Benoit Vaugrenard of Team FDJeux grabs the opening stage of the 2010 Volta a Algarve via a surprise attack that left several other sprinters in the dust. The Frenchman finished ahead of Joan Horrach (Katusha), who finished second, and Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) who finished third.
The starting bunch of riders in the first stage of this year’s Volta a Algarve included several sprinters hungry for a win, including defending champion Alberto Contador (Team Astana) who is always on the prowl for a victory in any race he’s in.
However, the 2009 Tour de France champion looked helpless as his attack near the final stretch failed to deliver him to the finish line. The main pack easily caught up with Team Astana’s star and Contador never had a chance to go for the win again.
Vaugrenard caught a tailwind just in time while sensing an opportunity to sprint free from the bunch, and managed to pass by Horrach who was leading at the front. With less than 200 meters to go and the rest of the peloton behind him, the French rider knew that he had the victory in hand.
“It’s been a great start of the season for our team, we hope to continue like this,” Vaugrenard says. Despite the win, however, he admits that going against riders like Contador “will be too much” for him, especially in the climbs and time trial races, so getting the first stage win is already enough.
Alberto Contador is the defending champion of the Volta a Algarve, but he is racing in his first event for this season and it seems that the rust is still showing. He said before the race that he wanted to test his fitness level, since he hasn’t raced since winning the Tour de France last year. Now he knows.
He will have another shot, of course. The stage race this Thursday will feature several short but sharp ascents, offering another opportunity for the Team Astana star to see how far his current fitness level can carry him.