And on Friday, Team Sky put in their most dominant display yet, with Geraint Thomas winning the Algarve time trial to extend his lead on GC, while three further Team Sky riders finished inside the top ten.
After three days of racing Thomas now leads Kwiatkowski by 11 seconds, with only three other riders within a minute of the yellow jersey. Saturday's stage should see the sprinters return to centre stage, meaning that only Sunday’s final summit finish is the only obstacle in Thomas' way. Winning the GC would signal his third overall title in the race.
"I felt pretty good yesterday but again I didn't know what to expect today. I just wanted to start strong, and when you've got the jersey it gives you a little bit of extra motivation. I was surprised that I was able to hang onto it really. I felt good and it felt great to get a win," he said after the finish in Lagoa.
"This is the first race of the year and I've done some decent work. It was a tough course and I took nothing for granted. Victories are few and far between, so I’ll enjoy this."
One of the pre-race favourites, Richie Porte lost over two minutes, but home-favourite Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) produced an inspired ride. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) remain in the hunt for the podium places, and Thomas stressed that the race was far from finished.
"It will be tough and there are a lot of strong climbers here. I've not seen any results yet so I don't know the time gaps but with myself and Kwiatkowski up there, hopefully one of us can be good and we can keep the jersey," he said.
"It would be amazing to win again but there's still a lot of strong climbers. We'll get through tomorrow and then look at the final stage. Winning would be fantastic, I love racing here, and I've got good memories from the past. Hopefully I can create some more."
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