With a stunning long-range attack, young Gage Hecht wins the opening stage of the Colorado Classic.
With a stunning long-range attack out of an all-day breakaway, young Gage Hecht (Aevolo) won the opening stage of the Colorado Classic Thursday, leaving the sprinters to fight for scraps in Vail, Colorado.
Hecht, 20, was part of a four-man group along with Pascal Eenkhorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alex Cataford (UnitedHealthcare), and Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo).
Throughout the day the Coloradoan would attack the 14.2km circuit’s dirt road climb to collect king of the mountains points. On the final lap of the 103.2-kilometer race, he attacked again, and that time, it stuck.
“I didn’t expect at all to be able to make that move,” he said. “I just thought, maybe I’ll be able to give it one last final attack, maybe get an extra little bit of TV coverage, get my name out there a little bit more, get absorbed by the pack in the last 3k and then hang in as best I could.
“Maybe with the time bonuses, I could get the young rider’s jersey. So I made that attack knowing that I would probably get caught. I was kind of keeping watch on the field so I knew how much effort to put out. I didn’t want to get caught by the pack and get shot out the back before the finish.”
Behind in the peloton, EF Education First-Drapac’s Daniel Martinez tried an acceleration but couldn’t break free.
Up the road, Hecht rode a solo breakaway with about a 20-second advantage as the disorganized peloton failed to close down the gap in the final five kilometers.
Though Hecht seemed uncertain of his advantage, frequently checking over his shoulder toward the end, he realized with one kilometer remaining that the victory would be his. He punched up one final short climb and rode alone to the biggest win of his young career.
Travis McCabe sprinted to second behind with his arms in the air. Joe Lewis (Holowesko-Citadel) was third.
“We knew we had another rider up the road,” McCabe said. “We didn’t know it was someone like Gage. We clearly underestimated his strength, which we shouldn’t have done. We just didn’t have the numbers.”
Hecht brought home an impressive haul of leader’s jerseys to his Continental team, which focuses on developing under-23 riders like himself. After Thursday he held the overall leader’s jersey, the points classification jersey, the best young rider’s jersey, and the king of the mountains jersey.
On Friday, the overall GC standings should come into focus as stage 2’s Vail time trial climbs 480 meters (1,574 feet) over 15.88km.