After three successive sprint stages, the complexion of the Colombia Oro y Paz changed on Friday with the summit finish at El Tambo. Julian Alaphilippe (Quic-Step Floors) surged clear in the final 100 metres to take stage honours but behind him Sergio Henao finished second and Egan Bernal sixth to give Team Sky perhaps the strongest hand in what's left of the race.
Henao, who became Colombian national champion for a second straight year last weekend, launched one of the first meaningful attacks towards the end of the 5km final climb but the gradient was not sufficient to drop Alaphilippe, who was convincing in the final dash to the line.
Bernal, part of a familiar Team Sky train that led the way up the climb, finished three seconds back on Alaphilippe, Henao, and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). After bonus seconds are taken into account, Alaphilippe leads the overall, with Henao second at four seconds and Quintana third at six seconds, while Bernal is 13 seconds back along with Rigoberto Urán, Ivan Sosa (Androni) and Jhonathan Narvaez (Quick-Step Floors).
"It was a good day for us. Sergio was second, I was sixth, so now we're in a good position on the general classification," said Bernal.
"We took responsibility today. Other teams helped, but we controlled the race. The team is looking strong so we're looking forward to doing the same again tomorrow. As far as I'm concerned, I'm feeling good, I'm in good condition here."
Bernal pulled on the white jersey for best young rider, but insisted the only jersey that matters is the pink of overall leader – "either for Sergio or for myself."
Two stages remain at the Oro y Paz. Saturday's stage 5 is another largely flat one that ends with a short climb to Salento. It may be less than three kilometres in length but it packs a punch with an average gradient of seven per cent and pitches in the double digits. Then comes Manizales on Sunday, which is something of an enigma. At a shade under 20km long and reaching 2202 metres, some say it's one for the pure climbers, but others point to the average gradient of 4.4 per cent and suggest there won't be big gaps.
"I actually think the stage that could do most damage is tomorrow's. It's a really explosive stage where you can take time," said Bernal.
"Manizales I've never done it on a bike – only in the car – so we'll have to see. I think the guys who were up there today will be the ones in the mix the next two days. Those who lost time will find it difficult to recover in this race because I think it will be decided by very few seconds."