Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal – Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's Tao Geoghegan and Logan Owen rode to top 10 placings in Thursday's uphill finish at Volta ao Alentejo after teammate Eddie Dunbar featured in a 78-kilometer solo breakaway.
On the longest stage of the five-day race, Geoghegan finished fourth, four seconds after Enric Mas (Klein Constantia) soloed to the win in the 206.2 km stage. Owen was eighth, seven seconds off the winning time.
Geoghegan Hart was left wondering what might have been. He and Owen received help from Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands in the final two kilometers, only to be delayed by a crash.
"On a sweeping corner with 1.5 km to go, the first four riders wiped out," Geoghegan Hart said. "I had to stop and go on the pavement, losing about 15-20 positions and a lot of distance to the front. I committed 100 percent to the remainder of the race. However, after a big effort to get back to the front, I only had the legs for fourth. It is frustrating, as I think had I not had to make up ground, it might have been a really memorable result for the team."
Owen echoed those sentiments.
"I am happy with my result but I wish Tao and I could trade our fourth and eighth for a win today," he said. "The legs feel good for the upcoming days and I think we have a great shot at getting on the podium in the days to come."
In the overall standings, Geoghegan Hart remains seventh, 14 seconds behind Mas, who took the yellow jersey off the shoulders of Stage 1 winner Imanol Estévez (Euskadi Basque Country). Mas also moved into the lead ahead of Geoghegan Hart in the best young rider classification.
Dunbar said it was not his intention to go off on a nearly two-hour solo breakaway after 70 kilometers. But after the second time bonus sprint of the day, a small group slipped the pack and he followed.
"But they didn't really ride, so I just kept going and I ended up on my own," the Irish Under 23 national road champion said. "It wasn't really planned. We were just told to be in the moves. I knew there was another sprint at the 90-km mark so I was going to get to that and sit up. But (Assistant Sport Director) Jeff Louder told me that I had three minutes so be prepared for a long day."
But Dunbar and his Specialized S-Works Tarmac eventually turned into a stiff headwind. After riding alone for nearly two hours, he was overtaken by the peloton with 60 km to go.
Friday's stage also features an uphill finish. The 186.6 km race begins in Portel and does not feature any categorized climbs on the way to Beja.