151.9km, 2720m ascent from Viana do Castelo to Senhora da Graça. Last year this stage wasn’t so hard since we had four ‘rouleurs’ rather than just two this year. The race started in the beautiful town of Viana do Castelo and ended on a large mountain called ‘Senhora da Graça’ it was epic.
This region is called Minho and it’s nothing like the rest of Portugal, it’s green and mountainous, looks like some mountainous part of the British Isles – but feels much warmer!
I had my work cut out today.
We were told to let a group of 3-4 go and right there my nightmare began.
That little group just never occurred. We had to keep reeling in all these large, or otherwise inappropriate groups.
Actually, it did once but one of my team mates in a moment of silliness went and fetched that ‘perfect’ group of three… In the end, we (the two rouleurs and little climber) had to deal with something a lot more challenging as a group of 13 or 14 escaped.
We kept the group at 3:30ish, but the times came all garbled and this varied a lot.
This went on for hours, always at a reasonably high intensity, but not above the line so to speak. At the top of the second climb of the day Ricardo Mestre had another fall… a silly one. I am beginning to wonder if it’s self sabotage.
We lost a load of time to the break with all the kerfuffle about the fall and had to chace hard in the remaining 40km before the mountain to bring the break away with 2 minutes and incredibly, we were able to do this – with a hand from some Caja Rural guys.
At the foot of the climb I went into rest mode and just took it easy… It’s a long race and I can’t be wasting energy, especially if I have more stages like today.
On the climb Efapel/Glassdrive completely dominated.
Rui Sousa won the stage; humble enough to assume the role of a domestique whenever necessary, a captain to his team and a champion. Sérgio Ribeiro and David Blanco completed the podium.