Five-time Tour de France winner and Olympic participant Lance Armstrong is the star of this year’s Tour of the Algarve cycling event, which started on February 18 and will end on February 22. And, in a move that has delighted Portuguese cycling fans, Armstrong’s US Postal Service team also features José Azevedo. The Portuguese cyclist is enthusiastic about Armstrong’s presence in the Algarve. “I think it is good for Portuguese cycling, which needs a stimulus to re-launch,” he commented. The president of the Algarve Cycling Association, Rogério Teixeira, is delighted with this year’s line-up, commenting: “We have an excellent selection of cyclists, perhaps the best ever.” Six foreign teams and nine Portuguese teams, making a total of 120 cyclists, will participate in the event, covering a distance of 713.9 kilometres in five stages.
Persistence and determination:
Armstrong’s popularity with the crowd is not just down to his incredible sporting achievements. His bravery when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996 has proved inspirational to many. The cyclist had to endure two major operations, one to remove a malignant testicle and dramatic brain surgery to remove another tumour. At one point, he was given a less than 50 per cent chance of survival. But Armstrong began an aggressive form of chemotherapy that succeeded in beating the illness, paving the way for his triumphant return to the cycling circuit in 1998 and his first Tour de France title. Describing his experiences, Armstrong commented: “Persistence and determination are the requirements to turn dreams into reality.”
Rumour has it that Armstrong will be riding a new Time Trial bike for the Algarve Tour. “It’s a more aerodynamic position, lower and more forward,” says US Postal Service Team Director, Johan Bruyneel. The presence of Armstrong and Azevedo has raised the profile of this year’s tournament, which finally looks set to establish itself alongside the world’s greatest cycling events. But it is the spectacle of 120 riders streaming through Albufeira, Castro Marim, Lagoa, Lagos, Portimão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António that will be one to remember.
The first stage on February 18 – a 149-kilometre round trip to Albufeira – saw the cyclists departing from Albufeira Marina at 10.30am. The second day, February 19, saw a 10.30am start from Castro Marim on the Spanish border. At 182 kilometres, this second day was the longest distance of the five-day event.
Where and when to watch:
The third leg today (February 20) begins in Lagoa at the Fatacil Park, before moving on to Casais at 11.15am, Peso at 11.40am and Fóia, the highest point in the Algarve, at 11.50am (mountain prize) and Monchique at noon. They will then reach Porto de Lagos at 12.30pm, Figueira at 12.45pm, Odiáxere at 12.50pm, Lagos at 1pm, Bensafrim at 1.05pm, Alto da Serra de Espinhaço de Cão at 1.25pm, Carrapateira at 1.50pm, Vila do Bispo at 2.10pm and Lagos (Av.Marginal) at 2.45pm.
The fourth leg, on February 21, begins at Vila Real de Santo António’s Avenida das Comunidades at 2.30pm. This particular circuit comprises a straight 24-kilometre time trial run to Tavira and is the stage that was said to have convinced Lance Armstrong to take part in the competition. Good lookout points will be the Avenida das Communidades in Vila Real de Santo António, Monte Gordo, Altura, Conceição de Tavira and Avenida Dr Eduardo Mansinho in Tavira.
The last leg of the Algarve Tour is also the toughest section of the competition. The cyclists will leave from Parque das Cidades stadium at 10.30am to begin a round trip to Alto do Malhão. Principal places to catch the best of the action will be in Faro’s Avenida Calouste Gulbenkian at 10.40am, Olhão at 10.55am, Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo at 11.20am, S. Brás de Alportel at 11.30am, Barranco do Velho at 11.50am (mountain prize), Salir at 12.05, Taipas at 12.10, Pé do Coelho at 12.20pm, Alto do Malhão at 12.25pm (mountain prize), Sítio das Éguas at 12.25pm, Almodôvar at 13.10pm, Ameixial at 1.40pm, Vale de Rosa at 2pm, Cortelha at 2.05pm, Barranco do Velho at 2.10pm, Salir at 2.25pm, Taipas at 2.30pm, Pé do Coelho at 2.40pm and Alto do Malhão, again, at 2.45pm (mountain prize).
The Portuguese teams are:
LA / PECOL,
WURTH / BOM PETISCO
BARBOT / GAIA
ASC / VILA DO CONDE
ANTARTE / ROTA DOS MOVEIS
IMOHOLDING / LOULÉ JARDIM-HOTEL
The foreign teams are:
US Postal Service (USA)
RAGT SEMENCES / MG ROVER (France)
VLAANDEREN 2016 (Belgium)