(For results, photos and info please visit the Movistar coverage site)
After being absent in 2011, Movistar Team will debut in Portugal into one of the strongest field, most prestigious early-season stageraces. The 38th Volta ao Algarve, which has already seen the riders directed by Eusebio Unzué shine in the past -apart from the overall victory and a stage by Alex Zülle in 2000, Cândido Barbosa won two sprint finishes in 1999 and even Luis León Sánchez conquered the final ITT in 2010-, will set their sights on a telephone squad led by local hero Rui Costa, just a step behind opening his victory accont of the season in Deià.
The Póvoa-based rider and his team-mates will find a classic route. However, the start on Wednesday 15 will be a tricky one, with some complications at the end of the 151km trek from Dunas Douradas to Albufeira, as the two small Cat. 3 climbs along the route are seconded by two short ramps around 6% in the final 3k, breaking harmony into a likely bunch kick. An easier one will be the finish in Lagoa, 187k from Faro with two other ascents on the way.
The Queen stage will come on Friday 17, with the mountain-top finish in the Cat. 2 Alto do Malhão, two kilometers around 8% to split a GC to be defined two days later, into an individual time trial long for this time of the season -almost 26k, with a short ramp halfway into the route- from Lagoa to Portimão. Between those two, a sprinters stage through the coast on Saturday 18, from Vilamoura to Tavira.
ROUTE – 38th Volta ao Algarve (UCI Europe Tour, 2.1)
1st st.: Wednesday, February 15: Dunas Douradas – Albufeira (151km)
2nd st.: Thursday, February 16: Faro – Lagoa (187.5km)
3rd st.: Friday, February 17: Castro Marim – Alto do Malhão (194.6km)
4th st.: Saturday, February 18: Vilamoura – Tavira (186.3km)
5th st.: Sunday, February 19: Lagoa – Portimão (25.8km)