Despite illness, Jan Tratnik managed to finish 5th on the opening and hardest stage of Volta ao Alentejo.
Info: February 22nd, stage 1, Portalegre – Castelo de Vide, 158km
Course: hilly, punchy uphill finish (Cabeco do Mouro, cat.2, 102km; Mte. Paleiros, cat. 3, 107,3km, Marvao, cat. 4, 118km, Sra. Da Penha, cat. 3, 136,8km), finish to Cast de Vide (3km long)
I didn’t expect this today. I haven’t felt well in the last two days, as I’ve been sick, but I didn’t want to give up. I tried to focus on the stage and not think about how I feel. After the first climb, a 30-man group emerged in the front and surprisingly for me I was up there. That gave me extra motivation and a boost of energy for the finale. I didn’t have too much luck in the sprint, since I had to brake with 300m to go and I started the finish from 13th position. In the end I managed to overtake few riders and I came in 5th. It wouldn’t be possible without the support of my teammates, who took care of me the entire stage – Jan Tratnik said afterwards.
The race kicked off on a literally high note, since the riders were climbing up to 700 m above the sea level. Two escapees went clear early on and built a large gap. Sean Mackinnon (An Post Chain Reaction) and Matteo Dal-Cin (Rally Cycling) opened up a 10-minute lead, before the peloton got to work.
The pace in the bunch increased drastically and the gap was down to just one minute with 65km to go, before the toughest part of the stage. They got caught on the first climb of the day . Next move came from Alejandro Marque (Sporting/Tavira), Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman), Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobón Team) and Nicholas Schultz (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), but it wasn’t successful either.
Steep, but quite short climbs broke the field apart and 25-man group emerged in the front. Jan Tratnik and Michal Schlegel were both part of it and were in the contention on the final ascent. It was not as tough as it had appeared on the profile and the stage was decided in an uphill sprint. It was won by Rinaldo Nocentini (Sporting Clube de Portugal/Tavira) while Tratnik took 5th at the line. Michal Schlegel was also up there, with the fastest, claiming 13th place.
The stage podium was rounded out by Eduard Prades (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and Carlos Barbero (Movistar).