Beja, Portugal – Logan Owen and Tao Geoghegan Hart of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team placed again in the top 10 Friday to move up the overall standings with two days remaining at the Volta ao Alentejo.
Owen was fifth and Geoghegan Hart was seventh on a rain-slickened uphill finish to the 186.6-kilometer race from Portel south to Bega. The Metec-TKH Continental Cyclingteam presented by Mantel went 1-2 with Johim Ariesen and Tijmen Eising. Havaard Blikra (Team Coop-Øster Hus) was third. Owen finished in the same time as the stage winner while Geoghegan Hart conceded three seconds.
Despite the time lost, Geoghegan Hart climbed one spot to sixth in the overall standings. He is 17 seconds back of new race leader Krister Hagen (Team Coop-Øster Hus). Owen is 10th, at 28 seconds. Two others from Axeon Hagens Berman, Greg Daniel and Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands, are now 14th and 15th overall, respectively.
Owen said Friday's finish was not quite as steep as the uphill one on Thursday, when he finished eighth.
"Krists dropped me off at the final tight, left-hand turn, which was onto wet cobbles," he said. "I had to go from there since I opened a small five-meter gap through the turn. I only got caught by the four guys who finished ahead of me with about 50 meters to go – which was a little disappointing. I am pretty happy with the finish but I'm even more stoked on how well everyone came together and sold out for one another. A stage win is within reach."
Geoghegan Hart said some well-orchestrated teamwork paved the way for Axeon Hagens Berman to place all seven of its riders in the leading group late in the race. Besides him and Owen, Tyler Williams finished 12th (at :03), Irish Under 23 national road champion Eddie Dunbar was 21st (at :14) and Greg Daniel and Neilands were 26th and 27th, respectively (at :23). Will Barta dropped off in the final two kilometers to finish 42nd (at 2:12) after winning an intermediate time bonus sprint while being part of an earlier breakaway.
"Racing was fun today," Geoghegan Hart said. "The team did a great job of being organized and split the race in crosswinds with about 40 km to go. We were committed to maintaining the gap with little concerted help from other teams. Overall, it was a great job by the whole team today. The only shame is we couldn't catch more of the GC (general classification) riders out. But since most of them are sprinters or some variation, maybe that is not a surprise."
Assistant Sport Director Jeff Louder said the team perfectly executed its pre-race plan.
"We spoke about the potential to break up the race in the last 40 kilometers during the morning meeting," he said. "Then, the guys fully committed and made it happen. I am very proud of the way all of them committed to forcing the selection. Today's results were a team effort and everyone made an impact."
Louder said the team will continue to be aggressive in the last two days of the race.
"Moving Tao and or Logan up in the standings is very possible," he said. "We have two days left to keep riding aggressively and looking for opportunities to better our already very good position."