|Manuel Cardoso does the funky chicken after his win in Mértola (Photo: Volta ao Alentejo)|
In what is never the best idea, the Volta ao Alentejo finished with a downhill sprint into Mertola. The finish, that included a couple of turns, did prove bad for a few riders high on GC including Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) and Ryan Anderson (Optum), who were both involved in crashes in the last three kilometers. Anderson is pretty banged up (but his helmet was not broken for what it's worth) and is a race-time decision tomorrow, according to DS Jonas Carney. Former Little 500 champion Eric Young (Optum) was also involved in the same crash as Anderson but was not as lucky as his teammate as he suffered a concussion and well as a few stiches from crashing on gravel. While crashes are a part of bike racing, this should just provide a reminder to race organizers that a technical downhill sprint is never the best of ideas unless the riders are on knobby tires.
The race started off fierce with no breakaways being able to get away for the first 60 kilometers until a breakaway of 5 including Victor de la Parte (Efapel-Glassdrive), Antonio Cabello (Ecuador) and Mateusz Komar (BDC Marcpol). The breakaway went along its merry way of taking the intermediate sprints and mountain points while the peloton slumbered until the real race began. When the peloton began to bear down on the breakaway in the last 60 kilometers, Antonio Cabello attacked but he only lasted until 33 kilometers left, when the peloton vacuumed him up.
Coming into the final kilometers, the race got to its sketchiest point when a rider slid out and took out 10 riders including Barbero, Young and Anderson. Everyone in the main peloton received the same time but the sprint continued to go on. Heading into the final straight from the descent onto a slight uphill, it was ex-World Tour rider Manuel Cardoso (Banco-BIC) who darted out from behind Vincento Rubio (Loulentano), who had lead out the sprint, and took the sprint ahead of Filipe Cardoso (Efapel) and U23s Sven Erik Bystrom (Oster Hus-Ridley) and Ryan Eastman (USA National). Oscar Landa (7th) and Tanner Putt (10th) rounded out a strong stage for the U23 riders.
Barbero was able to hold on to his overall lead due to everyone receiving the same time within the last kilometer. He still holds a 6 second lead on Eduard Prades (OFM) and 9 seconds on Ryan Anderson (Optum) while multiple other riders are in contention. Putt held onto the youth jersey and still has a 11 second lead on Jaime Roson while Barbero kept a 1 point lead on Prades for the points compeition. Byron Guama, who won the only KOM on the day, solidified him KOM lead and now has a 5 point advantage on Barbero.
Tomorrow is yet another uphill finish in Alentejo, this time with an uphill kick into Santiago do Cacém.
P.S. I need to thank my lovely girlfriend Kirsten, who has been extremely patient with me the past week as I have been churning out articles for both Alentejo and Normandie as well as a few other things. Cycling might be a big part of my life but she is my rock so I thank her deeply.