A strong ride on the queen stage helped the Belgian remain in the top 3 at the Volta ao Algarve.

Ilan Van Wilder confirmed his upward trajectory this week by scoring a second podium finish in the space of three days, which helped him strengthen his spot on the overall podium of the race ahead of the decisive individual time trial in Lagoa.

It was a day of full gas racing which had the Soudal Quick-Step riders in the spotlight from the very beginning, when Kasper Asgreen darted away from the peloton and was soon followed by two riders, together with whom he opened a five-minute margin. The Dane was the diesel engine of the group, driving the tempo and picking up points on the first three climbs of the day, Picota, Vermelhos and Alte, which allowed him to move to the top of the KOM classification at the end of the stage.

“The mountain jersey wasn’t the goal. The other day when I was helping Ilan towards the Foia climb, I went to the front and took a couple of points. Then today, the other guys weren’t so interested in the points so I could grab them quite easily. I thought, why not, and then I would see if the GC guys would take it away from me. The plan was to go in the breakaway and put some pressure on the other teams, to make the race hard and have some fun. I think it worked out well.”

We did a good race as a team and that’s important for the upcoming period.

“We showed we can be up there. My form is definitely coming, there’s still some work as I come from far, but this was a good day. On Sunday I will try to get a nice result, but I think the legs will be heavy after today and the course doesn’t really suit me”, Kasper said after his 150km breakaway.

On the first ascent of Alto do Malhão, the breakaway was brought back, and that was the cue for Rémi Cavagna to push clear and ramp up the pressure by opening a 30-second gap over the peloton together with one other rider. They survived in the lead until eight kilometers to go, when the race was again reshuffled the moment a strong chasing group bridged across.

Ilan Van Wilder was present for Soudal Quick-Step, a strong acceleration from his side making a significant selection in the first kilometer of Malhão, that left only four men at the front. On the steepest part of the climb, the Belgian lost contact with his companions, but didn’t throw in the towel, and continued to dig deep, making up ground and coming home in third place, bagging in precious bonus seconds ahead of the 24.2km individual time trial.

“It was the best possible result, one for which I am grateful to my teammates, because without them I wouldn’t be here after this tough finish. Tim, Michael, Casper and Fabio protected me, while Kasper and Rémi took off the pressure by going on the attack”, a satisfied Ilan explained at the end of the stage. “I did my best on the ascent, but the other guys rode a hard pace in the finale, and there’s no shame I couldn’t follow when they sprinted in the closing kilometer. Anyway, getting a podium and bonifications is a good result, which gives me confidence for the time trial, a hard one, constantly up and down. I am capable of doing a good ITT, so I will give it my all and see where this puts me in the GC when everything is said and done Sunday afternoon.”


Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

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