Volta ao Algarve promising a strong field despite schedule conflict with Ruta del Sol
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Volta ao Algarve promising a strong field despite schedule conflict with Ruta del Sol

by Jered Gruber at 11:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Velits, Kreuziger, Sanchez, and Machado highlight the general classification contenders

The Volta ao Algarve looks set to enjoy an excellent field for its 2011 edition from February 16th to the 20th. The Portuguese early season race will include three flat stages, a mountainous one, and an individual time trial. It often proves a great starting point for many of the year's general classification hopefuls.

Last year, Alberto Contador took a fine early season victory over Luis Sanchez, Tiago Machado, Levi Leipheimer, and Samuel Sanchez. It's not clear whether Contador will get the chance to defend his title in 2011 or not, as his ruling is set to come during the month of April. With or without Contador, the field will be one to take note of.

According to Wielerland.nl, ten ProTeams will take part in the race including: QuickStep, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Astana, HTC-Highroad, Luxembourg Pro Cycling, Rabobank, RadioShack, Saxo Bank, Team Sky, and Vacansoleil.

The smaller Lotto-Mercator, Barbot-Efapel, CC Tavira, LA Paredes Rota dos Moveis, and Onda-Boavista teams will also take part, with a number of other teams set to round out the proceedings including American Pro Continental squad, UnitedHealthcare/Maxxis.

The top Spanish teams will not be present at the start in Portugal, as the first day of the Ruta del Sol coincides with the final day of the Tour of the Algarve. Both last year's 4th and 5th place finishers, Levi Leipheimer and Samuel Sanchez, are expected to race the Ruta del Sol. Movistar, Geox-TMC, Euskaltel, Andalucia-Caja Granada, NetApp, and Skil-Shimano are all teams sending squads to the Vuelta Andalucia and not the Volta ao Algarve. According to a press release from the Vuelta Andalucia communicated through Biciciclismo, it looks possible that both of the Schleck brothers and Fabian Cancellara could be toeing the line for Luxembourg Pro Cycling at the Ruta del Sol at the end of February.

Despite the unfortunate intersection in dates, the Portuguese stage race looks set to count a number of top riders in its ranks.

QuickStep is sending a solid unit highlighted by Dutch champion, Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel, and German sprinter, Gerald Ciolek. The other top Belgian team, Omega Pharma-Lotto is sending their name that stands above all others: Philippe Gilbert.

Astana is sending a rider to watch for the overall in Roman Kreuziger, while Allan Davis will surely be hunting for stages. Vuelta podium finisher and 10th place at last year's Tour of the Algarve, Peter Velits, will headline HTC-Highroad's roster, while Luis Leon Sanchez, winner of the Algarve's time trial last year, will be looking to get his early season off to a good start with his new team, Rabobank.

Radio Shack is sending a small fleet of Portuguese riders in Cardoso, Oliveira, Paulinho, and last year's third overall finisher, Tiago Machado. Machado was the only rider to keep Contador within reach at last year's summit finish atop the Alto do Malhao.

Sky will send a a well rounded squad of all-arounders, fast men, and climbers with John-Lee Augustyn, Michael Barr, Kjell Carlstrom, Dario Cioni, Steve Cummings, Simon Gerrans, Greg Henderson, and Serge Pauwels.

At first glance, Peter Velits would seem an early big favorite along with Luis Leon Sanchez, Tiago Machado, and Roman Kreuziger. Velits's sensational final time trial at the Vuelta along with his overall three weeks of great racing in Spain in the year's final Grand Tour was a breakout success without question. He'll get his first chance to begin the process of confirming what he showed so impressively last fall.

The big question, of course, is whether Alberto Contador will be in attendance. If so, it seems hard to imagine anyone getting the better of the five-time Grand Tour winner in a short stage race with an uphill finish and a time trial.


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