Tadej Pogacar (Visma-Jumbo) survived a dangerous attack from Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) to seal overall victory in the 2019 Volta ao Algarve.
Andersen had to settle for second place in both the overall and the stage, as Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) dropped him inside the final kilometre to reach the finish line first.
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At the foot of the final climb, 3km from the finish, it looked as though Andersen – who by then was virtual leader on the road – was poised to depose the Slovenian as overall victor.
But the Dane’s gap of 1-20 over Pogacar in the peloton was rapidly reduced to just 15 seconds by the finish line, as he suffered for his efforts towards the top, and Pogacar remained calm.
For the 20-year old Pogacar, the result is further confirmation of his supreme talent. The Volta ao Algarve becomes his highest profile victory to date, and he follows in the footsteps of an illustrious list of recent former winners that includes his Slovenian compatriot Primož Roglič, Michael Kwiatkowski and Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.
How it happened
It took a little while for the day’s break to form in what was a fast start to the day, but eventually thirteen riders broke clear. They were: Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Koch (CCC), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Maarten Wynants (Jumbo-Visma), Kenneth van Bilsen (Cofidis), Nils Politt, Mads Wurtz Schmidt (both Katusha), Jasper de Buyst, Frederik Frison, Nikolas Mas (all Lotto-Soudal) and Vicente Garcia de Mateos (Aviludo-Louletano), who claimed maximum points over both the first two climbs.
The gap grew to in excess of four minutes before the peloton upped the pace and kept it under control.
The hilly terrain meant that the break split up into pieces, with only Declercq, De Buyst, Koch and Kung remaining as the stage entered its endgame.
Attacks from the peloton began in earnest on the stage’s penultimate climb, the Vermelhos, crested 20km from the finish. First David de la Cruz (Sky), then Stybar then – most significantly of all – Kragh Andersen went off the front, briefly forming a chasing trio.
Second overall on the GC, Andersen needed 29 seconds to depose Pogacar as overall leader, and committed to the move by driving at the front to take most turns.
De la Cruz dropped back to the peloton, but the group once again became a trio when Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) jumped out of the peloton to join them.
With 12km to go, Andersen, Stybar and Cummings bridged the gap to the remains of the breakaway, and swiftly broke clear to become the new leading group.
By this point Pogacar’s hold on the race was looking under serious threat. With 10km to go, the distance between him in the peloton and Andersen in the break was 40 seconds, meaning the Dane was the virtual leader. Two kilometres later it had grown out to over one minute.
Pogacar’s only hope was that Andersen had dug too deep ahead of the final category two climb to the finish, beginning 3km from the finish, by which point the lead was now 1-20.
Any chance of a stage win for Cummings went up in smoke at the very foot of that climb, when the other two immediately dropped him.
Andersen continued to set the pace with Stybar sticking to his wheel, but their lead began to diminish once activity ignited in the chasing peloton behind.
Amaro Antunes (CCC) was first to attack, followed by a counter from Tao Geoghegan Hart (Sky). But it was a move from Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) that really caused the damage.
Mas’ move prompted a response from Pogacar, and, although he could not stay on Mas’ wheel when the Spaniard accelerated again, the yellow jersey was now into a rhythm and saving his overall lead.
Up ahead, Andersen was visibly tiring, and Stybar made his move for the stage win with roughly 500 metres left to climb to the finish.
Stybar took the victory, with Andersen just about holding on for second place three seconds behind.
Wout Poels (Sky) managed to catch and pass Mas to finish third, nine seconds adrift, but it was the sixth rider over the line – Pogacar – who sealed overall victory.
Volta ao Algarve 2019, stage five: Faro to Malhão (173.5)
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, in 04-13-48
2 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at 3 seconds
3 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 9s
4 Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 12s
5 Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data, at 17s
6 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 18s
7 João Pedro Lourenço Rodrigues (Por) W52-FC Porto, at 24s
8 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 30s
9 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky, at 31s
10 Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Team, at 34s
Final general classification
1 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 19-26-34
2 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at 14s
3 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 21s
4 Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 25s
5 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-40
6 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-54
7 Neilson Powless (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 2-50
8 Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Team, at 2-52
9 João Pedro Lourenço Rodrigues (Por) W52-FC Porto, at 3-27
10 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 3-47