Sergio Henao and Egan Bernal safely finished the third straight sprint day at Colombia Oro y Paz ahead of the race’s first climbing test on Friday.
Henao (14th) and Bernal (25th) rolled in comfortably behind winner Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), who picked up his third consecutive stage win in his homeland.
The stage played out in similar circumstances to days one and two, with Quick-Step picking up the slack at the front of the peloton and keeping the breakaway in check, before reeling it in as the finish town of Buga crept into view.
Then it was over to Gaviria, who always looked comfortable at the end of the 163.2km expedition. Henao and Bernal avoided a late crash and recorded the same time as their compatriot to remain well placed overall.
All eyes now switch to tomorrow’s hilly test - the first of the race. Two late third-category climbs are unlikely to prove hugely decisive but will unquestionably shake up the general classification.
Speaking to TeamSky.com Sport Director Nico Portal provided the lowdown on the next three stages.
He said: “We avoided all the crashes in the sprint stages and the guys are good. At the minute everything looks good - let’s see tomorrow!
“The next three stages are all summit finishes. Tomorrow isn’t that hard - the last climb is quite short. A little more than four kilometres at 5/6%. It’s not super steep so we don’t expect there to be big gaps. There will be a lot of riders on the same time - maybe a few small splits.
“The fifth stage is a bit more interesting. You go up then there’s a downhill - it’s quite technical. Then the last climb is quite short but it’s a bit more punchy. Some sections are a little steeper too. That could be good for us, to try and make a gap.
“The last stage is similar but will be harder because obviously it’s at the end of the race, but also it is higher in the mountains. It’s also slightly steeper. There’s a 20km climb at 5% and the last bit is at about 7%.”
The team has loved every minute in Colombia so far and Portal was full of praise for the local fans.
He added: “The public are really nice. You can feel their love - they love cycling and they love the riders, no matter which team they are. That’s nice. They encourage everyone. That’s a nice feeling.”