Sergio Henao powered to his first victory for Team Sky in emphatic fashion, winning stage three at the Volta ao Algarve to claim the race lead.
The Colombian was positioned well by his team-mates on the lead-up to the famous Alto do Malhao and didn’t disappoint, attacking alongside Rui Costa (Movistar) before jumping clear to take a memorable solo victory.
The win marked the team’s third success on the climb in three attempts at the race, following previous victories from Steve Cummings and 2012 race winner Richie Porte.
Henao now moves into the yellow jersey with a seven second lead over second placed Costa. Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) rounded out the day's podium after he took third at the top of the 2.4-kilometre climb.
Rigoberto Urán also found himself right in the mix on the climb to come home fourth, while Josh Edmondson placed a magnificent seventh as Team Sky completed a memorable day following victory for Chris Froome in Oman.
With Henao holding a seven-second lead heading into the final stage time trial Urán now sits sixth, 17 seconds back with Edmondson on the same time in eighth.
Day to remember
After a number of tantalising near-misses in Team Sky colours it was no surprise that Henao was thrilled with his win when we caught up with him.
“I’m obviously very happy to get my first victory [for the team]," he confirmed. "It’s a great feeling and it’s something I’ve been looking for since last year. To finally get across the line first is very satisfying. I’ve been close a number of times but I hope now that this can be the first of many successes.
“It was a very difficult stage – up and down all day – and I knew it was going to be hard but I felt good. The legs felt strong and as we got towards the end I knew I could try to go for the win. When you have legs like that you have to go for it.”
With a 34.8km time trial remaining on Sunday Henao takes a slender advantage into the deciding stage. On the challenge to come he added: “Naturally I want to try and defend the jersey tomorrow. I don’t have much of an advantage on the GC over Rui Costa and some of the time trial specialists. It’s not your straightforward flat time trial with a big climb in the middle so anything can happen.
“I’m going to try my best and give it everything. We will let the race decide and see what happens.”
All eyes were on the third test heading into the race and, with the introduction of a second ascent of the famous Alto do Malhao climb, the queen stage did not disappoint.
With every team aware the stage would have a huge effect on the outcome of the race, it was no surprise to see a flurry of attacks early on into the 193km test.
Moves tried and failed before a 12-strong group finally stuck as the race approached the 100km mark. Team Sky (David Lopez), Omega Pharma – Quick-Step (Sylvain Chavanel), Blanco (Maarten Wynants) and Movistar (Jose Herrada) all had representation up the road as the advantage spun out to beyond five minutes.
First time up the climb the break splintered briefly as the peloton began to claw back time, the brave breakaway finally caught with 4km to go as Henao lit the blue touch paper to bring home a richly deserved win.
After two quiet stages on the flat Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was happy to see the team finally able to make an impact on the race.
“It was really good to see Sergio get up there and take a victory," he said. "Everyone is really pleased for him but the whole team rose to the occasion today. There were a lot of impressive performances.
“After two sprint days which weren’t really for us we’d really been looking at this stage. So to get a result at the end of it makes it all the more pleasing.
“The guys rode really well during the day and kept on top of things. It didn’t turn out quite how we’d expected but when the big group went away David was able to get in there and he was really strong – probably the strongest in the group it turned out. It’s different racing without radios as it takes longer to work out the situation. It was good to see everyone was alert.
“It’s been a great day for the team and we’ll be celebrating this win tonight. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and it will all be down to the legs.”