Gavin Mannion (Bontrager Livestrong) delivered a strong sixth place finish on the taxing opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge, covering 202.1km from Durango to Telluride, and just four days shy of turning 21 he received an early birthday present in the best young rider's jersey.
The UCI Continental development squad has been a consistent force at the USA's premier stage races, with a series of top-ten stage finishes at the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Utah plus strong performances in the young rider classification. Mannion's teammate Joe Dombrowski finished second in the young rider classification at the Amgen Tour of California, and recently Dombrowski claimed the young rider jersey at the Tour of Utah. And in between those two American stage races Dombrowski won the biggest race of his career, Italy's GiroBio, collecting two stage victories en route to the general classification title.
Here in Colorado, the young rider classification has already seen its first major selection on the opening stage as only five U23 riders finished in the 57-man lead group in Telluride on Monday. Mannion finished the highest on the stage, in sixth, and claimed the jersey while teammate Joe Dombrowski, George Bennett (RadioShack-Nissan) and EPM-Une's Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez and Javier Eduardo Gomez Pineda are all tied on time. The next closest rider on the classification, Taylor Phinney (BMC) trails by nearly 13 minutes.
Mannion spoke to Cyclingnews prior to the start of the USA Pro Challenge's second stage, 159.6km from Montrose to Mt. Crested Butte, and was steadfast in his commitment to retain the jersey on the uphill finale. He spoke about the difficult opening stage and the team's other option in Joe Dombrowski should he falter on the steep final kilometre to Mt. Crested Butte.
At the conclusion to today's stage the best young rider jersey would indeed move to Dombrowski's shoulders, with Mannion in second on the classification at nine seconds.