Paul Martens immediately climbed to the top in the first day of the Volta ao Algarve. The German of Team LottoNL-Jumbo sprinted to third place in the opening stage, a 160-kilometre ride from Lagos to Albufeira.
Belgian Gianni Meersman of Etixx-Quick Step won the stage and Sky’s Ben Swift finished second.
“I would have signed up for a third place before the race, but now, after the race, I’m a bit disappointed,” Martens said. “Very quickly into the race, I felt that my legs were strong, especially for a first race day. Besides that, I’m familiar with this final, as I won here two years ago.”
The final did not go as Martens had hoped, though. “On the final climb, there was an attack and I decided to follow. As I’m not a real sprinter, I don’t always have to wait until the final metres. There was a head-wind after the climb, however, which helped the peloton. We were reeled in and in the sprint, I was caught by surprise by the men from behind. I don’t think the others were faster than me, it had more to do with situation.”
Martens is full of confidence for the next few days after his third place. “We worked well together as a team. Especially, when you think this was everyone’s first race day of the year. It always takes some time to get used to the chaos again. This was a good test for the next stages. We have to hold on to this spirit.”
“Today was an exciting day for everyone,” said Sports Director Nico Verhoeven. “During the first race day of the year, you always have to wait and see how you feel, especially, when other teams and riders have already ridden several races. The guys were satisfied with how things went.”
Verhoeven’s men face a tough stage on Thursday, with a four-kilometre climb at five kilometres from the finish line. “Last year, this stage was decisive for the overall. Robert Gesink and Kevin De Weert can handle finishes like this, but we don’t want to force things at this moment. We’ll just see what tomorrow brings.”