At the finish of stage 2, the consensus around the Team Sky bus was that stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski would be pulling on the race leader's yellow jersey after winning the stage.
The Polish rider had edged out Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Thomas on the summit finish at Foia, and with no time bonuses on offer Thomas began warming down on the rollers, assuming – like most of those around him – that Kwiatkowski would be in yellow. However, the Welshman's post-race routine was abruptly interrupted when a race official dragged him back to the podium after the organisers awarded the lead based on a count back of finishing positions over the first two stages.
"I was surprised as well. There are no time bonuses so it's just done on places. It's a nice surprise, I guess," a bemused Thomas said as he stepped off the podium.
Thomas came into the final climb of the stage with ambitions of supporting Kwiatkowski, and duly paced the former world champion up the final few meters of the climb.
According to Thomas, he and his teammates were inspired by Wout Poels, who won the first mountain stage at the Ruta del Sol just hours earlier.
"We heard on the radio that Wout had won and we thought 'we can't let them outdo us'," he said. "The team rode really well. Kiryienka went at the bottom and he was really strong. I thought he would stay away, but they brought him back. Kenny [Ellisonde] was taking it up with one kilometre to go and then tried to give Kwiatkowski a bit of a lead-out. It's been a good day."
Thomas came into the race on the back of a long off-season. He skipped the Tour Down Under in January with the aim of holding his form longer into the second half of the year.
"We didn't really know where we were at," he told Cyclingnews.
"This was my first race. I've won it twice and people have been saying I'm one of the favourites, but in my head I'm just here to get my first race under my belt. A bit like how I used to use the Tour Down Under. I felt alright and gave it a little kick. That was the plan really; for everyone to have their own chance and not try and be how we ride at the Tour. It's nice to mix it up. We all got stuck in and we're right up there."
Two wins in one day spelled a bright day for Team Sky in what has been a difficult and controversial time for the team. Chris Froome has drawn criticism for racing at the Ruta del Sol while the case over his adverse analytical finding from last year's Vuelta a Espana rumbles on. And while Thomas might be in another country, and at another race, relevant questions don't just halt at international borders, and the Welshman was asked about the turbulent times.
"It's fine here. I've been in LA and been able to get away from things. For me it's been fine. I've just cracked on with what I need to do and worried about myself. It's a good atmosphere in the team here."
Friday's individual time trial will offer another chance for Thomas and the rest of the Team Sky squad in Algarve to show their form. Given their collective performance on stage 2, no doubt one of Thomas or Kwiatkowski will be returning to the podium.
"Tomorrow will be a good test and I'm looking forward to it," Thomas said. "When you're leading the race there's always an added incentive and you're feeling stronger. I'm looking forward to it. There are a lot of strong guys here. It will be a solid test to see where I'm at."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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