Alexander Kristoff ‘thanked’ the Prestige Award of the Volta ao Algarve with a triumph in Lagos

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Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) proved today that the organization of the Volta ao Algarve got it right by giving him the Prestige Award as he sprinted to victory, and to the yellow, in the first stage of the 49th edition.

The experienced Norwegian sprinter spoiled Soudal Quick-Step’s plan to take Fabio Jakobsen to his fourth consecutive triumph in Lagos and make him the active cyclist with more stage wins in the ‘Algarvia’, imposing himself in 04:49.25 hours, ahead of Belgian Jordi Meeus (BORA-hansgrohe) and his launcher and compatriot Soren Warenskjold, with the European cross-country champion only fourth.

“It’s fantastic. I’ve done this sprint two other times in my career and I’ve always sprinted relatively well… It’s the first time I’ve won here in Portugal, and it’s a bit of a relief to start winning in the early part of the season, the pressure eases [for the rest of the season],” he confessed after adding the 87th triumph to a resume that includes four stages in the Tour, the Tour of Flanders (2015), Milan-Sanremo (2014) or Gent-Wevelgem (2019).

Alexander Kristoff 'thanked' the Prestige Award of the Volta ao Algarve with a triumph in Lagos

The feeling of crossing the finish line first may be “indescribable”, as he himself assumed, but the joy of getting on the podium with the yellow jersey was quite visible, with the 35-year-old Norwegian being flanked by two representatives of national teams: the ‘unlucky’ Aleksandr Grigorev (Efapel), who, after being elected most combative of the first stage, was involved in an apparent fall already inside the final 10 kilometers, and António Ferreira, the ‘kid’ of Kelly-Simoldes-UDO who is the first mountain leader.

Not even 20 of the 200.2 kilometers of the first stage, which started from a ‘wet’ Portimão, had yet been covered, and already Grigorev, Ferreira and Alexander Kamp (Tudor) were in the lead, to be followed by Rafael Lourenço (AP Hotels&Resorts-Tavira-Farense) and Sergio García (Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor).

Alexander Kristoff 'thanked' the Prestige Award of the Volta ao Algarve with a triumph in Lagos

The quintet gained a lead that stabilized at two minutes, by Soudal Quick-Step, which was helped in the chase by the Portuguese Aviludo-Louletano-Loulé Concelho.

Lourenço was the first of the fugitives to give in, ‘condemned’ by Nave’s third category count, which confirmed António Ferreira as the first mountain jersey of the 49th edition of the ‘Algarvia’, with Grigorev and Kamp being the last holdouts of the escape – they were reached only 12 kilometers from the finish line.

The finish ‘script’ had long been set by Soudal Quick-Step, who picked up the pace in the final 30 kilometers to take Jakobsen to his fifth race win, and not even a crash 8.5 kilometers from the finish line, which involved, among others, Mauricio Moreira and Frederico Figueiredo, the Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor leaders who were winner and ‘vice’ in the last Volta a Portugal, Grigorev and Joel Suter (Tudor), ‘derailed’ the sprinters’ ‘train’.

By then, Uno-X was already profiling for Kristoff, side by side with Trek-Segafredo and Alpecin-Deceuninck, but also with BORA-hansgrohe, with Jai Hindley clearly visible at the front, cutting the finish line with the same time as the winner, as well as João Almeida (UAE Emirates), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) or the INEOS leaders.

Overall, the Norwegian leads with four seconds ahead of Meeus and six ahead of Warenskjold, thanks to the bonuses awarded for the first time in the ‘Algarvia’ since 2017.

Statements after the first stage of the 49th edition of the Volta ao Algarve:

– Alexander Kristoff, Nor, Uno-X (stage winner and individual overall leader): “It’s fantastic. I’ve done this sprint [in Lagos] two other times in my career and I’ve always sprinted relatively well… It’s the first time I’ve won here in Portugal, and it’s a bit of a relief to start winning in the early part of the season, the pressure is off [for the rest of the season].

Soren Warenskjold gave me a great shot at the finish, we worked very well together. I think he finished third, he is super strong and I just had to take advantage of his strength. He put me in the perfect place. It went so well today… In fact, he had a great race on Sunday in the Almeria Classic. We tried to build on what we did there, and today we did [an even] better job.

The feeling when you cross the finish line first is indescribable. It’s a great feeling.

(Tavira sprint finish) I haven’t looked closely yet, but I think I’ve done it once before, and finished third or fourth [he was fourth in 2020]. I think it might ‘suit’ me quite well, because it goes up slightly, but it might be even better for Soren. We will analyze what we are going to do.”

– António Ferreira, Por, Kelly-Simoldes-Udo (mountain classification leader): “The plan was to enter the escape and try to fight for a secondary classification, in this case the mountain or the special sprint. I ended up winning the mountain, it went well. I’m happy.

(take the jersey how far?) That I can’t say. It will also depend on how I recover today, how the race unfolds tomorrow [Thursday]. Whether I can get into the breakaway, whether the breakaway reaches the mountains or doesn’t.

(do you intend to ‘imitate’ João Matias, who won the mountain classification in 2022?) Matias was very strong last year, I don’t know if I’m like that, but I’ll try.”

The favorites for the final triumph will set off on Thursday for the 186.3 kilometers between Sagres and Fóia (Monchique), the highest point in the Algarve where a first category count coincides with the finish line, 10 seconds behind the yellow jersey.

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