After a few days at the Volta ao Algarve Team RadioShack has laid rather low. The highlights so far has been Tiago Machado getting tenth in stage 2 (Tiago may have in 11th. Stay tuned for an update). The lowlight was a hard fall for Tomas Vaitkus. This will all change on stage 3 when Team RadioShack sees the road go up for the first time this season. Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer will be looking to stay in contention for the overall lead; a lead they hope to protect or overtake during the stage 5 time trial.
Stage 3 is the first real test for the climbers’ legs as it goes over six categorized climbs including four in the last sixty kilometers. It finishes atop the Cat Two climb of Alto do Malhão. The previous climbs of the day should hurt some riders with ambitions of a win but the major contenders should all be there at the bottom of the climb. The climb itself is not very long so it will not be suited for Kloden or Leipheimer but rather for punchy riders such as Alberto Contador and Sammy Sanchez. The key will be to finish near or the same time as these riders so that the race will come down to the time trial on Sunday.
Leipheimer would seem to be the odds on favorite for the time trial because of his early goal of winning the Tour of California. He has been training hard and word out of camp is he is one of the, if not the, strongest of the riders. Contador did win it last year but he faces far stronger time trialists, not only from RadioShack, but other teams as well. The course has been shortened this year from 33.7km down to 17.2. This will mean that the margin for error will be lessened and the time gaps smaller.
However these two stages play out it would be a good bet that Team RadioShack will be near the top of the results. The perfect ending to this Portuguese race would be a one-two finish and message sent to one Alberto Contador.
By Thomas Mendonsa, staff writer
Photo by José António Fernandes, www.jaf-world.com