Ben Swift finished ended the day 10th at Trofeo Campos as Team Sky enlivened the race in the closing stages.
Leigh Howard claimed victory for Orica-GreenEDGE, the Australian pipping Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar and Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas to the line on the 167-kilometre route to Ses Salines.
There were only around 50 riders left in the front bunch at the finish after Team Sky had taken control of the race with 25km to go and set a high pace that caused a huge split in the field.
After battling back strongly from a puncture Swift was squeezed out in the battle for position and lost a vital few metres at the finish.
Taking it up
After the stage Sports Director Dan Hunt took us through the game plan and revealed he was happy to see the team ride as a unit with so many new riders.
“The lads rode really well today. It was quite a complicated finish and a hard one to get right in many ways," he confirmed.
“We talked on the bus this morning about hopefully letting a little break go to gain some time and then wait for some of the other teams to chase. That happened and the break went out to around seven minutes. But it was nervous all race. There are a lot of riders in this race - around 200 guys here and plenty going on. There was a lot of wind about too with headwind and tailwind sections.
“With about 20km to go we took it up on the front. We stayed on the front for the best part of five kilometres, by the end of which the peloton was in three bits.
“We were a bit unfortunate with Swifty puncturing at a critical time as the pace was picking up. Kosta [Suitsou] stopped to give him his wheel and that was the end of his ride. He sacrificed himself for Swifty, as did Xavi [Zandio] who came back for him. So that was a good demonstration of team-work. We rode hard all the way in. Even the young guys Josh Edmondson and Ian Boswell were right up there towards the finish with Swifty. In the sprint Swifty had to slam his brakes on at a point which is just one of those things.”
The day began with a seven-man breakaway group including Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE) almost immediately darting off the front of the peloton and quickly opening up a sizeable gap that reached its peak at more than seven minutes.
However, they were unable to maintain a consistent advantage and saw their lead steadily whittled down as the main bunch negotiated the three category-four climbs in the final 100km.
They were eventually caught with 27km go and Team Sky immediately moved to the head of the race.
With Colombian Sergio Henao and Spaniard David Lopez setting the tempo, Sky drove up the pace up so high that riders starting dropping out of the back of the pack and a select front group was formed.
As the road began rolling towards the finish line, Lotto-Belisol joined Sky at the front, but neither team were able to halt the charge of Howard.