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Volta ao Algarve: Remco Evenepoel wraps up GC after Sergio Higuita scores summit sprint

Evenepoel finishes in five-rider lead group to take second Algarve GC win of career, Brandon McNulty moves up to second overall.

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The final stage of the 2022 Volta ao Algarve saw Colombian road race champion Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) sprint to victory atop the Alto do Malhão.

22-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) took the overall title for the second time in his young career after he and his team controlled the race throughout the day. Evenepoel finished fifth on the Malhão to successfully defend his overnight lead.

American talent Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) did try and power to the stage win by opening up the five-rider hilltop sprint, but instead was outpaced by Higuita and Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers). McNulty finished up third on the stage and second overall as he continues his blistering start to the season.

Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) dropped to 4th in GC at the end of the day as teammate Martínez moved up to third on the final podium.

The final stage began in the town of Lagoa before heading towards the summit finish on the Alto do Malhão on the 173km saw-like profile.

It was a chaotic start to the stage with Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) confirming his victory in the points classification. After that a huge group of 20 riders which included world cyclocross champion Tom Pidcock went clear.

That group got away with just a touch over 100km to go and very quickly gained over a minute on the chasing peloton. None of the riders were dangerous to the overall lead with Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) being the closest at 4:49.

Pidcock crashed with Alpecin-Fenix rider Oscar Riesebeek in the break, but both made it back in without issue.

There were multiple attacks out of the break from around 68km to go onwards with Portuguese champion Jose Neves (W52-FC Porto) and Dries de Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) being just two that tried to break up the 20-man break but failed.

However, with 42km to go and a gap back to the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl led peloton at 2:10, de Bondt went again with Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural) and Ivo Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates).

With 35km to go most of the break came back to the leading four with Pidcock leading the chase back on the climb of Alte just a few kilometers ahead of the first of two passages up the Alto do Malhão, a 2.5km climb with an average gradient of 9.7%.

Into the last 30km, de Bondt managed to go clear with Zimmermann and Oliveira, pulling out a decent gap on the rest of the break. Oliveira was dropped on the Malhão.

Halfway up the Malhão climb Ineos Grenadiers sent Martínez on the attack. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and US rider ace McNulty quickly caught up but the yellow jersey of Evenepoel was straight onto it.

One rider who missed the move was second overall Hayter as he was too far back in the group. Martínez kicked again with Evenepoel latching straight onto the Colombian’s wheel with 24km to go.

Zimmermann and De Bondt went over the Malhão first but behind, Evenepoel got a teammate back as Yves Lampaert dropped back to him from the break just as they went over the top.

The attacking tactics by Martinez and Ineos was an odd one as it brought back Pidcock from the break and meant that Hayter was dropped due to being out of position.

Zimmermann and De Bondt were caught with 18km to go as Jumbo-Visma and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl tapped out the pace as the chasing group with Hayter in being over a minute back.

Lampaert and Tobias Foss’ (Jumbo-Visma) team-mate, Johannes Staune-Mittet shared the work rate for the undulating terrain that took the lead group to the base of the final climb.

But, Ineos had been working very hard in the chase group as Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan van Baarle gave their all to get Hayter back in. This did give Evenepoel two more teammates with 5km to go.

They slammed into the final climb with 3km to go with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl giving its all for Evenepoel. Hayter started to lose touch with 1.5km to go as Evenepoel tried an attack.

Only Gaudu, McNulty, Martínez and Higuita managed to follow into the final kilometer.

Evenepoel led up until about 300 meters to go when McNulty tried to go for an early sprint. But Martinez and Higuita were able to follow with relative ease.

Martínez went over the top of the man from Arizona, but the Ineos climber wasn’t able to hold off compatriot Higuita who redeemed himself after crashing on stage two.

Evenepoel cruised to the line taking fifth on the stage. McNulty’s pace meant that he overtook Hayter in the overall standings to go second in the final general classification with Martínez also passing Hayter to close out the podium.

Volta ao Algarve stage 5:

  1. Sergio Higuita (Bora Hansgrohe): 4:14:53
  2. Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers): S.T.
  3. Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates): +0:01

Volta ao Algarve GC:

  1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl): 19:35:03
  2. Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates): +1:17
  3. Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers): +1:21