By VeloNews Interactive
The U.S. Postal Service team opened its 2001 season at the Tour of Algarve, a five-day, five-stage event in Portugal that ended Thursday in Loule. In a press release issued Thursday, the team’s assistant director sportif Dirk Demol reported that the squad is showing good form and riding better than they were at this time last year.
Led by Viatcheslav Ekimov’s 10th place finish in the overall standings, 25 seconds behind overall winner Andrea Ferrigato (Alessio), the Postals turned in a strong performance for their first race of the season, said Demol. George Hincapie finished sixth in Thursday’s 174.8 km stage, his third top-six of the race.
“The goal of this race was to prepare for what’s coming up, the spring season,” Demol said in USPS team press release. “Everyday was around 170-175 kilometers with good weather and everything went OK. Our goal was to win a stage and we came very close in the first stage.” In the opening stage, Stephane Barthe, one of eight new riders on the squad, was barely edged out Ferrigato’s teammate, Endrio Leoni, the first of Leoni’s three stage wins in this year’s Tour of Algarve. “I am very happy about the shape of the riders in this race,” Demol added. “We are on schedule for what’s coming up. At this moment, the team is a lot better than last year. It is always better to have an advantage early instead of having to come back.” Along with Hincapie, Ekimov and Barthe, Christian Vande Velde, Cedric Vasseur, Jose Luis Rubiera and Benoit Joachim competed for the USPS in Portugal. The team’s next race, the Ruta del Sol in Spain, begins on Sunday. The team will also compete in the upcoming Trofeo Luis Puig and the Tour of Valencia.
Tour of Algarve, final overall:
1. Andrea Ferrigato, Alessio; 20:52:21 2. Jose Azevedo, ONCE; at 0:07 3. Merchior Mauri, Maia-MSS; at 0:21 4. Rui Sousa, Porta Da Ravessa; s.t. 5. Federico Morini, Gerolsteiner; at 0:23
10. Viatcheslav Ekimov, U.S. Postal Service; at 0:25