By the narrowest of margins, Evan Huffman added yet another win to his impressive 2017 season Thursday.
Already boasting an overall win at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and two stage wins in the Tour of California earlier this year, the Rally Cycling rider won the Skyliners Time Trial, the second stage of the pro men’s Cascade Cycling Classic.
The out-and-back 14.3-mile course along Skyliners Road in west Bend featured a gradual climb followed by a descent.
Huffman’s winning time was 28 minutes, 41.21 seconds, just 0.51 seconds ahead of second-place Gavin Mannion of UnitedHealthcare, who gained the overall lead with his ride on a warm and sunny Thursday. Robin Carpenter of Holowesko/Citadel was third, 5.65 seconds behind Huffman.
Mannion has just a one-second lead in the overall standings on Carpenter, the defending CCC champion, and a three-second lead on Huffman, who finished third overall in the 2016 CCC.
“Today was really good,” said Huffman, 27 and from El Dorado Hills, California. “I like this course a lot. It reminds me a little of Gila. It’s a pretty hilly course, but not super steep, so I was able to really use my power on the downhill, and I felt good and I think I paced it well. I definitely rode really hard on the uphill.”
Rally Cycling is having a superb year, and Huffman said he is reaping the benefits of being more relaxed in his second year on the team.
“We have a really good group of guys who work well together,” Huffman said. “Everyone supports each other. I’m just a lot more relaxed in the races and off my bike as well. I’m more confident. That’s helped me to really perform better.”
Just three seconds behind Mannion, Huffman hopes to ride into the yellow jersey in today’s 107-mile Cascade Lakes Road Race. The new finish at Kapka Butte Sno-park, though, features more of a sustained climb to the finish line than in years past, which might favor Mannion, who is more of a climber.
“We definitely want to try to keep me in GC (general classification, or overall) contention or take the jersey if possible,” Huffman said. “But it’s going to be a tough few days of racing. Carpenter is really strong and has a strong team behind him, as well as Gavin (Mannion).”
Mannion, 25 and of Fort Collins, Colorado, said he was satisfied with his time trial performance on Thursday, but he noted that he was frustrated to lose a time trial by less than a second for the second time this year.
He said the race could very well come down to Sunday’s final stage, the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race in Bend. He also has two teammates in the top five: Daniel Eaton is 16 seconds back, and Alexander Cataford is 18 seconds back.
“It’s definitely a super close race, and I think it will probably come down to Sunday, as this race normally does,” Mannion said. “I think we have some numbers to play for the rest of the week. I think it’s going to come down to the wire.”
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