Owen opens Axeon Hagens Berman account in Portugal

American Logan Owen collects the first win of 2017 for his Axeon Hagens Berman team Saturday in stage 4 of Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal.

American Logan Owen collected the first win of 2017 for his Axeon Hagens Berman team Saturday in stage 4 of Volta ao Alentejo in Alcácer do Sal, Portugal. The 21-year-old out-sprinted Movistar’s Carlos Barbero and Jasper De Laat (Metec-TKH) on a punchy uphill finish to a 175.8km stage.

“It is one thing to win a bike race,” Owen said. “But to win it at the level that this race is now — a [UCI] 2.1 classification — and against a WorldTour rider like Barbero is something extra special. To be able to overpower him in the finish meant a lot.”

Owen’s teammate Chris Lawless was second in stage 3 on Friday. At first, the American team planned to ride for Lawless on the penultimate stage 4, but Owen explained that, after a bit of online research, they rearranged leadership duties. “Initially, we thought it would be a good finish for Chris [Lawless], but Adrien (Costa) actually looked it up last night on Strava and Google Earth view and said it looked like a pretty hard finish up a hill for about a kilometer,” Owen said.

Axeon Hagens Berman put its team on the front to ride back the day’s breakaway. The peloton caught the escape with two kilometers to go, and Owen hopped on Barbero’s wheel, knowing that the overall race leader would be a good man to follow in the sprint.

“I kept fighting for [Barbero’s] wheel because I knew it was a good finish for him,” Owen added. “He had a teammate lead him out to 200 meters and I just followed. Initially, I tried to go right because the wind was coming from the left. But he shut the door on me. So I had to go on the other side and kick again.”

With only one stage remaining in the race, a 168.9km run to Évora, Owen is just six seconds out of the lead in the best young rider’s classification, third behind teammate Eddy Dunbar and De Laat, who holds the jersey in that competition.