Defending Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta champion Geraint Thomas revealed his form, condition and desire for consecutive victories on the first GC stage of this year's race, attacking a select group on the steep slopes of Alto da Foia. Thomas was unable to follow stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), who counter attacked once the Team Sky had been reeled in within the final 500 meters, but is well within striking distance to take the yellow jersey on stage 3.
Thomas brushed off an early crash on the 198.6km stage 2 from Lagoa to the Alto da Foia hill top finish to resume his place near the front of the peloton as Team Sky moved forward with the aim of setting up the 29-year-old for a repeat of his win on stage 2 of last year's race.
"Michal [Golas] and Ian [Stannard] did a really good job in the last hour of action and then Salva [Puccio] was super strong on the penultimate climb. He suffered more bad luck though by picking up two flat tyres with around 10km to go, and that meant G was alone on the last ascent," Sports director Gabriel Rasch said of the stage. "He stayed calm when the small group went up the road, and then did a good job at the end there."
Thomas sits second on GC, at five seconds to Sanchez with third place finisher on the stage, Primoz Roglic (LottoNl-Jumbo), third on GC at nine seconds to the Astana rider. Rasch added that with stage 3's 18km time trial suiting Thomas' characteristics, he believes the team will be holding the yellow jersey at the conclusion of the day.
"He's in a good position now and will try to take the jersey tomorrow, but Sanchez is a great time triallist, so we know it won't be easy," Rasch explained of the multiple national champion against the clock. "It's an 18km course with a technical first 4km. Then we head out onto the coast road and wind could well play a factor there. G's in good form though and he's motivated to defend his title."
It wasn't all good news for Sky, with the team confirming that David Lopez sustained a broken collarbone having fallen early in the stage, causing the Spaniard to abandon.
"He went down as he exited a roundabout and fractured his left collarbone," team doctor Richard Usher explained. "He went straight to hospital and X-rays confirmed the injury. He'll travel home now and see a specialist in the next few days to ensure he gets the best possible care."
Team Sky also came close to a win at the Ruta del Sol where Ben Swift finished third in the bunch sprint finish won by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis). In Andalucía, the team are looking to deliver Wout Poels to his second Spanish GC win of the season following on from the Dutchman's victory at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.