The young Portuguese champion finishes second in the Volta ao Algarve final stage
Thirty-one riders went up the road at the start of stage five in the Volta ao Algarve to create a thrilling ending to the five-day race in Portugal.
When Team Sky showed little concern with the move – they had second overall Michal Kwiatkowski, the only GC contender, represented in the breakaway – there was little chance the large group would be brought back, and when the gap increased to over five minutes the stage was set: Sky was content to let the yellow jersey go from Geraint Thomas to his Polish teammate.
And so the day belonged to the breakaway.
Trek-Segafredo had slipped two key riders into the leading group, Jasper Stuyven, and Ruben Guerreiro, giving the pinstriped team enough reason and firepower to ride hard up front.
Stuyven proved instrumental in keeping two dangerous riders – Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) – in check in the final 20 kilometers, pulling like a madman over the grueling up-and-down terrain to set up Guerreiro for the three-kilometer ascent to the line.
Kwiatkowski struck out first, quickly catching and disposing of a tiring Stybar who had shed Pöstlberger earlier on the steep climb.
Meanwhile behind, Guerreiro traded blows with Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and Stefan Küng (BMC), until the Portuguese champion finally buried the hatchet with 500 meters remaining. Guerreiro crossed the line for a well-deserved second place, only four seconds behind Kwiatkowski, an excellent performance for the twenty-three-year-old in front of his home country fans.
I was motivated 100 percent to be good for this race. It was really hard, and I was lucky to have Jasper who did a really big job because the group was not working so well together. At the end, he pulled for me, and I could save energy for the final climb - he was amazing! - but Kwiatkowski was really strong.
While the breakaway stole the show, and Kwiatkowski sealed the overall victory with his stage win, behind the battle for the minor general classification places erupted on the final climb. Bauke Mollema was the strongest of the peloton, crossing in 17th place, but was unable to gain enough time to move onto the final podium, ultimately finishing in fourth place, six seconds short.
Mollema was happy with his race despite just missing out on a podium finish:
I felt really good today, same as the uphill finish on stage two. I knew it was going to be difficult to finish on the podium today because I was quite far behind, but I managed to pass Bob Jungels and Nelson Oliveira in the GC, so I think that was good.
Having Ruben in the breakaway was perfect so he could try and win the stage and he came really close. It's nice for him as a young rider and especially as the Portuguese champion in his home country. Overall, it was a good week for me and the team, we didn't win a stage, but we showed that we are all working well together and in good form.