Stefan Rothe (Elbowz Racing) crossed the line first, winning stage 2 of the North Star Grand Prix, but Ben Hill (Donkey Label Racing) ended Wednesday with the yellow jersey after snatching a bonus sprint in the race’s early moments in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hill’s five-second bonus put him one second ahead of Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefits Strategies), who had won the stage 1 time trial earlier that day.
Rothe got into a breakaway with Bryan Stevens (Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes) and Andrew Dalheim (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) about halfway through the race. At just over one lap to go, the break was nearly caught when Rothe gave a final hard effort to hold off the chase and claim the stage victory.
“[Holding off a charging peloton was] something I see on television but that usually doesn’t happen to me, so, I was kind of surprised,” said Rothe. “It definitely wasn’t planned like that. I knew the two guys that were in the breakaway were good sprinters and we were about to get caught, and I figured I might as well go for it. If I sprint against them I’d definitely get second or third. It doesn’t happen often to pull it off, and I’m very thankful I had my team manager give me splits, stand on the corner, and tell me what to do.”
Optum rode the front of the race, hoping to guard Zirbel’s yellow jersey, but they weren’t able to keep Hill in check.
“I snuck away a bit, took them by surprise, went hard for a lap and got it,” said Hill of his decisive move to earn the time bonus. “I went with almost a lap to go, before the sprint through the technical bit. There was one guy that came with me but I lost him through the corners and stayed away.”
“It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t the end of the world for us either,” said Ryan Anderson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) about Hill’s time bonus sprint. “It just happened in the beginning so we just move forward from there. We’re still in really good position so it’s good, looking forward.”
Anderson finished second on the stage, with teammate Guillaume Boivin in third.
“No stress,” added Anderson. “Not yet at least!”