ALBUFEIRA, Portugal (VN) – André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) dashed to victory to earn his first win of the season in a wild ride Saturday at the Volta ao Algarve that will come down to the wire in Sunday’s time trial.
Greipel out-kicked Australian phenom Michael Matthews (Rabobank), with Anthoy Ravard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) crossing the line third and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) riding to fourth.
Greipel’s win will be a relief to big German, who left HTC-Highroad to move into the No. 1 sprinter’s slot at Omega Pharma-Lotto. The so-called “Gorilla” was keen to get one in the win column to ease growing pressure that comes with the high-profile move to the Belgian outfit.
Greipel had already won six races at this time last year before he managed to pull off the victory Saturday.
Cummings crashed twice in the high-speed run into Tavira, but managed to finish with the front group to retain the overall leader’s jersey going into Sunday’s 17km time trial that will decide the overall winner.
Strong winds and a chance of rain should make for a tense day of racing. The top-5 is packed tight and there’s no clear favorite for the win. Cummings is no slouch in the race against the clock, but could have a hard time fending off the likes of Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard).
“Tomorrow will be a difficult day. For me the most important thing is to be focused, try to do my best and then see what the result is,” Cummings said on BBC.com. “Each day I am better, but I’m not in form to fight for these first few races. I’m happy with my current position and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Cummings will start the TT with a slender six-second lead on Contador. Martin is slotted into third at 10 seconds back, with Van Garderen fourth at 12 seconds off the pace and Andreas Kloden (RadioShack) lurking in sixth at 26 seconds off the pace.
“Tomorrow will be a difficult day, because the four front riders have possibilities and we must also have Tiago Machado and Andreas Klöden, plus many others who can fight for the stage”, said Contador. “Tony Martin is perhaps the most dangerous rival, but for me the important thing is to be focused, try to do my best and then see what the result is.”
Contador is the two-time defending champion, but he’s racing for the first time since last year’s Tour de France following the Spanish federation’s surprise decision to clear him of doping charges for clenbuterol.
Those close to Contador said he’s only touched the time trial bike a few times during his six-month temporary ban as part of his clenbuterol case. Contador’s trademark stubbornness might carry him toward victory, but standing in his way could be German powerhouse Martin.
“Tony always does well in the time trials. He may even be able to pull the double tomorrow,” said HTC-Highroad sport director Brian Holm. “There are a few riders who can win. It will be close.”
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) is also poised for a possible podium, but he admitted he might be out-gunned by the likes of Contador and teammate Martin.