Two years ago, the Jelly Belly team was shut out of all of the big UCI stage races in the USA, but after regaining their status as one of the Continental team invitees, they can now chalk up a major stage podium placing thanks to Serghei Tvetcov's third place in the queen stage of the USA Pro Challenge at Monarch Mountain in Colorado.
Tvetcov made it across to the front group when his large chasing bunch that had been split off on the first climb rejoined the leaders in the valley in Salida, before the final ascent.
As the only rider from his team in the move, and with all of the big guns from BMC, Garmin, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek trading blows, Tvetcov was in a position to simply bide his time and then go for the best result that he could.
"Serghei did great, he raced perfectly," team manager Danny van Haute said. "With 30km out all he had to do was sit in. There was no reason to break away from that group, or do any work on the front. He didn't do anything, we just hoped for the best and the best happened."
Tvetcov was also pleased with his finish, which he called the best of his career. "The climb fit me because it's not steep and it was kind of a headwind. Everyone attacked, and I just waited. With 1km to go Tejay [van Garderen] jumped with Rafal Majka, but it was too fast for me. Carter Jones went, and I sat on his wheel, and when he slowed down, I went my own tempo. When I saw 100m to go, I knew it was almost over."
The Romanian-registered rider said it would change his tactics a bit from last year, when he went in several breakaways before the Vail time trial, and then suffered from the efforts.
Tvetcov now has the Vail time trial in his mind, now that he is fifth overall, only 36 seconds down on van Garderen. "I hope [to do well]," he said. "Last year I was 12th place, but I was two days in the breakaway before that. I will hopefully save some energy before then."
The result on Monarch Mountain was the best result of Tvetcov's young career, and the 25-year-old is now the team's genuine general classification hopeful.
Van Haute was thrilled to have him earn such a high placing, and with the opportunity to be at the race at all. "We're really excited to be here at the USA Pro Challenge. We wanted to be here and compete, This is our Superbowl of cycling and we just kicked a field goal," he smiled.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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