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John Degenkolb (HTC-HighRoad) nipped Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) to win the second stage at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal in Thursday’s 186.5km run from Lagao to Lagos.
Race officials studied the photo finish for quite awhile before declaring Degenkolb, 22, the winner of the stage. Michael Matthews (Rabobank) crossed the line third while Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), winner of Wednesday’s opener, retained the overall leader’s jersey.
Contador: Friday will be the day to draw conclusions
“Tomorrow will be a tough day, with a top finish good for me, but legs are not those of other years”, Contador said. “Tomorrow I will try to do my best, because I want to do it for my team and for everyone who has supported me during these months. We’ll see what happens. (My feelings) were not bad, because they were two days not very complicated. I’m also happy because the team is working very well. Tomorrow is the time to draw conclusions.”
Among all the possible favorites to win in Malhao, Alberto pointed at Tiago Machado. “He has been the toughest opponent in the last two years, but can also be many others, because it is a short climb of only two kilometers.”
And he concluded speaking of his own possibilities: “I’m not like other years, but victory can not be ruled ever.”
Tough day for Garmin-Cervelo
There was mixed news for Garmin-Cervelo, as Farrar came within a hair of stage win, but Dave Zabriskie, Marilo Fischer and Tom Peterson all pulled out of the race. Garmin sport director Bingen Fernandez told VeloNews the three were beginning to feel the early signs of a cold and abandoned rather than risk getting sick.
Emergence of a new sprint talent
Four riders peeled away early in another moderate hilly stage along Portugal’s Algarve coast.
The move was neutralized in the closing kilometers when Oleg Chuzdha (Caja Rural) tried to counter to surprise the sprinters.
The victory heralds the arrival of the 22-year-old German, a highly touted sprinter who won nine races on the espoirs circuit last season, including two stages at the Tour de l’Avenir.
It’s also the fifth win on the 2011 season for HTC-Columbia and 20-plus winner Mark Cavendish is still waiting in the wings to make his first trip to the top of the podium this season. The other wins have come from Mark Renshaw and Matt Goss, with two each.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard), who returned to competition yesterday after the Spanish cycling federation cleared him of doping charges, crossed the line 13th at one second back.
The race continues Friday with the decisive, 179km mountaintop finish atop the second-category summit at Malhao.
It will be interesting to see how Contador, who hasn’t raced since last year’s Tour, can fare on the short, but steep climb where he’s sentenced the race the past two editions.