Fayetteville, Arkansas – Neilson Powless moved into third overall Friday at the Joe Martin Stage Race after teammates Geoffrey Curran and Phil O'Donnell (pictured above) represented the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team in a nearly race-long breakaway.
Powless is 11 seconds off the lead of Thursday's individual time trial winner Janier Acevedo (Team Jamis) after finishing 20th in Friday's 177-kilometer road race that was run under sunny skies in mild temperatures.
Sebastian Haedo gave Team Jamis its second straight stage win, two seconds ahead of a group of 19 that included Powless. Axeon Hagens Berman's Justin Oien finished 24th, 10 seconds back and O'Donnell was 50th and in a group that was a further six seconds back.
Curran and O'Donnell were part of a breakaway of nearly two dozen riders that broke free fewer than 20 km in and enjoyed as much as a five-minute lead. With Curran sitting only 20 seconds off the lead, he enjoyed the "virtual" race lead. But with less than 25 km to go, the escape group began to split up, with five riders eventually leaving the rest behind.
"Geoffrey and Phil both took a lot of responsibility in the breakaway and just didn't quite have it in the end to mark those five guys," Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said. "I am really happy with how they got out there and rode with authority and tried to turn the race in our favor. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Chad Young said when word came down that the breakaway had split, the other Axeon Hagens Berman riders went to work.
"About 15 kilometers from the finish, Jeff told us to chase down the break because a group of five broke away from the front group and Phil and Geoffrey weren't in it," Young said. "Jonny Brown, Justin, and eventually Phil and I worked to chase back the break. We got the five guys that were left, but maybe five stayed away, just to the line. Some of them got passed by sprinters in the field, though."
Saturday's 176-km stage is another road race comprising four laps of a challenging circuit.
"It looks like more climbing, probably a harder stage overall," Young said. "It will be important to preserve Geoffrey's and Phil's positions on the GC (general classification."
After Powless, Curran is the team's next-best placed rider in the overall standings in 16th, 44 seconds back.
"All the guys are riding well," Louder said. "We will keep being aggressive."