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After a weekend of making headlines for its wild team kit at the Giro d’Italia, EF Pro Cycling kept the news cycle going Monday with old-fashioned, smash-mouth bike racing.
Jonathan Caicedo rode away from a lead group on Mount Etna to earn a career-first grand tour stage victory, giving the long-running U.S. franchise a huge boost on the bike following what’s been a wave of media attention for the team’s innovative team jersey.
Team boss Jonathan Vaughters, who saw the team fined thousands of dollars by the UCI on Saturday for its high-profile jersey rollout with a skateboard company, said the stage win is the perfect start to the Giro.
“We proved that rain, UCI fines, and fans being scandalized by our new kit were all just … water off a duck’s back,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Obviously everyone has been talking about the Palace and Rapha kit, which has been so cool to see. Even cooler? Winning in it, and showing that we’re here to race the Giro, too.”
The win will quiet any sort of disparaging comments about the team’s new-look jersey it rolled out for the Giro. The UCI didn’t like it, saying the jersey didn’t follow UCI protocol, and quickly slapped the team with a fine of more than $8,000. While the majority of comments on social media expressed support of the skateboard-inspired jersey, a few wondered if the team was going for cheap thrills rather than old-school racing.
The team answered with Caicedo delivering a stunning performance on a day that saw pre-race favorites Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates also tumble out of contention. The stage win shot Caicedo shooting up the GC, putting him in a tie with new race-leader João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who took the pink jersey on a tiebreaker.
“We’ve come here looking for stages, I’ve now taken a stage, it’s been a great one and we’ll just see what the body does and how it responds over the next few days,” Caicedo said. “We’ll keep trying to look for victories.”
“I can’t really believe it yet, it’s a dream that’s come true,” he continued. “When I attacked [Giovanni] Visconti, he’s obviously a guy with a lot of experience, I tried to get as much speed as possible to try and overtake him whilst also trying to save as much energy as possible before I got there. I took advantage of the moment and attacked and then managed to have enough in me to take it to the finish.”
The victory gives the team two-for-two for stage wins in grand tours so far in 2020. The team won a stage at the Tour de France last month with Dani Martínez. On Monday at the Giro, Caicedo was set up with top work from American Lawson Craddock.
With the new jersey and their confidence flying high, the team vows to keep pushing the gas pedal.
“We’re here looking for breaks and stage wins,” said Fabrizio Guidi, EF sport director. “We believed in it since the start, and we had a plan to try and take it today. Of course, there are difficult stages all over, and we’re looking for everything.”