Stybar impresses on Algarve final stage
Only 1500 meters stood between the Czech and an outstanding victory on the dreadful Alto do Malhão.
Attacks came thick and fast at the start of Volta ao Algarve stage 5 (Faro – Alto do Malhão, 173.5km), before a large group, numbering 31 riders, powered away after 15 kilometers. Quick-Step Floors was represented by Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar, who brought their fair share of work at the front, helping the leaders open a hefty gap, of over five minutes, before hitting the feed zone.
Fifty kilometers from the finish, Lukas Postlberger (Bora-hansgrohe) clipped off the front and put half a minute between him and the other escapees, but nothing was played at that point. On the descent, Zdenek set off in pursuit of the Austrian and bridged across at the bottom of the third-category Vermelhos climb, on whose slopes the Quick-Step Floors rider dropped Postlberger and continued alone to the iconic Alto do Malhão (2.49 kilometers, 8.9%).
Riding his first stage race of the season, the 32-year-old pushed hard at the front and stretched his advantage to 40 seconds, but unfortunately for him, it wasn't enough on the punishing gradients of Malhão. The chasers turned on the cylinders and launched attack after attack, catching and passing Stybar with 1500 meters remaining, on whom the climb took its toll. The Czech Champion crossed the line in 13th place, but despite missing out on a top result, the grit and sheer determination he showed until the very end proved why he's a proud member of the Wolfpack.
"We rode an aggressive race from the start and it was nice to be at the front. I felt good, so I thought about giving it a go. I rode all out in the valley, but despite arriving at the bottom of the climb with 40 seconds in hand, I was completely empty and didn't stand a chance when the others began attacking. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it today and I'm now looking forward to my next races", Zdenek Stybar explained after the stage.
Bob Jungels, the highest placed Quick-Step Floors rider in the general classification, arrived in the peloton, some two minutes later, and concluded his first participation at the Volta ao Algarve in fifth place. Teammate Maximilian Schachmann, who made his first outing since a foot injury forced him to end his neo-pro season in July, finished the Portuguese race in seventh place, a morale-boosting result for the 24-year-old talented German.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images