With the Tavira cycling club since the age of 14, the now 27-year-old Ricardo Mestre became the first Algarvean since José Martins in 1946 and 1947 to triumph in the Tour of Portugal last Monday afternoon.
In his sixth season as a fully fledged professional, Mestre grabbed the leader’s yellow jersey following the Sabugal-Guarda seventh stage of this famous race’s 73rd edition and carried it home safely to the Lisbon finish three days later.
The successor to previous Tavira star and three-time tour winner David Blanco owes his 2011 victory as much to team performance as to individual brilliance.
The Algarveans appeared to assume complete control of the race when André Cardoso took the blue riband ‘Torre’ stage in the Serra da Estrela, a famous win to which team-mate Nelson Vitorino contributed greatly.
It is no surprise then that Tavira-Pro, with Mestre, Cardoso and Vitorino sandwiching Barbot-Efapel’s third-placed Rui Sousa, also took the team prize by a wide margin. With such an overwhelming success under their belts one could assume that the future of cycling in the Algarve in particular and Portugal in general looks more than rosy. Unfortunately that is not the case. The increasing financial constraints imposed by the current economic situation have already seen handball and basketball revert to amateur status.
The professional status of the four Portuguese teams which partook in the latest Tour comes at a cost of at least €250,000, a price which they may well prove unable to pay for much longer.