Colombian Molano claims home tour stage win, Bernal stays in hunt

Ecuador's Jonathan Caicedo retains the leader's jersey when his EF Pro Cycling squad won Tuesday's opening team time-trial.

Colombia’s Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE-Team Emirates) sprinted to victory on the second stage of the Tour Colombia, on Wednesday, as reigning Tour de France champion Egan Bernal finished safely in the pack.

Molano, 25, powered home ahead of compatriot Alvaro Hodeg at the end of the 152km stage from Paipa to Duitama, with Israel’s Itamar Einhorn in third.

Ecuador’s Jonathan Caicedo retained the leader’s yellow jersey he claimed, when his EF Pro Cycling squad won Tuesday’s opening team time-trial.

Caicedo maintained his lead in the overall standings ahead of three team-mates on the same time, including Colombian pair Sergio Higuita and Daniel Martinez who are expected to challenge for the final victory.

“I’m going to make the most of this jersey for as long as I can, but at the same time if I can fight to the end, I’ll be there,” said Caicedo, 26. “I appreciate everything the team has done for me 100%, we’re going to continue to focus on the stages to come. The team has the responsibility to keep an eye on the other teams and they did that. It’s team work.”

“The main aim is to win the Tour Colombia with whichever one of us three, it doesn’t matter if it’s Higuita, Martinez or myself.”

Sergio Higuita observed, “We were focused on the other teams and what they were doing to make sure we made it through the day okay. The teams interested in the sprint were the ones that controlled the break, they know how to manage the gap until the very last moment.”

Molano was circumspect about the remainder of the week, “There are still several stages to come … I’ll be calmer because I know I’ve already won, and I don’t have this pressure any more so I can work better.”

Fellow Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria won three stages for UAE in the Tour de San Juan in Argentina a couple of weeks ago.

Bernal, the inaugural winner of this race two years ago, moved up to eighth in the overall standings at 46sec, one place ahead of Ineos teammate and reigning Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz, of Ecuador.

Thursday’s third stage covers 177km from Paipa to Sogamoso and includes two fourth category climbs.

The entire six-day tour is raced at above 2,500m with Sunday’s finale ending on the climb to the Puerto de El Verjon at 3,290m.