Axeon Hagens Berman Wins Volta ao Alentejo Team Title

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By Sean Weide
20 Mar 16

Évora, Portugal – The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team placed three riders in the top 12 overall Sunday at the Volta ao Alentejo on the way to winning the team classification.

Tao Geoghegan Hart of Great Britain was sixth, American Logan Owen was 11th and Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands finished 12th in the five-day Portugese race. Joining them on the winning squad was American Tyler Williams, who finished eighth on Sunday's stage, Irish Under 23 national road champion Eddie Dunbar, who was solo for nearly 80 kilometers on Stage 2, and Americans Will Barta and Greg Daniel.

Axeon Hagens Berman Assistant Director Jeff Louder said he saw plenty of examples of terrific teamwork in only the team's second race of the year. Axeon compiled seven top 10 finishes – including at least one on every stage – despite starting a man down due to injuries and illness to American Colin Joyce.

"What I am most happy with was the attitude and toughness of the guys," Louder said. "Besides the difficult racing, we had a lot of injuries and illnesses to contend with. But everyone still showed up every day to race and support each other. I was very happy that all seven got to stand on the podium together. Winning the team title is a perfect summary of how well the guys performed all week."

In Sunday's 172.3-kilometer race, Williams was one of the animators. After the final intermediate sprint about 20 km from the finish, he attacked and only eventual stage winner Remi Cavagna (Klein Constantia) could catch up to him.

"We were in a good position after the sprint and it was just after a hard climb," Williams said. "I wanted to try something even though it was a ways out. When I hit out, I was alone for a good bit before Cavagna came across."

The pair was caught with 15 km to go but Cavagna was the strongest when the race splintered on a stretch of wet cobblestones in the final two kilometers and soloed to win two seconds ahead of teammate Maximillian Schachmann. Samuel Caldeira (W52-FC Porto) was third, while Williams finished eight seconds back.

Enric Mas (Klein Constantia) won the overall title on tie-breaking criteria from Krister Hagen (Team Coop-Øster Hus) after the two recorded identical finish times. David de La Fuente (Sporting Clube de Portugal-Tavira) was third, nine seconds back. Geoghegan Hart finished 18 seconds off the winning time while Owen and Neilands were both 29 seconds back.

Geoghegan Hart placed sixth on Stage 1, fourth on Stage 2 and seventh on Stage 3 but had to fight through illness just to finish the race. In addition to his sixth-place overall finish, he was runner-up in the best young rider competition.

"I have been sick with either food poisoning or some type of virus the past three days, which made eating anything very difficult," he said. "It made for a super unenjoyable last few days of the race, as my body really was not firing on all cylinders whatsoever. But with my GC (general classification) being the best chance of a decent result the team had, I knew I had to try and keep riding. It was a strange feeling for me, just getting through the race, but having done so, I can now enjoy some rest and recovery at home before our next races."

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