Gilbert spices up Algarve finale
Florian Sénéchal sprints to fourth in Tavira, while Bob Jungels defends position in the overall standings.
Stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve (Almodovar – Tavira, 199.2 kilometers), a flat one and as consequence the last chance for sprinters to fight for spoils, followed the usual pattern, of a break going clear early and being kept in control by the bunch. The six men established a four-minute gap and fought for intermediate sprints and KOM points, but didn't represent a threat in any way to the peloton's intentions. Things changed with 20 kilometers to go, when Philippe Gilbert jumped from the field together with three other men, and got a nice gap.
Not only that he was the one to ignite the move, but Philippe also was the soul of the group, taking some long pulls at the front to ensure they catch the original escape and increase the lead on the pack. With around ten kilometers left, the attackers held a 15-second advantage, but the sprinters' teams got organized behind and made the catch with under three kilometers left, despite one last effort of the reigning Ronde van Vlaanderen champion.
"Today it was a hard stage, but I thought about attacking since before the start in case the breakaway wasn't too far in the last part of the stage. A few riders took off with me, but the headwind made it very difficult. I was hoping the final will be technical, but instead the corners proved out to play in favour of the chasers", explained Philippe after the stage. "We didn't make it, but it's always good to try. Besides that, I'm used to do this kind of effort at the beginning of the season, the form is getting there, so I am pleased with how I felt."
In the sprint, after he was piloted by the excellent Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal moved from wheel to wheel and took fourth place thanks to a strong acceleration, behind winner Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). It was the young Frenchman's second top 5 of the season, after the one in Clasica de Almeria, last week, a result he was content of.
"On the last corner I was in eighth position, and then, when we went on that final straight I went full gas. It was a long and difficult sprint, but I was confident after the one in Almeria and took my chance. Was close to the podium today, but more important is the fact the legs are feeling better and better now that the spring is getting closer."
Bob Jungels safely went through this stage, the longest of the 2018 Volta ao Algarve, and sits in fourth place overall ahead of the race's final test, the short but tough Alto do Malhão.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images