The 30-year-old was among the protagonists on the first summit finish of the Portuguese race.
Stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve (Lagos – Alto da Foia, 198.6 km) began with Marcel Kittel in the yellow jersey and with Etixx – Quick-Step at the helm of things, and continued with a breakaway which had its fair share of time in the spotlight, until the last 30 kilometers: Alberto Cecchin (Team Roth), Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal), Jonas Koch (Verva-ActiveJet), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural), Ricardo Mestre (W 52-Porto), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) and Gregory Rast (Trek-Segrafredo). It was an eventful day, which recorded ten abandons, as well as many attacks, especially in the last hour.
One of these moments came inside the final 15 kilometers, ahead of Alto da Foia, when Zdenek Stybar accelerated on the downhill, before surging up Alto da Foia, where he was quickly followed by three other riders: Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo), Diego Rosa (Astana) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). The group worked together and at one point had 15 seconds over the chasers, but got caught as the flamme rouge was looming on the horizon. With 500 meters left, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) made his move and took the victory, ahead of Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Two-time winner of the race, Tony Martin came 17th, only 15 seconds adrift, and at the end of the day shared his view on the stage: "I didn't feel too good today, the legs weren't super, but I still managed to defend pretty well on the climb. Now I'm happy and optimistic about tomorrow. I will give it my best and at the end of the time trial we'll see where I stand in the general classification."
One of the few riders to try his luck before the last climb of the stage, Zdenek Stybar eventually got caught by the peloton, but managed to come home in the top 20 and make a significant jump in the standings. Before going to the team bus and leaving for the hotel, the Czech rider explained what happened in those final kilometers and what was his tactic for stage 2.
"I knew the downhill from last year, so that's why I decided to go there, immediately after Diego Rosa made his move. I said I have nothing to lose, because if you don't try, you never win. So I attacked, found my rhythm and rode like this. Then Gesink came with two other guys, including Rosa, and we rode at a good pace, but the bunch caught up with one kilometer to go and in the last 500 meters it was too tough for me. In the end, I can consider myself satisfied, considering the quality of the field in Algarve and also that today's strong wind", Stybar said.
Stage 3 of Volta ao Algarve will bring on the table an 18-km individual time trial on a flat course, but technical in the first 5 kilometers. In the second part, the riders will run along the sea, which means there's a good chance the wind will play an important role in the outcome. Taking place around the city of Sagres, the ITT is sure to make the fight for the yellow jersey more interesting.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele