Ben King (Dimension Data) celebrated his first race of the season with a trip to the podium on stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve after slipping into the main break of the day and taking enough points to move into the lead of the mountains competition.
It wasn't a planned move, with the former US road champion following wheels before going clear with Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Marcos Jurado (Efapel), Oscar Pelegri (Rádio Popular-Boavista), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ricardo Mestre (W52-FC Porto).
King claimed maximum points on the first four climbs of the day but was eventually caught by the bunch on the approach to the final summit. He leads the competition by five points from stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) with three stages remaining.
"That was not the plan. I ended up the break by accident by just following a guy from the back to the front and then I went straight off the front with him. I wasn't even pedalling. The next thing I knew I was in the breakaway and figured 'why not have a crack at the KOM'," King told Cyclingnews at the finish.
The original script was for King to hold back and support team leader Louis Meintjes, who went on to finish 11th on the stage. When the bunch caught King, the American gave his last effort to help position Meintjes but he was unable to hold the pace of the leaders as the climb started.
"By being in the break, at least then I could be up there and help Louis later on. That was my real goal for the stage. We've been riding really well together as a team and when the bunch caught us I tried to give as much as I could but they were flying. I'm happy with the day and it's nice to be back racing. I've had a good winter."
With Meintjes in form and looking for a result on GC, King will be happy to sacrifice his KOM chances for the good of the team. However, if he is allowed to race for himself, he will take the opportunity with both hands.
"It doesn't take much to just sprint to the top of some of the smaller climbs. I don't know about keeping the jersey. We'll talk about it tonight but Louis had a good finish today and we'll see how the time trial goals. I'd love to try for the jersey but we have a strong leader on the team and there are bigger fish to fry. I'd gladly give up the jersey to help the team."
King will head to Paris-Nice next but is going to be one of Meintjes’ key support riders as the South African prepares for a tilt at the Giro d'Italia later this spring.
"We have a few guys here on that race programme. We're getting a feel for riding with each other and working as a team. So far, so good."
So far, so good, and welcome trip to the podium for King, who admitted he had another reason to celebrate.
"It's my first race as a married man, so it's nice to be on the podium. I want to thank my wife for her support over the winter. She's coming over from the US after this race so I'll have some flowers for her when she gets here."
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