EL VENDRELL, Spain (VN) – Talk about bad timing to snag your first big win of the season.
Manuel Cardoso (RadioShack) kicked to an impressive bunch sprint victory Thursday, but his opportunistic win was overshadowed by the UCI decision to appeal the Alberto Contador case.
Dozens of journalists showed up at the finish line, but almost none seemed too interested in Cardoso’s victory.
That didn’t take away from the satisfaction from the 26-year-old Portuguese sprinter, who joined RadioShack this season. He paid back the team’s confidence with RadioShack’s seventh win on the 2011 season.
“HTC was working to set up the sprint and I got on their wheel. With 500m to go Pasamontes was setting up Rojas, so I got on their wheel. I managed to pass him at the last moment and get the win,” Cardoso said at the line. “I am very happy, but I am even happier to give this victory to the team. This is the best team I’ve ever been on. Not only do they support us when we’re winning, but they back us even more when things are not going so well.”
Cardoso joined RadioShack this season as one of eight new riders for the team. He’s also one of three Portuguese riders on the squad, brought in with strong endorsements from ex-pro-turned-sport director José Azevedo
“This is my 34th professional victory,” Cardoso said in a RadioShack team release. “It is true I was too nervous the first weeks of the season but isn’t that normal? When the team of Lance Armstrong signs you, that gives some pressure. But now I’ve proved their faith in me was right. I promise some other victories will follow.”
The 195km fourth stage from La Seu d’Urgell to El Vendrell saw a five-man breakaway pull clear at 74km. In the move was Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo), but Andalucia-Caja Granada missed the break and reduced the difference to allow José Toribio to bridge out.
With pre-stage favorite Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) pulling out at 55km after the stage-two winner citing breathing difficulties, Movistar ramped up the chase to set up a mass sprint for José Rojas.
The remnants of the break were swept up with 25km to go and the sprint teams drilled it to the line to set up the mass gallop.
Cardoso won the battle to find the right wheel before he won the war to the line. It was good for his first victory since stage 3 in last year’s Tour Down Under.
“We were helped a lot during the race by Movistar and Cofidis. They believed in Rojas and Dumoulin and didn’t see Cardoso as a danger,” Azevedo said in a RadioShack report. “After Manuel’s third-place finish two days ago, we saw he finally had confidence in himself. We told him he didn’t need to be nervous just because he didn’t have a victory yet. We told him it would come. And look, it’s only March and already the win is here.”
The 100th Volta a Catalunya continues Friday with the 205.8km fifth stage from El Vendrell to Tarragona in another day that favors the pack’s sprinters.
Stage 4: La Seu d’Urgell – El Vendrell (195 km)
- 1. Antonio Leal Cardoso Manuel (POR), Team Radioshack, 4:33:02
- 2. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA), Leopard Trek, at 0:00
- 3. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (ESP), Movistar Team, at 0:00
- 4. Aitor Galdos Alonso (ESP), Caja Rural, at 0:00
- 5. Frantisek Rabon (CZE), HTC-Highroad, at 0:00
- 1. Alberto Contador Velasco (ESP), Saxo Bank Sungard, 17:38:57
- 2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Team Radioshack, at 0:23
- 3. Michele Scarponi (ITA), Lampre-ISD, at 0:23
- 4. Daniel Martin (IRL), Team Garmin-Cervelo, at 0:35
- 5. Christopher Horner (USA), Team Radioshack, at 0:35