Getting Back Into Gear

By Phil Egginton

With the gradual easing of restrictions, some sporting activities are getting back to normal. The Volta ao Algarve, an annual cross Algarve cycle race, delayed from its usual February slot, will lead the way in early May.

Readers will be familiar with the annual Tour de France bicycle race. The “Tour” is the most well-known road racing event and, in turn, road racing is the most popular professional form of cycle racing. Events are often raced in “stages”, starting and finishing at different defined points and often using normal roads, with stages occurring over a number of days.

The Volta ao Algarve is such an event and was first held in 1960. Since 2017, it has been organised by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which is the Switzerland-based, world governing body for sports cycling. The Volta is part of the UCI Pro Series, the second most senior international championship after the UCI World Tour. Previous winners have included Belgian Remco Evenepoel and Britain’s Geraint Thomas. Sir Bradley Wiggins has been a stage winner. The Volta, therefore, puts the Algarve at the very top of international cycling.

This year’s Volta commences in Lagos on May 5 with a 189.5 km stage taking in Bensafrim, Silves, Benafim and ending in Portimão. Stage 2 on May 6 from Sagres takes a 182.8 km route via Aljezur, São Marcos de Serra and São Bartolomeu de Messines, ending at Fóia near Monchique. On May 7, Stage 3 takes a 203.1 km route from Faro to Tavira via Alcoutim. Saturday May 8 sees riders competing against the clock in Stage 4, which is an individual time trial running 20.3 km from and back to Lagoa. The final stage is the following day and starts in Albufeira, taking in a 170.1 km route via Loulé, Vermelhos and finishing in Alto do Malhão.

Full route details are available on the Volta website.

I asked José Carlos Gomes, press officer of the Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo, who was competing this year? “We still don’t have the teams fully defined. As it was necessary to change the date from February, we only started negotiating with the teams in late March,” he explains. Hopefully among those competing will be João Almeida, currently one of Portugal’s rising star riders who achieved success in last year’s Italian tour event.

And what about spectators? “It depends on the Portuguese Government. When the deconfinement plan was announced, the Prime Minister said that sporting events could have spectators after May 3, but we will have to wait for governmental decisions,” José replies. “We will apply the health protocols of the UCI, which require all team members, cyclists and staff to undergo two PCR tests before the race. During the race, sanitary bubbles will be created within each team. There will also be a sanitary bubble for the organisers’ staff”.

For the latest information see the Volta website.

Phil Egginton is a journalist and photographer and now lives in the Algarve.



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