Preview Volta ao Algarve
The Tour of the Algarve (Europe Tour, 2.HC) is a five-day stage race along the southern coastline of Portugal. The 45th edition will take place from Wednesday 20 until Sunday 24 February. It offers the riders two hilly stages, two hard uphill finishes and an individual time trial. Just like previous years, a lot of strong riders will participate. Neo-pro Stan Dewulf looks ahead, while sports director Frederik Willems also makes his analysis.
Stan Dewulf: “A few weeks ago I made my professional debut in the Vuelta a San Juan. I look back on it in a very positive way. I think the team is well on track to start the Belgian Classics. It was superb to get the chance to take part in the bunch sprints, with an eighth and a thirteenth place as a result. That was really relevant for me to know my capabilities. The Tour of the Algarve is now the logical next step in the build-up to the Classics. However, it is also a goal on its own. With Jasper De Buyst, we have a good sprinter on board for the flat stages. In Argentina, Nikolas Maes and I could train on positioning in the final. We now want to demonstrate that in the Algarve, where we will face a slightly higher level.”
“When I took a look at the course, I noticed two fairly difficult stages with quite some altitude metres. I am eager to find out what I am capable of. I guess the two flat stages will result into bunch kicks. My ambition for the rest of the spring is to show my good shape in some smaller races and to contribute to a nice result for Tiesj Benoot or someone else. If that happens, I would be really happy.
Frederik Willems, sports director Lotto Soudal: “It is a very enjoyable race with something for everyone. In fact there are two stages which should end in a sprint, a time trial and two tougher stages with an uphill finish. The function of this race is twofold for us. This is the last preparation for those who ride the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Besides that, this is the run-up to bigger stage races as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.”
“The most important for us is to build up towards the Flemish spring with Jasper De Buyst, Nikolas Maes, Frederik Frison and Brian van Goethem. Our aim is to ride a good Belgian opening weekend. With Jasper we want to practise the automatisms for the sprint lead-out train. In both sprint stages we want to position him in the best way possible during the final. With Nikolas we have an experienced lead-out for that. In Argentina, Stan Dewulf has shown that he possesses speed and race insight as well. It is definitely our ambition to go for a sprint victory in Portugal.
“We give Carl Fredrik Hagen the chance to show us where he can place himself in the classification. This is my first race with him, so I will have to see how he functions in this role. Brian is known as an attacking rider and he demonstrated in Bessèges that he could be an important asset to the team. Lawrence Naesen is also free to join an interesting breakaway. We must consider each day as an opportunity to win, however we mostly focus on stage one, four and five. Our approach will vary depending on the race conditions. In case of a strong headwind, we can make the race attractive with possible echelons.”
Stage 1 Wednesday 20 February: Portimão - Lagos (199.1 km)
Stage 2 Thursday21 February: Almodôvar – Alto da Fóia (187.4 km)
Stage 3 Friday 22 February: Lagoa - Lagoa (ITT) (20.3 km)
Stage 4 Saturday 23 February: Albufeira - Tavira (198.3 km)
Stage 5 Sunday 24 February: Faro - Malhão (173.5 km)
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Jasper De Buyst, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.
Sports directors: Frederik Willems and Herman Frison.