasing Rodrigues and co., but as the riders splintered off on their own, dancing across the road, the race leader was snatched from Hayter with Rodrigues coming home second behind Gesbert.
21 seconds later and Hayter crossed the line to at least secure second place on GC, with Asgreen rounding out the final podium.
Volta ao Algarve 2021, stage five : Albufeira to Malhão, 170.1km
Final general classification
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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