By: Skip Bandele
THE 33RD Volta ao Algarve bicycle race celebrated an, at times, controversial Italian winner at its conclusion in Portimão on Sunday afternoon.
Milram rider Alessandro Petacchi took the final 185km Vila do Bispo-Portimão stage in just over four-and-a-half hours to maintain his 20-second advantage over closest pursuers Rene Haselbacher (Astana) and Tomas Vaiklus (Discovery), who finished second and third overall.
Petacchi proved to be clearly the best rider in the high-class 190-strong field, having taken both the Lagos and Loulé stages previously, but began the tour under a cloud.
First past the post following the opening stage in Faro, the Italian was subsequently demoted having been adjudged to have employed an illegal sprint manoeuvre. On day two he exchanged insults with fellow competitors after the race and had to be restrained from taking the argument further by other team members.
The incidents were largely forgotten by the time the finishing line was crossed and Petacchi was presented with the winner’s cheque.
“It feels great to win another stage,” said the sprint specialist, “and I definitely hope to return next year.”
Much vaunted Portuguese challengers José Azevedo and Sergio Paulinho generally disappointed, finishing in 19th and 62nd place respectively.
Team Boavista rider, Tiago Machado, was the highest-placed domestic competitor in sixth, 31 seconds off the pace.
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