Steve Cummings, Simon Gerrans and Michael Rogers ended the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve just one second off the pace after John Degenkolb had sprinted to victory ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) and Michael Matthews (Rabobank).
With main sprint hope Greg Henderson still feeling the effects of his troublesome trip down to Portugal, Team Sky opted to remain out of trouble for a second stage in succession and save their energies instead for Friday's summit finish up the famous Alto do Malhão.
Cummings, Gerrans and Rogers did just that and rolled home in 14th, 20th and 27th places respectively as Degenkolb was made to wait on the outcome of a UCI review before he was crowned the victor.
The HTC-Highroad rider was investigated for an irregular sprint as the 186.5km trek from Lagoa to Lagos reached its conclusion, and after a lengthy inspection, his narrow triumph was allowed to stand.
The victory saw the German leap five places to second in the overall standings, four seconds behind opening-stage winner Phillipe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto), who ended the day in sixth. Cummings, Gerrans and Rogers meanwhile, all sit in the top-25, a further 11 seconds behind.
The longest stage of the tour had begun predictably enough with Remy Di Gregorio (Astana), Steven Kruijwik (Rabobank), Johan Coenen (Topsport) and Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil) edging ahead after the first classified climb of the day.
With Omega-Pharma Lotto monitoring the situation closely, the quartet's lead was never allowed to stretch over four minutes and had been swept up with over 50km of the race still to go.
Not long after that catch, Oleg Chuzhda (Caja Rural) made his own solo bid for glory and remained ahead until the bunch swept into the destination town. By that time Quick-Step and Cofidis were both prominent at the front of the pack but it was Degenkolb who emerged to spoil their party at the line.
Back at the team hotel, sports director Sean Yates explained the team's relaxed approach but insists they will be firing on all cyclinders again on Friday.
He said: "Because Omega-Pharma Lotto were keen to keep Gilbert in the leader's jersey, they took responsibility in the bunch and kept a close eye on the time gaps while the rest of us sat on their wheel.
"It came down to a bunch sprint as expected and our aim was to keep as many of our riders in contention and out of harm's way at the end there. We did that, so I'm happy.
"Greg was feeling better than he did yesterday, but he is still not in peak condition, so we opted to keep things low key.
"Tomorrow the Malhão really kicks up sharply inside the final 2.5km so that's going to be when the GC is really shaken up and it'll be then when we hope to make an impression.
"Make no mistake, Steve, Simon and Mick are all up for it, but we'll just have to see how they perform on the day."