Today was the final day of truth, as the race of truth decided the overall victory for this year's Volta a Portugal. Today's 13th and final stage was a rolling 23.9 km individual time trial from Queluz to Sintra, on the southwestern coast of Portugal near Lisbon. The relaxed pasta-men of Milaneza-MSS looked to finalize the steel grip they've had on the race for over a week, with three riders in the top three spots: Joan Horrach in the Yellow Jersey, Rui Sousa in 2nd at 45", and the "Dancing Dane" Claus Moller in third at 48". Of the three, Moller has traditionally been the fastest time trialist, and with the difficult rolling terrain it looked good for Moller to take the stage...and the possibility of an Milaneza-MSS sweep of the podium was not out of the question.
Indeed, that's the way it turned out: with Horrach leaving last, he would be able to see his teammate's time on the route and gauge his own effort in his attempt at final victory. It was extremely close, and at the end of the day Moller had taken the stage win with a blistering time of 34' 10". The question was, would he take the 49" out of his teammate that he needed to snatch the Yellow Jersey? The closer Horrach got to the line, the closer it seemed, but as he was in the finishing sprint his lead finally evaporated, as he crossed the line 53" behind Moller. Still, all was not sadness and hair-pulling for Horrach, as he wore the Yellow Jersey for a week, finished in 2nd on GC, and his teammate Sousa's time of 35' 41" was good enough for 9th on the stage and 3rd on the GC. So Milaneza-MSS completed their utter domination of the race with a podium sweep, with Moller in Yellow, Horrach in 2nd, and Sousa in 3rd on GC. And their domination didn't end there: Milaneza also took the top three spots in the King of the Mountains competition, with Goncalo Amorim winning the Blue Jersey, AND Milaneza riders were in four of the top five positions in the Points competition, with Angel "Judge" Edo going home with the Green Jersey.
There were other riders who did exceptionally well today, and in the race as a whole. David Bernabeu (Carvalhelhos-Boavista) won 2nd on the stage at 49", and ended in 5th on GC at 3' 13". Bernabeu's teammate Pedro Arreitunandia was 13th on the stage at 1' 49", and ended in 4th on GC at 2' 04"...and was the only man to put any kind of pressure on the pasta-men. Last year's runner up Andrei Zintchenko (LA-Pecol) was 6th on the stage at 1' 21", while also taking 6th in GC at 4' 10". And Felix Garcia Casas (BigMat.Auber 93) jumped two places on GC today with his 7th place in the stage at 1' 21"; he also finished in 7th on GC at 4' 57".
But the real story of the race was the Milaneza men. While many of the riders in the race will go on to the Vuelta a España, Casas and the Milaneza men were the only riders going to the Vuelta who showed any kind of form. Milaneza dominated the race despite the fact that team leader and defending champion Fabien Jeker abandoned during Stage 9. Moller was a major force in the mountains of the 2001 Vuelta en route to a 8th-place finish on GC: he looks much stronger this year, and with the support of his powerful Milaneza-MSS squad he could make some major noise by the time they hit Madrid. The Volta a Portugal was a warning shot across the bow for the upcoming Vuelta a España: while most of the fancied men ride the Vuelta Ciclista a Burgos, Milaneza-MSS has clearly served a notice that the rest of the peloton had better take seriously if they hope to keep their dreams of Vuelta a España victory afloat. Moller will be the leader of a team that is underappreciated, on form, and dangerously hot when they hit the start line in Valencia. I can't wait to see what kind of surprises they'll pull out of their racing caps next.
Stage 13 Results
1. Claus Moller, Milaneza-MSS @ 34' 10"
2. David Bernabeu, Carvalhelhos-Boavista @ 49"
3. Joan Horrach, Milaneza-MSS @ 53"
4. Burno Castanheira, LA-Pecol @ 1' 00"
5. Pedro Lopes, LA-Pecol @ 1' 15"
6. Andrei Zintchenko, LA-Pecol @ 1' 21"
7. Felix Garcia Casas, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 1' 21"
8. Joaquim Andrade, Cantanhede-Marques de Marialva @ 1' 30"
9. Rui Sousa, Milaneza-MSS @ 1' 31"
10. Andrei Teteriouk, CCC-Polstat @ 1' 41"
12. Stephane Heuleot, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 1' 44"
13. Pedro Arreitunandia, Carvalhelhos-Boavista @ 1' 49"
18. Adolfo Garcia, iBanesto.com @ 2' 13"
20. Nuno Ribeiro, Barbot-Torrie @ 2' 18"
21. Aitor Kintana, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 2' 20"
23. Angel Casero, Team Coast @ 2' 21"
41. Daniel Petrov, Porta da Ravessa-Zurich @ 3' 03"
82. Juan Manuel Garate, Lampre-Daikin @ 4' 33"
Final GC Standings (Yellow Jersey w/ Blue Trim)
1. Claus Moller, Milaneza-MSS @ 47h 51' 33"
2. Joan Horrach, Milaneza-MSS @ 05"
3. Rui Sousa, Milaneza-MSS @ 1' 28"
4. Pedro Arreitunandia, Carvalhelhos-Boavista @ 2' 04"
5. David Bernabeu, Carvalhelhos-Boavista @ 3' 13"
6. Andrei Zintchenko, LA-Pecol @ 4' 10"
7. Felix Garcia Casas, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 4' 57"
8. Adolfo Garcia, iBanesto.com @ 4' 57"
9. Nuno Ribeiro, Barbot-Torrie @ 5' 38"
10. Bruno Castanheira, LA-Pecol @ 5' 39"
11. Joaquim Gomes, Carvalhelhos-Boavista @ 6' 32"
12. Daniel Petrov, Porta Ravessa-Zurich @ 6' 48"
35. Aitor Kintana, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 29' 12"
57. Stephane Heuleot, BigMat.Auber 93 @ 41' 16"
67. Juan Manuel Garate, Lampre-Daikin @ 49' 31"
74. Angel Casero, Team Coast @ 52' 44"
Final Standings Points Competition (Green Jersey)
1. Angel Edo, Milaneza-MSS 112 pts
2. Candido Barbosa, LA-Pecol 104 pts
3. Joan Horrach, Milaneza-MSS 104 pts
4. Rui Sousa, Milaneza-MSS 65 pts
5. Claus Moller, Milaneza-MSS 59 pts
Final Standings Mountains Competition (Blue Jersey)
1. Goncalo Amorim, Milaneza-MSS 76 pts
2. Rui Sousa, Milaneza-MSS 69 pts
3. Joan Horrach, Milaneza-MSS 59 pts
4. Pedro Arreitunandia, Carvalhelhos-Boavista 45 pts
Final Standings Metas Volantes Competition (Intermediate Sprints, White Jersey)
1. Helder Lopes, Porta da Ravessa-Zurich 19 pts
2. Fernando Citoula, Parades-Rota dos Moveis 18 pts
3. Claudio Faria, Barbot-Torrie 15 pts
4. Hugo Sabido, Porta da Ravessa-Zurich 13 pts
5. Eduardo Gonzalez, Barbot-Torrie 12 pts
6. Celio Sousa, Parades-Rota dos Moveis 12 pts