It took 12 kilometers for the three-man breakaway featuring Schär to go clear and although the trio worked hard, their advantage never exceeded three minutes.
Eventually, Schär and Casper Pedersen (SUN), the final two breakaway riders, were brought back to the peloton with 21 kilometers to go, which set the stage for a General Classification showdown on the three final climbs.
The increase in pace split the peloton but Van Avermaet and Geschke were well positioned toward the front and both riders matched the high tempo set on the climbs as the group became smaller and smaller on the run into the final climb.
The pace eased off slightly halfway up the Alto de Fóia, by which stage less than 20 riders remained in front, and with two kilometers to go, it was Simon Geschke who launched a solo attack.
Despite a gap opening up, Geschke’s attempt was neutralized just before the flamme rouge at which point, Van Avermaet lost contact with the group.
Geschke held on to cross the in 12th place behind stage winner Remco Evenpoel (DQT) which Van Avermaet reached the summit in 15th place, in a strong demonstration of form ahead of the Classics.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“It was a good pace all day and in the end, it was like expected with it becoming really hard once the hills started. I just tried to find my rhythm and the team did a good job to put me in front. In the final, I had Greg with me. I tried to not lose too much time in the end. Once it slowed down a bit, I continued and they let me go. So, for a moment, it looked really good for a stage win but in the end, it was not enough and the guys came back. I just tried to hang on.”
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I feel like I’m climbing really well at the moment so it’s definitely a good sign that my condition is good ahead of the Classics. The last kilometer was a bit too hard for me and I wasn’t able to stay with the front guys. I think they waited a bit until the last 500 meters before attacking, and there I was on the limit. I had a really good winter and the altitude training that I did in Teide has helped my shape for sure. I think my legs and my weight are where they need to be and everything is coming together before the Classics so I hope to continue like this.”
“It was the plan to have someone in the breakaway. The directors said I had to be there so I made it. All in all, it was a good stage. We didn’t have a big gap so it made it hard to come to the finish but you never know, one day the breakaway may get there. I’m satisfied.”
Volta ao Algarve
Stage 2: Sagres > Alto da Fóia, 183.9km
Top 3: 1. Remco Evenepoel (DQT), 2. Maximilian Schachmann (BORA), 3. Dan Martin (Israel)
CCC Team Top 3: 12. Simon Geschke, 15. Greg Van Avermaet, 31. Nathan Van Hooydonck