Centre-ville Saint-Georges, Canada - Greg Daniel's runner-up finish in Friday night's circuit race helped the U.S. national road champion increase his overall lead at the Tour de Beauce with two days of the race to go.
The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team rider now holds an 18-second advantage over Hugo Houle of the Canadian National Team after picking up a seven-second time bonus for his runner-up finish on the second of two stages Friday. In third overall is Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel presented by Hincapie Sportswear), 48 seconds back.
"The race was unbelievable," Daniel said. "It was like having a full WorldTour team lead-out the entire night. As soon as the break was established, our entire team went to the front to hold it at a close distance. I pretty much had to do nothing until the last 150 meters. I don't know how I am going to repay these guys. I can't tell you how unselfishly they are riding. I am very honored to have them riding so well."
Throughout the 78-kilometer race that comprised four laps of a lumpy circuit, the entirety of the Axeon Hagens Berman squad was at the front of the peloton, throttling the gap to the 11-rider breakaway.
"That group contained a few danger men in Luis Lemus (Cycling Academy Team) and Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber Pro Cycling)," Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said. "But the guys didn't panic and kept the move in check thanks to the work of Will Barta, Geoffrey Curran, Colin Joyce and Tyler Williams."
Daniel and his teammates had to safely navigate two danger points in the closing kilometers. One - a narrow bridge - was expected. The other, not so much.
"We came into a corner and all of a sudden there was wet cow poop everywhere," Daniel said. "That was sketchy. We were going into it and the Lupus Racing Team was on the right and Holowesko-Citadel was on our left. I moved right to kind of cut them off so our train was not pushed out and disorganized. But I feared that we might all slide out on that."
Approaching the bridge, Neilson Powless - winner of the morning's individual time trial - set a fierce pace at the front leading into the uphill finish.
"After Neilson pulled off, it was just Logan and me," Daniel said. "Holowesko-Citadel was leading out but going into the last left-hand bend, Logan ripped it and we blew past the lead-out trains. The stage winner, Michael Rice (Garneau Quebeco-GQC), was on my wheel and the three of us got a gap over the rest of the field because Logan hit it so fast. Michael had a good jump on me and I couldn't quite get to the finish line in first."
In addition to holding down the race lead since his runner-up finish on Stage 2 on Thursday, Daniel also continues to top the points classification and "best young rider" standings.
The 21-year-old from Sylva, North Carolina, said he is taking a "day-by-day, kilometer-by-kilometer" approach to the two remaining stages. Saturday is a 70-kilometer criterium at Ville de Québec consisting of 35 laps of a two-kilometer circuit. Sunday's finale is a 122.4-km race on 12 laps of a 10.2-km circuit.
"I am thinking about what we can do to hopefully save riders and save the team as much as possible," Daniel said. "That way, the guys stay relatively rested for when I need them. I am also trying to stay fresh because at some point, I might have to defend the jersey myself."
(Photo ©copyright Casey B. Gibson.)