Ben Swift claimed a top-10 finish for Team Sky on the third stage of the Tour de Pologne after Thor Hushovd had sprinted to victory in Rzeszow.
Swift was thrust into contention after some solid work from his team-mates in the closing stages, but got slightly boxed in on a tight and technical finishing circuit, and crossed the line in ninth position after Norwegian champion Hushovd had oupaced Mark Renshaw (Belkin) and Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) for his fourth win of the season.
The result had little bearing on the general classification, which ensured Sergio Henao maintained his second place in the overall standings and sits just four seconds behind race leader Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff). Christophe Riblon (AG2R) is two seconds further adrift in third.
After taking Monday off to travel up from Italy, the action resumed on Polish soil and saw the riders travel 226km from the centre of Kraków. The rain that fell early in the day must have dampened spirits as only four riders ventured up the road and their lead was allowed to grow to almost 11 minutes before Saxo-Tinkoff eventually plugged the gap after 100km.
With Team Sky and BMC also leading the chase, that advantage quickly began to tumble and the quartet were only 2min 50sec ahead as they crested the day’s sole categorised climb. By then, the roads had dried out and Danny Pate was driving a fearsome pace on the front of the bunch.
That gap had dropped below 2min as Alexandr Dyachenko ( Astana), Bartlomiej Matysiak (CCC), Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil) commenced the three concluding laps of a 6km circuit, and the foursome were only 27sec ahead as they began the final loop of the day.
Rigoberto Uran proved instrumental in hauling the leaders back in the last 1.5km, but soon after, the sprint teams battled their way to the fore and AG2R, Belkin and BMC were all prominent as the action neared its conclusion.
Taylor Phinney led the peloton on to the closing straight and BMC team-mate Hushovd tempted Renshaw into opening his sprint early, before rounding the Australian in the final 100m and wrapping up his win by half a bike length.
In the mix
After the stage Swift was disappointed he wasn't able to challenge for top honours but is hopeful other opportunities will arise later in the week.
He told us: "The plan today was all about looking after Sergio. The team worked hard in that last 30km to ensure the break came back and then I was given the freedom to go for the sprint on my own.
"We did that really well and once everything was back together Brad [Wiggins] looked after me once we'd got onto the circuit. He delivered me towards the front and then I was left to fend for myself in the last lap and a half.
"It was all about positioning and when you're on your own you have to pick someone else's train and hope they deliver the goods. That didn't happen today and I found myself about 20-25 riders back heading into the last kilometre.
"The effort it took to get myself into contention after that meant I couldn't really contest the sprint, and although it's frustrating, it was good to fight again and nice to be in the thick of it.
"Tomorrow is another day which could suit me and I'll be going full gas again. My legs are feeling really good so I'll be aiming for a better result, definitely."