Over a year since Ecuador feted its Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz, another rider from the South American country stood atop the podium after stage 3 of the 2020 edition as Jonathan Caicedo celebrated victory on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Caicedo was not initially part of a day-long breakaway that went clear from the gun, but he bridged across to the move containing teammate Lawson Craddock along with Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) in the first 20km of the 150km stage to the volcano. Then, with 14km still to go on the 18.6km final climb, Caicedo and Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-KTM) left the rest of the escape group behind. Visconti tried to attack the Ecuadorian but the move backfired, and Caicedo blasted up the mountain to claim his first professional win.
"I can't really believe it yet, it's a dream that's come true," Caicedo said.
Caicedo is 27 but only joined the WorldTour in 2019 with EF Pro Cycling after catching the eye of CEO Jonathan Vaughters. He made steady progress in his first season, winning both national championships and learned the ropes in last year's Giro d'Italia. After finishing third to teammates Sergio Higuita and Dani Martinez in the Tour Colombia 2.1 in January, his promise became more clear but for him to take a GrandTour stage victory was still a bit of a surprise, even for Caicedo.
"Last year something like this just seemed out of reach, we were trying and following, but this year it's good," he said. "When I attacked Visconti, he's obviously a guy with a lot of experience, I tried to get as much speed as possible to try and overtake him whilst also trying to save as much energy as possible before I got there. I took advantage of the moment and attacked and then managed to have enough in me to take it to the finish."
Caicedo could well have taken the leader's maglia rosa had he sprinted just a bit harder - but he finished the stage tied on time with João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and lost it by 0.28 seconds on the tie breaker, the fractions of seconds from the stage 1 time trial.
Still, it was job done for EF Pro Cycling who came into the race without a designated GC contender.
"We've come here looking for stages, I've now taken a stage, it's been a great one and we'll just see what the body does and how it responds over the next few days, and we'll keep trying to look for victories," Caicedo said.
Vaughters was thrilled to take a stage win so early in the race, in particular after being levied a 4500CHF fine for their irregular new kit for the race. "We proved that rain, UCI fines, and fans being scandalized by our new kit were all just … water off a duck's back," Vaughters quipped. "I'm so thrilled for Jonathan and for the whole team working together to make today's big win on the mountain happen. His ride was a surprise to most, and it had grit and style."
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