James Fouche of Team Wiggins Le Col has picked up his second King of the Mountains crown of the 2019 season, winning the KOM jersey at the Volta ao Alentejo after a very close battle.  Fouche was in contention from day one and had to fend off the challenge of Sergio Higuita to finally come away with the win.

It’s been a fantastic start to the season for New Zealand’s national road race and U23 time trial champion.  James Fouche came to the European campaign off the back of a quieter New Zealand summer post-Napier, but jumped straight into the thick of the action at the Tour of Antalya in Turkey, where  he picked up the KOM jersey only to lose it with one day remaining and then regain it on the final day.  

After racing Le Samyn in Belgium, Fouche’s Portuguese campaign then kicked off in style with a fifth place finish in Classica da Arrabida, Fouche’s prelude to the 6-day Volta ao Alentejo.  

The tour began in busy fashion for Fouche, as he got into the thick of the action on the 208.1km trek from Montemor-o-Novo to Moura.  Only one categorised climb featured en route to the finish, but Fouche was keen to contest it, taking second place across the Concelho de Portel behind Jesus Antonio Soto of Fundación Euskadi.  It was a good day for Team Wiggins Le Col, as they also took 4th place in the sprint for the line courtesy of Gabriel Cullaigh.

With no opportunities for the climbers to pick up any points in stage 2, the battle resumed on stage 3 from Santiago do Cacém to Mora with two climbs to take on.  Fouche was keen to tackle them both and this time he had the measure of the breakaway companions on the Alcácer do Sal and Montemor-o-Novo to take the lead in the classification with 8 points.  Behind him Antonio Jesus Soto, Jokin Aranburu and Tiago Machado were all tied with three points apiece.  

Despite stage 4 being the shortest of the day’s stages there remained opportunities to pick up points up the climb of Crato and the Cabeco do Mouro; the latter being a category 2 climb.  The stage would belong to Sergio Higuita of Fundación Euskadi and so too would the Cabeco do Mouro; putting him just 1 point behind Fouche in the KOM classification with two stages to go.  

Crucially though for Fouche, stage 5 being an individual time trial and stage 6 having no KOM climbs to contend for, meant that barring crashes or being forced to withdraw from the race the jersey would be his.  Fouche finished the race in 48th place overall, having also picked up a top 20 finish in the individual time trial; to secure his second KOM title in two stage races.

There was further joy for Team Wiggins Le Col, who claimed stage 3 and spent a day in the yellow jersey and finished third in the points classification.

Photo: Fien Vanhooydonck

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