A thrilling final stage of the Volta ao Algarve saw Serge Pauwels ride to an impressive third place behind a victorious Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky). Ben King, meanwhile, thanks to his teammates did enough to maintain his lead in the blue jersey to be crowned King of the Mountains ahead of Kwiatkowski, capping a superb week for the young American.
Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) finished second on the final stage four seconds ahead of Pauwels. The latter’s strong finish saw him finish 8th overall on the general classification.
The final stage of this year’s race in the Algarve lived up to its billing as the 173.5km from Faro to Malhão featured five categorised climbs and a hilltop finish that ultimately decided the race’s overall winner.
After 15km a 31-man strong group broke away and opened up a lead of nearly four minutes by the time they reached the 50km mark. It included the likes of Pauwels, Igor Antón, Johann van Zyl, Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), Stefan Küng (BMC) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
Lukas Postlberger (Bora-hansgrohe) then pulled away opening up a gap on the rest which stretched to around two minutes at the 132km mark where he was trailed by Pauwels and the rest through the climb. Postlberger was then joined by Stybar as they pulled away from the chasing group who still had over 3 minutes back to the peloton.
With 11kms to Stybar went solo opening up a gap of up to 30s until the 3km to go mark and the bottom of the final climb. At the point Kwiatkowski came charging into contention flying past Stybar and surging to victory. Pauwels, having set off after him, couldn’t hold off Guerreiro in the fight for second-place as he finished eight seconds off the winner.
Ben King – Rider
“I’m really happy to win the jersey. It feels great to start the season this way and get the opportunity to fight for a podium position.
I was focused on watching the three dangerous guys at the beginning, (so) when we put three guys from our team in the breakaway it seemed like a great situation for us and then everything settled down. Kwiatkowski jumped in the breakaway so it looked a little bit dangerous for a moment but it was definitely a team effort having the three guys up there to scoop up the points and make sure that Kwiatkowski didn’t take too many to pass me.
In the end it was pretty close and Serge did an awesome job, along with Johann and Igor, but especially Serge getting 3rd on the stage and a top-10 overall. I’m pretty happy for him and (it’s been) a pretty good day for the team.”