Salinas, California - The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team made its presence felt on Tuesday’s stage 3 at the Tour of California. Sean Bennett dueled with eventual stage-winner Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) in a penultimate move that earned him a 2nd place finish and place on the podium. Ian Garrison spent significant time in the main breakaway of the day earning the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey in the process.
From the outset, Garrison and the breakaway put significant time on the main group, 5’ at its greatest, and it, along with the four climbs throughout the stage, ensured that the field would be greatly reduced as the race progressed. When breakaway rider Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) was dropped on the East Carmel Valley Road KOM and teammate Evan Huffman suffered a mechanical, Garrison forged on alone, laying his path to the Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
Garrison was eventually caught by Skujins and Axeon Alumnus Logan Owen (EF Education First-Drapac). After Skujins took off alone, Bennett made a move of his own to to bridge up to the rider that has had a knack for finding victory in California.
Throughout the season, Bennett has earned multiple top ten finishes. Though he has always been pleased with his results, he has felt confident in his ability to do more. It was only a matter of time before the California native earned the top 5 finish he had been chasing.
“I knew I wanted to do something today and I saw that a few of the guys were going to make a move at the base of the climb so I followed,” said Bennett. Then I just set a good pace up the climb and it was Toms and I over the top. I ended up doing a lot of work to keep our gap out and just couldn’t quite hang on over the top of the final riser.”
Bennett, a true competitor, was immediately thinking about how close he came to claiming the top spot, remarking how his 2nd place finish was what he knew he was capable of, but also frustrating being that close to winning.
“It was a great day having Hagens Berman Axeon in the front of the race from start to finish,” said sport director Jeff Louder. “Having Ian in the early break was our first goal. The fact that he was able to go deep into the finale of such a long and hard stage was great confirmation of his talents as a rouleur. And then to see Bennett take the race by the horns and effect the final outcome with his aggressive riding was amazing. Being an opportunist is all about not being afraid to take advantage of the situation and these guys should both be very satisfied.”
Wednesday's stage 4 is a 34.7 km individual time trial around Silicon Valley. The racing starts at 12:55 pm PDT.
(Photo: Davey Wilson)