Pascal Eenkhoorn won stage 3 of the Colorado Classic while Gavin Mannion fought to defended his overall lead.
Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the queen stage of the Colorado Classic on Saturday, with Edwin Avila (Israel Cycling Academy) and Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare) coming in second and third. The overall lead of Mannion was put under pressure all day but was saved when the race came together inside the final kilometer.
After the stage, overall leader Mannion said the formation of an uber-strong early breakaway forced his UHC to ride full gas in order to save his leader’s jersey.
“We were nervous all day. We never really felt, at least I never felt, super confident. It was pretty much the eight strongest guys in the race that were in the break so to have four of my teammates keep them within a minute and then to ride them back in the finish was pretty amazing. When they started splitting up with 10k to go, that was kind of when I thought we had a pretty good chance of catching them.”
Despite his coup attempted being treated in the final few kilometers, Carthy said he had no regrets about going all in to topple UHC’s lead.
“Being in third, for a race like this you’ve got to try and win. We gave it everything.”
The EF Education First-Drapac team put the peloton under pressure 20km into the 161km long stage during the first climb of the day up Lookout Mountain, which allowed the breakaway to forge clear. It consisted of Hugh Carthy, Joe Dombrowski and Daniel Martinez from EF Education First-Drapac, as well as Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott), Keegan Swirbul (Jelly Belly) and Bryan Sanchez (Holowesko Citadel). The high pace allowed EF to stack the breakaway with three riders that were all within 30-seconds of the race lead, and once the gap was established, Carthy was crowned the virtual race leader.
As the race crested the high point of the day of Cragmont Drive and faced an 82km mostly downhill run-in to the finish in Denver, the break held a gap of a 1:20 while Mannion’s UHC was struggled to reel them in.
UHC failed to put a serious dent in the break’s gap during the long, fast ride down to Denver. At times, they even leaned on development team Aevolo and rival GC team Rally Cycling. Despite these hiccups, the breakaway began to turn on itself at the sprint point with 14km remaining. Carthy jumped out of the group to take the 3-second time bonus and was followed by his teammate Dombrowski, as well as Howson, and Skujins.
After losing contact, Swirbul, Sanchez, and Martinez were quickly distanced and absorbed by the severely reduced peloton. With 4km remaining and the gap to the remaining breakaway down to 14-seconds, Mannion’s teammate and second-place overall Serghei Tvetcov lept from the field and quickly bridged across the falling gap. Skujins attacked on a slight uphill a few moments later, and Tvetcov was the only rider able to follow. Not content to simply sit in the wheels, the Romanian began putting in huge pulls with Skujins in an attempt to take the stage win and overall lead.
Despite the duo’s best efforts, the gap continued to fall, and a rider from the Silber team attacked from the peloton and caught the pair inside the kilometer. While it briefly looked like he may stay away, the LottoNL-Jumbo team of Eenkhoorn went to the front and set a fast pace that reeled him in and set up Eenkhoorn for the stage win. The young Dutchman crossed the line for a convincing stage win, while Mannion rolled across in third place to secure his overall lead.
With the hard climbing behind them, the peloton faces an urban loop through Denver that will likely be a battle of the sprinter.