Looking at the Colorado Classic overall standings, with two stages left in Denver on Saturday morning, most everyone figured the fight would be between overnight race leader TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel) and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), who was a single second behind.
Most expected Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) to attack the climbs on stage 3, but few might have expected that Manuel Senni (BMC Racing) would be in the race lead, and Howes and Eisenhart more than half a minute behind.
Senni was 32 seconds behind in the standings, but with a short, 128km circuit featuring one massive category 2 climb followed by a long descent punctuated by a second, short cat 4 classified climb he saw his opportunity. Like a modern-day Bernard Hinault, as long as Manuel Senni can breathe, he will attack. He punched it over the second climb, joined by Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) and the pair opened up a huge gap on the descent.
"I have in my DNA to attack, attack, attack," Senni said, "and it was a good day to do this.
"I also found a very strong guy [Tvetcov], who was really good in the descent and on the flat he really helped a lot."
Tvetcov, a local in these hills, said he was ready to take a risk on the wet descent, one he knows well after training there. "But Senni looks like he trains there every day, too."
They descended so fast they had more than a minute at the bottom of the descent, and despite having more than 30km still to race, they held almost that much at the finish. "We got to the bottom and it was a headwind, but then we turned into a tailwind. We knew it would be good for us. Then the gap was holding pretty much the same," Tvetcov said.
Senni is looking to grab his first overall victory after a season of audacious attacks. He has 15 seconds over Tvetcov in the general classification, and 31 on Howes.
"We have a very strong team and I think we can try to cooperate with some other teams," Senni said. "But, I think we have a good team to defend the jersey. I started the year with good results in Valencia and good results with the national team. I had bad luck at the Giro d'Italia as I started with a virus but after I did a month of good training at home before Utah where my legs were good and I was getting better day by day. Now I am here in the position to do a good result and I think until now, this is the best race of my career."
The Italian will leave BMC for the Bardiani-CSF squad next year, where he hopes to get more chances to show his abilities as he has in Colorado.
"The team manager approached me and made me an offer," Senni explained. "I think that in accepting I can have a lot of chances to be free and play my cards. I think especially for Italian riders, the Giro d'Italia is a good target, it's a dream race. This team will give me a good opportunity to try to do my best and I chose to go."