Sergio Henao won the third stage of the Tour of the Basque country, once again putting the pressure on his blue and black brothers in the Sky classics squad.
The Colombian beat Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in a tight death match sprint on the steep climb to Trapagaran. Somewhere down in Colombia, Henao’s former DS Santiago Botero is toasting the victory.
With the stage win Henao also takes the overall lead with his team captain Richie Porte just ten seconds back. If you’re Geraint Thomas or Ian Stannard you’re cheering but also going, shit, we really need to do something in Paris-Roubiax this weekend. Sky is all about results and the pressure is building: this is the Hell of High Expectations.
Put Sky in a stage race and the odds are, they’ll win the final prize. So far this year they have the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and Volta a Catalunya in the win list. Meanwhile G and his classics team keep hoping for a lucky break.
Maybe they got one today in the sprinters semi-classic Scheldeprijs when Tour of Flanders champion Fabian Cancellara went down in a case. The team doctor says Spartacus has a contusion near his right hip. Given the dominant fashion in which we won the Ronde, any percentage points off his form will give Sky — and everyone else — reason to hope for a miracle.
In the Basque Country, Henao and Sky are firmly in control. “We will play two cards. Richie is going well and we know how strong he is against the clock,” said Henao. “The important thing is that victory stays in the team. I feel good, I feel strong and I am motivated after this victory. We’ll try and do everything we can.”
It’s clear that Henao has learned to play the team game — a mindset that Botero told me is difficult for young Colombian riders to develop when it seems that personal results are their only ticket to a better contract.
Come Sunday Edvald Boasson Hagen and Geraint Thomas will have to pray to the Cycling Gods for good luck and fantastic legs. They have cards to play but no aces in the deck.