In a race that has already taken its toll on the team, Rally Cycling was able to bounce back on the queen stage of the Volta a Portugal and move Keegan Swirbul up the general classification.
Finishing at an altitude of 6,500 ft, the highest point in the whole country, today’s mountain top finish at Torre was always going to separate the best from the rest. After the team fought hard to keep Swirbul in the lead group, it was at around 5,000 ft that Swirbul’s legs seemed to ‘kick in’.
“Today was the hardest stage finishing up with a monster 20-kilometer climb,” said Swirbul. “I felt pretty smoked all day, but I dug deep, and somehow once I hit 1,500 meters of altitude, my legs suddenly felt great so I attacked and ended up doing a decent ride.”
That attack ended up creating a separation in the second group on the road, with Swirbul eventually bringing it home for 12th on the stage and a four-place leap up the general classification to 14th overall.
It has been a real baptism of fire for Swirbul who joined Rally Cycling as a stagiaire for the Portuguese block of racing.
“The racing has been mind-blowingly hard,” added Swirbul. “At least to me since I had no racing in my legs going in. The first road stage was a bit easier but the days after that were completely full on for the entirety of the race.”
A great first day on the road in 🇵🇹’s La Grandissima saw our GC riders @gavinmannion and @KeggaG bring it home in the front group on a super-tough ’ski jump’-style finish.
Expect major gaps tomorrow on stage 2 to Senhora da Graça 🚨⛰🔥 #VoltaPortugal pic.twitter.com/j5lmsoBDyg
— Rally Cycling (@Rally_Cycling) September 28, 2020
The team lost Nigel Ellsay to a horrible crash a couple of days previous, and while he has left the race, he is not out of their thoughts – as Swirbul explained.
“Losing Nigel was still definitely a serious blow to the whole team. He is an insanely good dude and phenomenal bike rider and we all feel terrible for him. We are praying he makes a strong recovery. I certainly was thinking of him as I suffered on the early slopes of the climb today.”
Update on @NigelEllsay‘s crash from stage 2 of the #VoltaPortugal: he’s conscious but has a suspected broken collarbone. Nigel is currently undergoing more tests. He’s in good hands and we will update as we have more info. Thank you for your messages.
— Rally Cycling (@Rally_Cycling) September 29, 2020
There are three road stages still to come, plus a final day time trial in Lisbon on which to claw back some more time.
Stage 4 results
1 BRANDÃO Joni Efapel 14 20 4:19:02
2 FIGUEIREDO Frederico Atum general / Tavira / Maria Nova Hotel 5 12 0:03
3 ANTUNES Amaro W52 / FC Porto 3 7 ”
4 CÉSAR VELOSO Gustavo W52 / FC Porto 5 ”
5 CARVALHO Antonio Efapel 4 0:11
6 BENTA João Radio Popular Boavista 3 0:13
7 FERNÁNDEZ Delio NIPPO DELKO One Provence 2 0:17
8 FERNANDES Luis Radio Popular Boavista 1 0:24
9 RODRIGUES João W52 / FC Porto 0:34
10 RODRÍGUEZ Cristián Caja Rural – Seguros RGA ”
11 MARQUE Alejandro Manuel Atum general / Tavira / Maria Nova Hotel 0:40
12 SWIRBUL Keegan Rally Cycling 2:55
13 FREITAS Daniel Miranda – Mortágua 3:01
14 DÍAZ José Manuel NIPPO DELKO One Provence 3:13
15 CASIMIRO Henrique Kelly / Simoldes / UDO ”
General classification after stage 4
1 ANTUNES Amaro W52 / FC Porto 3 17:33:17
2 FIGUEIREDO Frederico Atum general / Tavira / Maria Nova Hotel 0:13
3 CÉSAR VELOSO Gustavo W52 / FC Porto 1:13
4 BRANDÃO Joni Efapel 1:17
5 BENTA João Radio Popular Boavista 1:27
6 CARVALHO Antonio Efapel 1:55
7 RODRIGUES João W52 / FC Porto 2:00
8 MARQUE Alejandro Manuel Atum general / Tavira / Maria Nova Hotel 2:15
9 FERNÁNDEZ Delio NIPPO DELKO One Provence 2:31
10 RODRÍGUEZ Cristián Caja Rural – Seguros RGA 2:43
11 FERNANDES Luis Radio Popular Boavista 3:05
12 FREITAS Daniel Miranda – Mortágua 4:23
13 VILELA Ricardo Burgos-BH 4:58
14 SWIRBUL Keegan Rally Cycling 5:32
15 DÍAZ José Manuel NIPPO DELKO One Provence 5:36