Plougoumelen, France - The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team has earned back-to-back top 10 finishes in the opening stages at Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste. On Thursday, Rui Oliveira finished the 180 km stage in 7th place, identical to his finish in Wednesday’s opener where he also placed 7th. Thursday’s result is also his 7th top 10 finish this season.
Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) was the eventual stage winner, followed by Max Kanter (Development Team Sunweb), and Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia).
“It was a really crazy day today,” said Oliveira. “The entire stage was calm except the finish. There were a lot of crashes in the last few kilometers, but thankfully I was able to avoid them. In the end I couldn’t get further than 7th again. It was a fast finish and I wanted to give more to the guys, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
Sport director Koos Moerenhout mentioned that the plan was to again keep Oliveira safe in the peloton and prepare to give him a chance if it came down to a sprint. Unlike Wednesday’s stage, the peloton seemed like it was not going to be able to catch the four riders off the front.
“It looked bad,” said Moerenhout. “As always, anything can happen, but a four minute advantage is significant. Our guys started working with another team on the local laps to try and bring them [the breakaway riders] back. It was really really close in the end.”
And unlike Wednesday’s breakaway, the breakaway on Thursday’s stage had double the advantage over the main group as it did on Wednesday.
“They [teammates] really kept me protected all day and I appreciate all of the work, from Maikel and Zeke especially,” said Oliveira. “Mikkel did a great job in the last 40 km to help catch the break and then Jonny really worked hard in the final circuit to give me a chance. The tour is long so we will have more opportunities to fight for a win.”
Moerenhout believes Oliveira’s ceiling is high and that the 21-year-old Portuguese rider is on the brink of turning his top 10 finishes into top 3 finishes and wins. “No question, that is his future,” said Moerenhout.
Mostov and Brown finished the stage in the second bunch of riders to come across the finish line, 0:09 behind the lead group.
Oliveira sits in 7th place in the GC, 0:14 behind leader Malucelli and well within striking distance of the podium. He is also 2nd in the youth classification, only 0:06 behind Kanter.
(Header photo of Rui Oliveira by Joyce Jason Ghijs.)