The 80th Volta a Portugal has just concluded in the town of Fafe, just an hour’s drive from the Galician border. This year, Gallegos were very fortunate to see a total of four stages, all easily accessible from Galicia. The heat was not as extreme as for the early part of the race, where the mercury hit 44 degrees Celsius. This caused the great spectacle of firemen in every town hosing down the peloton as it passed through. Social media loved those images.
As the Volta a Portugal reached the north, the dominant Portuguese team, that of W52 FC Porto were in prime position in the race for the yellow jersey. Their Spanish captain Raul Alarcon won the two mountain stages with commanding performances. He held a fifty-two second advantage over local hero Joni Brandao from Sporting Tavira, heading into the rest day on Tuesday. The points jersey was an inter-team battle with Vicente de Mateos and Luis Mendonca form the AVILUDO Louletano team separated by just seven points. The dual stage winner, the Italian sprinter Riccardo Stacchiotti was lurking just ten points further back.
The second week of the Volta a Portugal really separated the stronger teams. W52 Porto propelled their leader Alarcon to another stage win, giving him a clean sweep of the mountain stages. Their strength in depth was too much for the other teams. Vicente de Mateos grabbed two stage wins to lock up the points jersey, and third place on the podium. His final win in the time trial, leaving him just nine seconds away from Joni Brandao. So, Portugal took second step on the final podium.
Thoughts on the Volta
It was a truly brutal tour, fast paced, high temperatures, and very challenging terrain. When interviewed by the Spanish website Sprint Final, the three most experienced riders gave their verdict. On the final day of the Volta, Nathan Earle, Rinaldo Nocentini and Sergio Paulinho all said the same. The Volta a Portugal is the hardest race of the year by far. Relentless up and down terrain, and never a minute without somebody accelerating. This year four pro-continental teams competed versus the Portuguese. Hopefully in future, there will be more.