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Colombian national champion Alejandro Osorio (GW Erco Shimano) won stage 3 at the Tour Colombia after outsprinting late-race breakaway companion Rodrigo Contreras (Nu Colombia) in Tunja.
Contreras and Osorio formed a larger eight-rider breakaway that emerged on the final lap of racing, but the Nu Colombia rider attacked inside 2km to go and gained a slim lead over the rest of the group.
Osorio quickly responded, however, and crossed the gap, connecting with Contreras’ back wheel and winning the two-up sprint to the line.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost) sprinted in for third place ahead of Jonathan Caicedo (Petrolike) in fourth, Egan Bernal (Colombia) in fifth, Iván Ramiro Sosa (Movistar Team) sixth, Adrián Bustamante (GW Erco Shimano) seventh and Edgar David Cadena (Petrolike) eighth. All were in the initial last-lap breakaway.
Niccolò Bonifazio (Corratec-Vini Fantini) won the reduced group sprint for ninth place, crossing the line just 11 seconds behind the breakaway.
Contreras moved into the overall race lead, taking the jersey from stage 2 winner and overnight leader Harold Tejada (Astana-Qazaqstan) thanks to his time bonus for second place. Tejada is now positioned in second overall at six seconds back, with Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost) in third at 11 seconds.
WorldTour teams have dominated the Tour Colombia since its inception in 2018, but Osorio’s victory and Contreras’ stint in yellow showcases the depth on the domestic scene. Both riders previously had WorldTour experience, Osorio at Bahrain and Contreras at QuickStep and Astana.
“Colombian cycling has a lot of talent but it’s always difficult to win against WorldTour riders,” explained Osorio. “I think that WorldTour riders have a little bit than us because they have more technology at their disposal.
“I’m not saying that money is everything, but the equipment is very important, and so are details like osteopaths, nutritionists and so on. The level of a WorldTour team is imposing, but we’re strong riders and we’re fighters.”
Osorio, nicknamed ‘Pony,’ was fired by Bahrain Victorious in the spring of 2022 for reportedly leaving their COVID-19 bubble, but he still retains hope of eventually returning to the WorldTour.
“I’m 25 years old, and I still feel young,” he said. “I’d like to go back to Europe, I think I have the talent. We’ll be going to Coppi e Bartali in March, so I’ll hope to do well there. With the national title and this stage, I’ve already achieved two dreams this season, and winning at Coppi e Bartali would be the third.”
How it unfolded
The precise difficulty of the race profile was open to a variety of interpretations, but it was clear that any kind of circuit around Tunja, Colombia’s highest departmental capital, would be a demanding one. There’s no arguing with geography.
When Harold Tejada (Astana-Qazaqstan) seized the yellow jersey with an enterprising victory in Santa Rosa de Viterbo, he was already being asked to cast his mind ahead to the decisive summit finish on the Alto del Vino on Saturday. The Colombian could have guessed, however, that his rivals would be poised to probe him for any signs of weakness on Thursday’s attritional stage, which took in of eleven laps of a 12.9km circuit.
Despite the rolling terrain and the altitude in excess of 2,700m, the first lap was run off at a brisk average pace of 43kph, and there wasn’t a whole lot of respite even after the day’s early break of Santiago Gómez (Team Sistecrédito), Bernardo Suaza (Petrolike) and Brayan Sánchez (Team Medellín) forged clear.
That trio would eventually carve out an advantage of more than three minutes, putting Gómez into the virtual race lead, but there was never any real danger of the situation spiralling out of control for the GC favourites. Like on Tuesday’s opening stage, Astana-Qazaqstan and Movistar found common cause at the head of the bunch, though this time out, it was their fast men who were doing much of the work, with Mark Cavendish and Fernando Gaviria prominent.
Cavendish eventually swung off with a shade under four laps to go, but his show hadn’t quite finished. As he soft-pedalled up the circuit’s toughest climb, the Manxman entered into the festive spirit of the occasion, accepting a phone from a fan to take a rolling selfie and then slapping outstretched hands all way to the top of the ascent.
By then, the intensity of the peloton was steadily rising, while the break was down to two riders, Suaza and Gómez. With three laps to go, the gap was down to 1:50, and it was telling that EF Education-EasyPost’s Andrea Piccolo was now to the fore. Once the road began to climb again, Richard Carapaz was soon on the offensive, and his acceleration prompted a brisk reaction from a quickly shrinking bunch.
Carapaz went again on the second climb of the circuit, splintering the bunch still further, with Colombian champion Alejandro Osorio (GW) counter attacking over the top. Piccolo was next to try his luck in a breathless sequence, and by the time they began the penultimate lap, there were only fifteen or so riders in the group of favourites, just 30 seconds down on the escapees.
On the final lap, a group of eight eventually took shape thanks to forcing from Uran, while Bernal was increasingly to the fore on the run-in. The front group split and reformed repeatedly in the closing kilometres, however, and it was Osorio and Contreras who slipped away in the finale, with the Colombian champion coming out on the top.
Behind, the finale was marred by a late crash, with Oscar Sevilla (Medellin) among the fallers. The 47-year-old, who shone on stage 2, was taken to hospital after the stage with injuries to his face and shoulder.
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