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At the 2017 Colorado Classic, CyclingTips spent the day shadowing American rider Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) on Stage 3 — a stage he’d targeted to win.
As often happens in professional bike racing, however, things didn’t exactly go to plan.
Manuel Senni, a 25-year-old Italian from BMC Racing, set himself up for the first stage-race win of his career by attacking on Golden Gate Canyon, the second of two categorized climbs, 47km from the finish line, bringing Romanian Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) with him. The two riders, sitting fifth and sixth on GC — 32 and 51 seconds down, respectively — rode a two-man time trial together to the finish, crossing the line 54 seconds ahead of a 22-rider chase group.
The out-and-back stage, which climbed to Peak to Peak Highway at an altitude of over 9,000 feet elevation (nearly 3,000 metres) offered two categorized climbs — Gap Road, on the way up, and Golden Gate Canyon, which was part of the descent down to Golden and into Denver.
TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel) started the day in the race lead, one second ahead of Stage 2 winner Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), with Reijnen’s teammate, Peter Stetina, sitting third, 11 seconds back.
On Twin Spruce Road, the early slopes of the first categorized climb, Stetina attacked, forming an early move that also included Tvetcov, who was gunning for KOM points, as well as Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Marco Canola (Nippo Vini Fantini), and Valerio Conti (UAE Emirates). As their gap grew over 20 seconds, Stetina became the virtual race leader.
Senni attacked from the chase group, and bridged across to the five leaders, meaning third, fifth, and sixth overall were up the road on Peak to Peak Highway. Behind, Rigoberto Uran and Hugh Carthy drove the chase for their Cannondale-Drapac teammate, bringing it back together. Over the top, a 24-rider group formed, and it looked as though the group would descend together into Denver.
That wasn’t Senni’s plan, however.
On the final kilometer of the final climb, the Italian — who is leaving BMC for Bardiani-CSF next year — attacked, opening 25 seconds over the group in one uphill kilometer. Tvetcov, who lives in Golden and knows the descent well, followed.
With Uran and Carthy (Cannondale-Drapac) driving the chase alongside Stetina and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), the pair extended their lead on the descent. The two riders ahead were motivated — not only did they not have podium positions to lose, each had something to gain — for Tvetcov, a stage win, and for Senni, the overall victory.
Reijnen finished third in the bunch sprint for third on the stage, behind Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) and Canola.
“Pete [Stetina] gave his all to try and mix up the GC. I think it was a good move, it put everyone under pressure to chase, and I could sit,” Reijnen said. “And I had the legs to sit. Halfway through everything looked good. Cannondale stayed calm, so good on them. When they caught Pete we were all in with them. Those two guys went off on that second KOM. We knew they’d take a bit time on the downhill, but with Cannondale and us chasing, we didn’t think it would be an issue. But the gap just didn’t come down. We fully committed, we really thought we had a chance today.
“When it didn’t come back I was definitely bummed. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I’m blown away they held off. Cycling is a strange sport that way. I definitely give them the benefit of the doubt, but…. Wow. I was definitely surprised.”
Video shot and edited by Nigel Dick.