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McCabe holds own in the fight of WorldTour sprints

WorldTour rookie building confidence in physical finishes of WorldTour sprints, placing fourth on Saturday's Tour Colombia stage.

“I want to prove I can sprint against these guys”

In his second race of the season of his WorldTour campaign with Israel Start-Up Nation, Travis McCabe sprinted to fourth on the penultimate stage of Tour Colombia, finding his way in the WorldTour peloton and fighting for position.

It was the second top-ten finish of the week for the American after finishing eighth on stage 3. Colombian Sebastian Molano crossed the line for his third stage win, ahead of Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), and Jhonatan Restrepo (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

“I was able to get on to Molano’s wheel and was in great position with about 600 meters to go,” McCabe said. “Hodeg just knocked me right off, and then I was in third or fourth position…Hodeg and Molano looked at each other with maybe 200 to go and opened up the sprint.”

While Tour Colombia attracts the top climbers in the world to begin their season at altitude, it has also provided several key stages for the sprinters. McCabe is no stranger to thin air, with a slew of stage wins and sprint classifications at the Tour of the Gila and Tour of Utah, two races well known for their high-altitude challenge.

Molano, winner of three stages this week, has the added benefit of being native to the area of Boyacá, with Hodeg using the week to hone the powerhouse sprint train for Deceuninck in these early weeks of the season.

McCabe was eyeing the sprint finish in Zipaquerá on Saturday with a profile that lent to his strengths. Three categorized climbs were set during the first half of the stage before the riders descended down through the town into the finish.

“The last 3k coming into town was insane,” McCabe said. “We came ripping through the bottom of the town. We went up through this hill probably at 80km an hour, had a 90-degree right-hand turn with 1 kilometer to go when the field just detonated. It was full gas with guys just in one’s and two’s, starting their sprint with a kilometer left.”

The massive crowd lent another factor to the stage today, finishing in the home town of Tour de France phenom, Egan Bernal. Riders needing to be extremely attentive. McCabe had been involved in a small crash during stage 4, but escaped any major injury or road rash.

“You have to be heads up the entire time and watching what you’re doing,” McCabe said. “As soon as there is a lapse of concentration you end up crashing or making mistakes so it’s a lot of heads up bike racing.”

McCabe will take the result, against a top field so early in the season. The team has scheduled the classics as the next objective for him in the first half of the season, before he heads to the Giro d’Italia in May.

“Obviously, I want to prove that I can sprint against these guys,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you have to fight more and not being a little bitch really. You have to hit back, and it’s not punching but throwing bars, using your body, not being afraid of knocking around.

“It’s a good start to the year. Always, you want more and downhill at 70km/hour sprints aren’t my cup of tea. I know there are going to be more to come.”