Friday, March 27, 2015

Volta ao Alentejo Stage 2: The Old Hand Hits Back

Back in 2009, Manuel Cardoso was just 26 years old and had taken 7 wins in UCI races including the Portuguese RR Championship and a stage in the Volta a Portugal. His career was looking up and he signed a contract with a Footon-Servetto and in early 2010, Cardoso hit the pinnacle of his career when he launched a ferocious sprint and beat Cadel Evans and a young Peter Sagan to win a stage of the Tour Down Under. He took another World Tour win in the Volta a Catalunya with RadioShack but his career outside Portugal began to tumble after 2012 with Caja Rural.

Last year, Cardoso was relegated to the Banco BIC team and life on the continental circuit. He took 6 wins but four of them came at the Tour du Maroc along with 2 in Portugal including one in the Volta a Portugal and another that was 363 days ago in the Volta ao Alentejo.

The stage from Castelo de Vide to Mora was more or less downhill and the main breakaway featured three riders including Pawel Franczak (ActiveJet), Benat Txoperena (Murias Taldea) and Albert Torres (Ecuador). The trio had the longest time out front with nearly 35 kilometers out front but the peloton was hungry for a sprint and was not letting anything go. Breakaways went and came back but nothing was getting out of the grips of the peloton.

Cardoso taking the tight, dangerous sprint into Mora
The finale was a bit nuts with the twists and turns but coming into the finale was the ex-World Tour rider Cardoso ahead of evergreen Portuguese rider Sammy Caldeira and Canadian Ryan Anderson of Optum. Lost in the shuffle was overall leader James Oram (Axeon), who was able to finish with the peloton but thanks to time bonuses he finished on the same time as Cardoso. Thanks to a stage countback, Cardoso took the jersey over with Oram on the same time in 2nd and in the youth jersey.

The stage tomorrow goes to Mertola and again is a more or less flat affair but has a slightly uphill finish. Guess who the winner on the stage to Mertola was last year? Manuel Cardoso.

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