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Colombian riders continued their victorious march at the Colombia 2.1 stage race, as Sebastian Molano won the stage 3 sprint from a group of 60 riders in Llano Grande Thursday.
Molano’s win came a day after Colombian rider Jose Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) took the stage 2 sprint in La Ceja.
Molano, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, outsprinted Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Diego Ochoa (Manzana-Postobon) to win from the group that contained many of the pre-race favorites, including Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Richard Carapaz (Movistar), and defending champion Egan Bernal (Team Sky). EF Education First rider Rigoberto Urán also finished in the group and took over the race’s GC lead from sprinter Hodeg.
“I knew that Julian is one of the fastest,” said Molano. “I was feeling confident because I knew that if they let me get ahead in the final 300-meters it would be difficult to pass me.”
The day’s 168km stage was comprised of four laps of a hilly 42km circuit that started and finished in Llano Grande, a town an hour’s drive from Medellin. Each lap included the category 3 climb to Alto El Nano, a 4km climb with ramps nearing six percent.
The climb provided fireworks throughout the stage, as several GC riders, including Lopez and Carapaz, attacked the main bunch on the first climb.
The day’s major breakaway finally was established just before the race’s midpoint, with five Colombian riders from local teams attacking into the group.
Accelerations from the main group eventually brought the breakaway back on the penultimate lap. However, the surges shed several top sprinters, including Hodeg, who saw his overall lead slip away.
The victory marks Molano’s first pro win as a WorldTour rider. The 24-year-old signed a two-year deal with UAE Team Emirates after racing for Colombian team Manzana-Postobon in 2018 and 2017. A top sprinter who can also survive punchy climbs, Molano’s stage win may set him up for the race’s points race jersey.
In 2018, Molano finished a close second to Fernando Gaviria during two stages of the Colombian race, en route to his second place overall finish in the points competition that year. Gaviria had to pull out of this year’s race prior to the start of Thursday’s stage due to a respiratory infection.
Urán, who took back the leader’s jersey after donning it on the opening stage, said the furious pace made for a challenging day.
“The pace here in Colombia is high, there’s high-quality cycling,” Urán said, “But when you have six World Tour teams, riders able to hit 60km/h for half an hour, that really increases the pace.”