The 30th Volta ao Algarve set off today from Albufeira, for its shortest and, arguably, flattest stage: not ideal for a shock Lance Armstrong victory then? As usual, lots of lone attacks were tried early on but it was a break of four that stuck. Before the Meta Volante at 51km, Staf Scheirlinckx of Cofidis - on the back of an excellent showing at the Etoile des Besseges where he took fourth overall - launched an attack and was followed by Hugo Lucio (Barbot-Gaia), Belgian starlet Wim de Vocht (Relax-Bodysol) and Beppi-Ovarense's Jordi Berenguer who, in retrospect, was fortunate to race here since his team's UCI application was only accepted by the UCI last week! For the meta volante, Berenguer sprinted and won it, with Scheirlinckx and his Belgian compatriot following in behind.
However, it was the Cofidis man who led the quartet over the Cat 3 climb 9km later to win the Mountains jersey, with Berenguer and Lucio next.
For the Meta Volante with 35km to go, with the peloton starting to reel them in, De Vocht outsprinted the Spaniard Berenguer, although the latter will still hold on to the Meta Volante lead for tomorrow's stage.
With just under 10km to go, the peloton - led by LA Pecol cranking up the speed for Candido Barbosa - reached them, and prepared for the sprint. The usual 'culprits' Barbosa, Edo, Benito Marta were brought to the front, mixed with a smattering of Cofidis and Relax-Bodysol riders, preparing to launch their men into the sprint.
When the lead-out men pulled away to fire their sprinters, Barbosa kicked - just slightly too earlier than he should have, for Alberto Benito (Antarte-Rota do Moveis), having won the jostle for his wheel, drew even with the Portuguese and narrowly edged him out on the line (see photo finish picture... not much in it at all!). Angel Edo and Stuart O'Grady, both more experienced riders, came home next; and both will be looking to do better in the coming stages. Only eight riders were dropped, with one retirement - all the Posties finished in the safety of the bunch, Lance Armstrong included.
Cofidis, who had Engoulvent sixth and Farazijn eleventh in the sprint, therefore lead the Teams Classification.
This is Benito’s sixth pro victory in as many years, and ranks in profile only behind his 2003 Tour of Portugal stage. It comes on the back of third overall and second on a stage in last week’s GP CTT Correios. His victory will also give valuable exposure to Antarte, who ride in Division II as a team with a small budget, but great organisation.
Shortly after the stage, Lance Armstrong said "It was a good day, with an excellent atmosphere and without falls, which is always important." Candido Barbosa [who took a close second today] of LA Pecol, labelled the 'Portuguese Valverde', was more wary of Armstrong's presence in the Algarve: "The presence of Armstrong has importance and, unlike what many people think, he did not come here just to ride - he can be one of the candidates for victory."
Benito edges Barbosa by his Krysium wheel width
Volta ao Algarve - Stage 1: Albufeira-Albufeira, 149.4km
Top 10 Places
1. Alberto Benito (Antarte Rota do Moveis, SPA) 3h 27m 50s (@ 41.86km/h approx)
2. Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol, POR) at same time
3. Angel Edo (Milaneza-Maia, SPA) s.t
4. Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis, AUS) s.t
5. Martin Garrido (Barbot-Gaia, ARG) s.t
6. Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis, FRA) s.t
7. Pedro Lopes (LA Pecol, POR) s.t
8. Pedro Soeiro (Carvalhelhos-Boavista, POR) s.t
9. Nuno Marta (Wurth-Bom Petisco, POR) s.t
10. Bas Giling (Rabobank, NED) s.t
Because of the time bonuses gained in the Meta Volante by the breakaway, Berenguer, De Vocht and Scheirlinckx are all in the top tne overall
General Classification after Stage 1
1. Alberto Benito (Antarte Rota do Moveis) 3h 27m 40s
2. Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol) at 4 seconds
3. Jordi Berenguer (Beppi-Ovarense, SPA) at 5"
4. Angel Edo (Milaneza-Maia) at 6"
5. Wim de Vocht (Relax-Bodysol, BEL) s.t
6. Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis, BEL) at 7"
7. Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) at 10"
8. Martin Garrido (Barbot-Gaia) s.t
9. Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis) s.t
10. Pedro Lopes (LA Pecol) s.t
Alberto Benito (Antarte-Rota do Moveis) 25 points
Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) 5 pts.
Jordi Berenguer (Beppi-Ovarense) 5 pts.
Cofidis credit par le Telephone
Thanks to http://www.edosof.com/algarve04/ for the results and finish photo, as well as http://www.rotadosmoveis-antarte.com/equipa.htm for Benito's photo