If there is a land that you can say it is all about cycling, that is Agueda. It is not by chance that it is considered the capital of the bike, by a whole industry that has them in the centre of attention. That is why it had to be part of the Special Edition of the Volta and thus convey a message of hope to the national territory and its people.
His absence from the Tour of Portugal is long. We must go back to 2001, when the Italian Salvatore Commesso won there. But apart from this race, there is one person who is in the Volta and won in Águeda in 2007, in the Grande Prémio CTT Correios de Portugal. José Azevedo was at the end of his career, representing Benfica. Now he is the sports director of Nippo Delko One Provence.
Azevedo was not a sprinter, but this Friday, the finish is expected to suit the fastest men, who must have left the stage in Viseu quite frustrated. Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural) managed to stay isolated at the front of the peloton, in a stage that had more difficulties than the one of Thursday.
Celavisa and Espinheira are two fourth categories and despite some ups and downs in the first half of the race, the last 70 km will be flat. Oliveira do Hospital – in Praça Ribeiro do Amaral – will host the start (12:50) for the 176.3 kilometres, with the finish to be held on Avenida Calouste Gulbenkian (expected to arrive between 17:30 and 17:45). Unlike Águeda – which is the usual stage of the Grande Prémio Abimota – Oliveira do Hospital has emerged on the route of the Volta in recent years.
Daniel McLay has to be one of the man to beat. The Arkéa Samsic sprinter came to Portugal to win stages like this and was the first of the peloton in Viseu. The second place was not enough for the british. Among the Portuguese, César Martingil (Atum General-Tavira-Maria Nova Hotel), João Matias (Aviludo-Louletano), Samuel Caldeira (W52-FC Porto) and Leangel Linarez (Miranda-Mortágua) some of the man to watch out for and could try to fight for the victory.
However, there is one little detail to take into account. The wind may play some tricks, with gusts of 35 kilometres/hour and even in Águeda there will be some wind, according to the weather forecast. These also point to the possibility of rain.