Stuart Pickering's picture

Bernal does the double for Colombia

Stage 2 of the 2017 Sibiu Cycling Tour saw Colombian riders continue their strain of success. Today it was Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia) who took a convincing victory after soloing up the final five kilometres of the Transfăgărășan Road to Bâlea Lac. The highly-talented 20-year old also assumes the lead in the general classification as well as the U23 and points classification and will wear the yellow jersey tomorrow. Nicolas Tivani (Unieuro Trevigiani - Hemus 1896) took over the blue sprint jersey after spending the day in the breakaway, while Moritz Fußnegger (0711|Cycling) scored crucial points on the first mountain sprint to keep the mountain jersey on his shoulders. Eduard Michael Grosu (Team Romania) was the best-placed Romanian again and therefore defends the red jersey.

The 160 km stage started with a bang with the first mountain sprint after only 6.3 km. Many riders tried to escape on the climb and the following stretch through Cisnădie, but the break of the day only got away after 29 km: Nicolas Tivani, Ivar Slik (Monkey Town), Leonardo Canepa (GM Europa Ovini), Emil Vinjebo (Team Giant - Castelli), Martin Haring (Dukla Banská Bystrica), and Nikodemus Holler (Bike Aid) worked well together and had taken over two minutes on the peloton at the top of the Săcădate climb, expanding their lead to 4:45 minutes later.

The six escapees worked well together, but with a long climb at the end it was always an uphill battle for them.

In the peloton, the Professional Continental teams were happy to leave the work of checking the breakaway to Team Illuminate of the overnight race leader Edwin Ávila, keeping their own powder dry for the 23.6 km finishing climb. When the escapees turned onto the road towards Bâlea Lac after 125 km, Canepa lost contact with the break, and on the early slopes of the Transfăgărășan, Slik and Tivani also had to let go. Bike Aid rider Nikodemius Holler dropped his remaining companions Haring and Vinjebo and went solo, but the pace set in the peloton by CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Androni - Sidermec – Bottecchia, and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling was too high, and Holler was caught shortly with just over nine kilometres to go.

The peloton had been whittled down to less than forty riders at that point, and yellow jersey Edwin Ávila also started struggling as he felt the efforts of yesterday's 180 km escape. Shortly afterwards he was dropped altogether, as were Eduard Michael Grosu, the best-placed Romanian rider, and Francesco Gavazzi, second overall in the 2016 Sibiu Cycling Tour.

From a group of around 20 remaining riders, Daniel Jaramillo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) and Gabriel Reguero (Team Differdange - Losch) made a first move with 6 km to go, only to be countered by pre-race favourite Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia). The young Colombian immediately established a significant gap to his chasers on the steep slopes of the Transfăgărășan and continued to storm up the climb. At the finish he could celebrate the second Colombian stage win in a row in the Sibiu Cycling Tour, distancing the rest by over a minute on the last five kilometres.

With his victory, Bernal took the lead in the general classification ahead of Colin Stüssi (Roth - Akros) and Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) who finished the stage in second and third 1:23 minutes and 1:25 minutes back, respectively. Bernal now also leads the points classification and the U23 ranking. By collecting points on the first climb of the day Moritz Fußnegger (0711|Cycling) was able to defend his green jersey as the best climber of the race ahead of Bernal, while Grosu still leads the ranking for the best Romanian rider. Nicolas Tivani leapfrogged Edwin Ávila in the intermediate sprint classification and will wear the blue jersey tomorrow.

Egan Bernal said: "I am happy with this victory and want to thank my teammates for their help; they did a great job on the lower slopes of the climbs. I knew that I had good legs and decided to go all-out on my own. It is a hard climb, but I had a good rhythm. Now our focus will be on defending the leader's jersey tomorrow and on Sunday to take the overall win."

Stage 2 podium:

1.  Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia 4:10:28

2.  Colin Stüssi (SUI) Roth - Akros 1:23

3.  Jonathan Clarke (AUS) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team 1:25

Jersey wearers on stage 3:

 Andrea Palini (ITA) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia

 Nicolas Germán Tivani Pérez (ARG) Unieuro Trevigiani - Hemus 1896

 Moritz Fußnegger (GER) 0711|Cycling

 Maxim Rusnac (MDA) Team Differdane - Losch, leader is Egan Bernal

 Edwin Ávila (COL) Team Illuminate, leader is Egan Bernal

 Eduard Michael Grosu (ROU) Team Romania