Local favourites

By SKIP BANDELE [email protected]

The highly successful Palmeiras Resort Tavira team will be among the favourites to win cycling’s Tour of the Algarve which ends in Portimao early on Sunday afternoon.

While Martin Garrido and Krassimir Vasilev bade farewell during the winter, top performers such as three-time Tour of Portugal victor David Blanco and Candido Barbosa have been retained and will be expected to feature at the business end of the race.

Also hoping to be in the shake-up are fellow Algarveans Louletano, boasting a 12-man team sponsored by Aquashow to the tune of 250,000 euros this year – the riders to look out for here are Constantino Zaballa, Santiago Perez and Joao Cabreira.

All of the above mentioned will have to cope with their elite category Protour rivals hoping to kick-start the 2010 season in the south of Portugal.

Today’s (Friday’s) 174km Castro Marim-Loulé, Saturday’s 169km Vila Real de Santo António-Tavira and Sunday’s closing Lagos-Portimão time trial stages are sure to feature the likes of blue riband Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez or sprint king Robbie McEwen attempting to make all alongside Britain’s David Millar or the ultra-consistent Levi Leipheimer and Thor Hushovd.