After spending most of the 200-km stage in a two-man break, Jay Robert Thomson (UnitedHealthcare) accelerated on the penultimate climb and held off the chasing peloton to not only take the stage victory but the yellow jersey after stage 1 at the Volta a Portugal earlier today.
“Today was one of the hardest days of my life. The course was extremely difficult with a lot of up and down and just two of us, it made it really difficult. But with 30 km to go when we went up the really steep climb, I gave it everything and it really worked out.” Thomson told Portugal television RFP.
Attacks flew early on after leaving the start in Termas de Monfortinho until Thomson and Luis Mas (Burgos BH/ Castilla e Leon) managed to escape 24 kilometers into the stage. On the longest stage of the 11-day race, the peloton was content to let the gap go all the way to 15 minutes halfway through the stage. The chase was on and by the time the fourth KOM of the day loomed, the peloton had closed it down to a bit more than three minutes.
Thomson had a plan. “Before the race, we knew that the second to last climb was really steep. So we thought that if there was a break that was going to go maybe I could get over and then we’d get a chance to maybe have a go at the finish. I was lucky that they gave us a big time gap.”
He made his move and dropped Mas on the climb. The field also split on the climb which Hugo Sabido (LA Alumínios – Antarte) used as his launching point to go after Thomson. Meanwhile the yellow jersey into the stage Reinardt Van Rensburg (MTN Kubeka) could not keep up with the pace.
Thomson continued, “Once we went over that final climb, I still had time and I realized that now my time-trialing skills would have to come into effect and I’d have to ride home.”
The chase was on. With 11 km to go, Thomson had a gap of one minute and 54 seconds on a solo Sabido.
The South African rider was able to hold on for the victory. Sabido crossed the line in second place 40 seconds behind. Sabido’s teammate Edgar Pinto was third a further 25 seconds back.
One stage in, and nine to go, Thomson has a 36 seconds-lead on Sabido and one minute and 11 seconds on Pinto. Thomson also took the top points in all five of the KOMs and leads the King of the Mountain classification.