Joe Dombrowski produced a brave climbing display on the seventh stage of the Tour de Suisse to claim his first top-10 finish for Team Sky.
The 22-year-old American attacked the peloton alone on the hors-categorie Albulapass and was only reeled back two kilometres from the summit by an elite group of riders who went on to contest the stage victory.
After briefly dropping off the pace, Dombrowski battled back on the descent which followed, but couldn’t follow the decisive move of the day which saw Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Bauke Mollema (Blanco) and Rui Costa (Movistar) edge clear in the final 2km and then sprint it out for top honours.
It was Costa who emerged victorious in La Punt, with Dombrowski rolling home just 22 seconds behind alongside the likes of Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) and yellow jersey holder Mathias Frank (BMC).
Those results saw Frank retain his position at the top of the overall standings, although Costa has now moved within 13 seconds of the Swiss rider, with Kreuziger dropping one place to third, still 23 seconds off the pace.
Immediately after the stage we caught up with Dombrowski, who was pleased to be back on song after a troubled start to his week.
He told us: "I'd had a rough time of it up until this point with things going wrong for me at all the key moments. That was unfortunate because we don't have a GC leader here, and I'd targeted this race as a good one to show people what I could do.
"I've fallen three times so far but I've been able to spend the last few days recovering in the peloton and getting myself back on track. That meant I felt OK today and it was nice to pull something together for the team.
"I went for it because I figured I was so far down on the standings that it wouldn't be a priority for the GC teams to chase me. I wasn't familiar with the climb so in hindsight it probably wasn't the smartest tactic to go so early, especially with the headwind and flat sections, and that meant I paid the price a bit towards the summit. You have to roll the dice a bit if you want to go for the stage win though.
"This is an exciting result for me but ultimately I wanted to win the stage. It didn't quite work out put I put together a good ride, so I'm happy with that, and I'll be targeting another good ride on the time trial on Sunday."
Team Sky had been active from the off on the 206km trek from Meilen with Ben Swift trying to get in an early move before 14 riders eventually escaped the clutches of the peloton.
They were allowed to build an advantage of over five minutes before BMC and Saxo-Tinkoff upped their pursuit, and that lead had fallen back to just 1min 22sec by the time they hit the imposing face of the Albulapass.
The break quickly splintered as the road ramped upwards, and once Dombrowski had made his move he quickly passed those early pacesetters as he forged his way to the summit.
Although the Virginian was caught shortly before the summit, he kept pace in a 10-man move who plummeted towards the destination town, but their days were almost numbered in the strangest of circumstances after the 2km-to-go banner deflated immediately before them.
Luckily the riders emerged unscathed and after Costa had pressed on with Van Garderen and Mollema, the Movistar man kicked off the sprint and then held off his rivals for his second success of the season.
Dombrowski admitted he had been ruffled by his late brush with the wayward banner, but was pleased to have remained upright after his tumbles earlier in the week.
He added: “We were ripping down that last descent because we had the yellow jersey in our group and I was one of the last wheels coming into that final 2km.
“I got a shock when I looked up and saw the banner right there in front of us, and I only just managed to get under the thing, but fortunately some people had acted fast and everyone stayed safe on the day.”
Hunt hails effort
Sports Director Dan Hun took time to praise Dombrowski's efforts back at the team hotel and revealed the team would be aiming to get in the mix again on Saturday's penultimate stage.
He said: "I'm super happy with Joe and that was a great performance, especially given his falls earlier in the week. Hopefully this can be his arrival - a first demonstration of what he can do at the very top level of the sport.
"The rest of the team also came through fine today. Swifty and Bernie were both active and we'll be looking for them to feature again tomorrow.
"It should be a sprint stage if everyone can get over that early first-category climb OK. We'll be aiming to be in the hunt and up there again at the finish.
"We're happy with where Swifty is at after his stomach problems so he'll be an option for us, although we do have other cards we can play here as well so we'll see how events pan out."