Dion Smith has finished 6th in the final stage of Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta (Tour of the Algarve). The Wanty-Groupe Gobert Kiwi took his first top ten finish of the 2018 season behind stage and race winner Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky.
The final stage of the 44th Volta ao Algarve was a 173.5km journey from Faro to Malhão. Smith went into the stage having played a support role for Timothy Dupont earlier in the race. This would be his opportunity to shine though with the stage concluding with a short, aggressive climb of just 3km in length; but averaging 10.2%. This would come after the stage had already taken in four more climbs ranked categories 2 and 3.
Team Sky went into the stage as firm favourites with two of the four stages under their belts courtesy of Michal Kwiatkowski and Geraint Thomas. The former was just 19 seconds behind his teammate and in the final stage it was clear that the race would be go the way of the Polish former world champion. Team Sky were in control and with Lukas Postlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe and Zdenek Stybar of Quick-Step Floors they appeared confident of bringing the race back together, especially with the gap at just 36 seconds between the leaders and the Kwiatkowski group with 23km remaining.
Stybar was able to drop Postlberger, who was swept up early, leaving the Czech rider to tackle the final kilometres solo. He went through 5km with a 23 second lead over the chase group that was being dragged along by Team Sky. Dion Smith was in the move that in total featured some 19 riders. The Kiwi was sitting about mid-pack in the chase group that enjoyed a significant lead over the peloton.
3km from the finish and with 50 seconds the gap now, Kwiatkowski stretched the legs a little bit and his surge in pace ate into the lead. Ruben Guerreiro of Trek-Segafredo and Serge Pauwels of Dimension Data tried to get across to Kwiatkowski but they couldn’t quite bring back Kwiatko. By the 2km to go mark he had closed to within 11 seconds to Stybar and had him well within his sights. Behind him Stefan Kung of BMC Racing joined Guerreiro and Pauwels, while Dion Smith was just behind them.
In no time Kwiatkowski caught the labouring Stybar and continued to tap away with a comparatively quick cadence. The Dion Smith group also had the chasing trio in their sights and were pulling Stybar back. In the final kilometre the chasing trio fragmented with accelerations from Pauwels and Guerreiro shedding Kung from their wheels, but they weren’t going to bring back Kwiatkowski; who continued up towards his second stage victory of the race and the GC win. Guerreiro launched one final massive push to get across to the Pole, but Kwiatkowski had done enough to secure the win.
With Guerreiro second and Pauwels third attention now turned to the rest of the top ten, and a fast charging Dion Smith. Smith just edged Simon Geschke of Team Sunweb to take sixth place and herald the start of what is set to be a strong European campaign.