Lagoa, Portugal – Tyler Williams and the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team geared up for a key time bonus sprint less than 15 kilometers from the finish of Sunday's final stage of GP Liberty Seguros.
"We were in position for it," Williams said, "and Tao Geogeoghan Hart made the call to go for it."
Set up by his teammates, Williams powered his Specialized S-Works Tarmac to third place over the sprint line. The one-second time bonus he earned was key to landing his team-best eighth place finish overall.
"We missed the first two spots, but that one second I was able to get still made a big difference," Williams said. "In the final, I was a suffering. But so was everyone. I had a good chance for the sprint. But I just messed up the execution and, after such a hard day, you can't afford to make mistakes."
Williams and the peloton arrived five seconds after Will Routley (Rally Cycling) outsprinted Imanol Estevez (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) for the stage win. The pair had slipped the front group with less than 10 kilometers remaining in the 186.6-kilometer race that started and finished in Lagoa. In the final overall standings, Routley ended up second overall, three seconds back of Saturday's Stage 1 winner August Jensen (Team Coop-OsterHus). Williams was a further nine seconds back of Routley.
Not everything went well for Axeon Hagens Berman in the final stage of the two-day race.
Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands was unable to start due to fever. Ruben Guerreiro, the race's defending champion who was sitting sixth overall and seven seconds off the lead, suffered from breathing problems and had to drop out 55 kilometers from the finish. Irish Under 23 national road champion Eddie Dunbar made a six-man breakaway over the top of the day's first categorized climb, but crashed on a cobbled descent. Another crash inside the last five kilometers claimed Colin Joyce.
"It was full on carnage for us today," Axeon Hagens Berman Assistant Director Jeff Louder said. "Eddy messed up his hand but was able to finish and Colin may have broken a rib. Both will need to go to the hospital."
Despite all the mishaps, the team rode with authority, Louder said. They led the chase to reel in the breakaway that Dunbar had been part of before his crash, then set up Williams for the sprint.
"They rode to win but nothing really fell our way," Louder said. "Colin's crash disrupted Tyler. So even though they were still looking good for a nice result in the finish, it just didn't pan out."
Williams, who won Stage 2 of the Chico Stage Race in Northern California last month, gave full credit to his teammates for helping make his top 10 overall result possible.
"Everyone was there all day making sure we didn't miss moves," Williams said. "In the final Will Barta and Greg Daniel did a lot of controlling and were a big part. And Tao was making the calls on the road and was a big help in getting that bonus second."
Axeon Hagens Berman resumes racing in Portugal Wednesday in the five-day stage race, Volta Alentejo.