Geraint Thomas (Sky) put in a strong ride to finish second behind stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez on the mountain-top finish of Volta ao Algarve stage two in Portugal on Thursday.
Defending champion Thomas now sits in second place overall behind Spaniard Sanchez.
The day started with seven riders forming at escape group, but they were never really given a free hand to forge a significant gap and the race was back together with 40km to go.
Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) put in an attack soon after, but was reeled back in as the terrain became more mountainous.
It was then the turn of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to show himself, as the Spanish Grand Tour champion crested the second category Pomba climb out front. Behind, the peloton was breaking apart.
As the lead group hit the final climb of Alto de Fóia, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), Diego Rosa (Astana), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) went clear and ground out a small advantage, but were caught within the final 2km and passed by a chase group that included Sanchez and Thomas.
Thomas opened up a sprint for the line first, but was caught by Sanchez, who claimed the victory and overall race lead.
One high-profile non-finisher was Joaquim Rodriguez (Katsuha), who withdrew from the stage with an illness.
The UCI 2.1-ranked Volta ao Algarve continues on Friday with stage three, a flat 18-kilometre individual time trial that should see the general classification riders and TT specialists out to make their mark.
Along with Thomas, watch out for British time trial champion Alex Dowsett (Movistar), who is sure to try and create an impression over a distance that should suit him well. However, the man to beat will be Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) who looms in 12th place overall, just 25 seconds adrift of Sanchez and 20 seconds behind Thomas.
The five-day race concludes on Sunday, February 21.
Volta ao Algarve 2016, stage two: Lagoa to Alto da Fóia, 198.6km
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 1 sec
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 3 secs
4. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 3 secs
5. Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha at 5 secs
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 6 secs
7. Manuel Amaro (Por) LA Aluminios-Antarte at 9 secs
8. Hector Saez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 13 secs
9. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal at 14 secs
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 15 secs
General classification after stage two
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 5 secs
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 9 secs
4. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 13 secs
5. Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha at 15 secs
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Nigel Wynn worked as associate editor on CyclingWeekly.com, he worked almost single-handedly on the Cycling Weekly website in its early days. His passion for cycling, his writing and his creativity, as well as his hard work and dedication, were the original driving force behind the website’s success. Without him, CyclingWeekly.com would certainly not exist on the size and scale that it enjoys today. Nigel sadly passed away, following a brave battle with a cancer-related illness, in 2018. He was a highly valued colleague, and more importantly, n exceptional person to work with - his presence is sorely missed.
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