The skies may have been sunny and clear, but attacks stormed the peloton in the 85.4-mile road race in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Stefano Barberi (California Giant-Specialized) won stage 3 by capitalizing on the GC squabbling between Donkey Label and Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, attacking his breakaway companions at the start of the 1.9 mile finishing circuits, and taking all four laps solo. Colin Strickland (Elbowz Racing) and Ryan Anderson (Optum-Kelly Benefits Strategies) finished second and third, respectively. Ben Hill (Donkey Label Racing) finished sixth on the stage with the same time as the field to keep the yellow jersey.
“I knew they were going to be looking at each other,” said Barberi of the two teams vying for GC. “No one wants to be the guy who closes the gap and then have someone counter-attack and then they end up missing out on the split. I knew that by going early there was a good chance I was going to get some hesitation.”
After a smooth neutral rollout, teams took turns attacking to find the right breakaway combination. Eventually, the decisive break formed, grew to 11 riders, and stayed together for over half the race.
“Optum was going crazy, and a lot of people were attacking as well,” said Hill. “We were mainly just following them because they’re the closest GC threat. I was following, and we missed a move. My teammate towed me to the front then I just went. It took me a good while to get across to the move but once I got there then that was it.
“Optum decided they didn’t like [the break], then we started playing games. That tired me out a little bit, but it worked out in the end. I had to make a choice; I couldn’t keep following them all day. I let Will Routley [Optum] go and went back to the bunch with the others, which worked out in the end.”
With the break shattered, leaving only Routley, Andres Diaz (Incycle-Cannondale), Chris Barton and Ulises Castillo (KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo), and Nicolae Tanovitchii (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), other teams seized the opportunity to bridge up.
“The group split so I jumped across with Joe Schmalz [Hincapie Racing Team] and the two of us, along with one other rider, just went for it,” said Barberi. “We made it across. As soon as we entered the circuits I knew I had to kind of give it a go.”
After stage 3, Hill keeps his GC lead over Optum duo Tom Zirbel and Scott Zwizanski, who are one second and 14 seconds behind, respectively.