After eight kilometres of the 180km third stage in this, the 30th Volta ao Algarve, three riders escaped - luckily, as many breakaway attempts were closed down snappily - from the peloton: Alberto Lopez de Mundain (Euskaltel), Ricardo Costa (Wurth-Bom Petisco) and French RAGT Semences-Rover coureur Jerome Bernard. However, the latter didn't have the legs to stay with the Iberian duo, who were really spinning the carbon up the road, so he dropped back to the peloton.
With just 30km of racing done, the two leaders led by 5'19", although behind US Postal were beginning to crank up a chase, as more attacks were being tried as the Category 2 climb, the peloton's hardest challenge in this race until the final day, came into view. Costa crested the climb first ahead of Lopez de Mundain, maybe surprisingly since the Basque has reached the Dauphine Libere overall Top 10 in previous. Behind them, a quintet had left the peloton, containing Meta Volante leader Jordi Berenguer (Beppi-Ovarense) as well as Rabobank starlet Joost Posthuma. Indeed, Posthuma took third over the climb, as the chase group crested it 3'20" in arrears of the leading two.
However, Lopez de Mundain and Costa sat up and just let the chase group catch them.... then watched them ride into the horizon, leaving the two to flounder pointlessly in no man's land until the inevitable capture by the peloton. Indeed, the now-lead group were much more optimistic about their stage chances. Posthuma attacked before the Meta Volante at 107km and charged away, though you might expect such fresh legs from a 22 year old. His breakaway companions Palomares, Martins and Berengeur could do nothing as he seemingly-effortlessly put minutes into them over a short distance.
With 40km to go, the trio were caught, with the Rabobank Espoir rider still over 4 minutes ahead. LA Pecol, Milaneza and US Postal worked in unison to sever his lead. Candido Barbosa also extended his overall lead, winning the sprint for second place in the Meta Volante with 26km to go, whilst teammate Pedro Lopes took third.
Within 20 minutes of that, it was all over for Posthuma; a bold try, but no dice. Still the young Dutchman will wear the mountains jersey for the next two days, so all his efforts were not in futility. Euskaltel men Iker Camano, newly signed from Phonak, and Akezta Pena both tried to escape alone in the last 15km, but Camano was swept up with 4,000m to go.
The bunch geared up for the sprint, but with just 2km to go, there was a small crash in the peloton, which seemingly involved THREE US Postal riders: Benjamin Noval, Floyd Landis and George Hincapie - the trio limped in over one and a half minutes down. In the final sprint, there was a shock victor, as Argentinean Martin Garrido (Barbot-Gaia) surprised Candido Barbosa with some crafty manoeuvring and top-class bike handling to arch around him and head for the line like a rocket. Stuart O'Grady got to within half a bike length of the South American, but it was to no avail – another ‘nearly’ for the Cofidis Aussie.
This is a great, surprise sprint victory for the Argentinean, and really only the 29 year old's second victory after a 2001 Tour of Murcia stage; the other three were from a minor home race. Garrido has always been good in the sprint, but never good enough to upstage the big guns. He moved to fourth overall, though so far the GC has only been changed by the final sprints and Meta Volantes, though it’ll look totally different this time tomorrow! Michael Barry took fifth in the melee, with Angel Edo slipping furher to twelth. Lance Armstrong cruised home again, in 55th place, and he now lies 74th overall, 25" down on Barbosa, who retained his leadership.
I would not be surprised to see Armstrong really pounding the pedals in his unique 'coffee-grinder' cadence in tomorrow's 18km ITT. Maybe he doesn't have the form to win it, but a top 10 placing is definitely viable. Candido Barbosa could maintain top spot overall, as he is handy against the clock, as is Garrido. Victor Hugo Pena could also be a candidate for victory tomorrow – it will be fascinating.
Garrido raises an arm in victory - Courtesy Edosof
Volta ao Algarve - Stage 3: Lagoa-Lagos, 180.0km
Top 10 Places
1. Martin Garrido (Barbot-Gaia, ARG) 4h 36m 59s (10” bonus)
2. Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis, AUS) at same time (6” bonus)
3. Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol, POR) s.t (4” bonus)
4. Marc de Maar (Rabobank, NED) s.t
5. Michael Barry (US Postal supported by Berry Floor, CAN) s.t
6. Jacek Morajko (Antarte-Rota do Moveis, POL) s.t
7. Pedro Soeiro (Carvalhelhos-Boavista, POR) s.t
8. Jukka Vastaranta (Rabobank, FIN) s.t
9. James Vanlandschoot (Relax-Bodysol, BEL) s.t
10. Geert Steurs (Jong Vlaanderen 2016, BEL) s.t
12. Victor Hugo Pena (US Postal-Berry Floor) s.t
55. Lance Armstrong (US Postal-Berry Floor) s.t
114. George Hincapie (US Postal-Berry Floor) at 1’41”
General Classification after Stage 3
1. Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol) 12h 50m 37s
2. Alberto Benito (Antarte-Rota do Moveis, SPA) at 9”
3. Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) at 13”
4. Martin Garrido (Barbot-Gaia) at 15”
5. Jordi Berenguer (Beppi-Ovarense, SPA) at 18”
6. Joost Posthuma (Rabobank, NED) at 19”
7. Angel Edo (Milaneza-Maia, SPA) at 21”
8. Wim de Vocht (Relax-Bodysol, BEL) s.t
9. Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis, BEL) at 22”
10. Eric Berthou (RAGT Semences-Rover, FRA) s.t
Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol) 66 points
Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) 10 points
Jordi Berenguer (Beppi-Ovarense) 7 points
Thanks to www.edosof.com and http://volta.no.sapo.pt/ for their Volta ao Algarve photos, results and info