Higuita second overall in WorldTour debut

EF Education First Pro Cycling wins Amgen Tour of California team classification

“I’m very happy with the result and in the team. I’m learning a lot, and that’s the most important part.”

-Sergio Higuita

Sergio HiguitaSergio Higuita finished second overall at the Amgen Tour of California on Saturday. The young Colombian is 13 days into his neo-pro contract with EF Education First Pro Cycling, and the California stage race marked his WorldTour debut.

“I’m very happy with the result and in the team,” said Higuita. “I’m learning a lot, and that’s the most important thing.”

“His ride this week was exciting,” said sport director Tom Southam. “An emerging talent emerged.”

Higuita produced a stand-out effort in what proved to be an incredibly strong team effort throughout the week.

EF Education First Pro Cycling came to California to challenge for the overall victory and assumed the race lead early in the week. The team put on a bold, aggressive show on stage two, the first hilly route in the seven-day race. The collective effort earned Tejay van Garderen the yellow jersey. The American sat atop the general classification for four days.

With Tejay van Garderenvan Garderen in yellow, EF Education First Pro Cycling’s pink was a regular presence at the front of the peloton. Taylor Phinney, Alex HowesAlex Howes, Lawson Craddock and Lachlan MortonLachlan Morton spent the bulk of stages three, four, five and six controlling the race.

“We all came here wanting to race, switched on and looking to cause chaos.”

-Lawson Craddock

“We all came here switched on, wanting to race, looking to cause chaos,” said Lawson CraddockCraddock. “When we had the jersey this week, we raced absolutely perfect, we made no mistakes. I think what we did this week says a lot about this team’s character.”

Higuita flew under the radar until stage five. With Baldy looming, Higuita went on a seconds-seeking mission. It was mission accomplished. He collected seven seconds and gained five spots on the general classification.

EF Education First Pro Cycling started the Amgen Tour of California queen stage, the second-to-last day of racing, with three riders in the top ten: van Garderen in first, Higuita in sixth and Rigoberto UránRigoberto Uran in tenth.

Two kilometers from the summit of Mount Baldy, Higuita, climbing alone in the race lead, looked poised to take the stage six victory and potentially the overall jersey. Van Garderen had lost contact with the leaders several kilometers earlier, leaving Higuita to chase a result for the team.

“The stage was brutal,” said van Garderen. “I was missing something up that final climb. No excuses. I just didn’t have the legs. I wish I could have capped it off for my teammates. They were flawless. I’m glad Sergio was there to fly the flag for us, but I’m really bummed I wasn’t up there with him.”

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) reached Higuita’s wheel less than a kilometer from the mountaintop finish line and took a better line through the final corner. Higuita settled for second.

Craddock slipped away into the early escape.

“When I was in the break, and I heard there was another move of 14, 15 riders coming behind, and we had four guys in it? That was pretty special,” said Craddock. “In a nutshell, that tells you everything you need to now about how we raced this week.”

Despite the team’s efforts, the stage Saturday ended in a sprint. Higuita finished on bunch time to secure second overall. The entire team was able to join him on the podium to accept the team classification prize.

“We’re all really happy for Sergio,” said Southam. “I know it’s not a popular thing to say, but we’re also disappointed. There’s definitely an air of ‘what could have been.’ For all the times we haven’t won this race, that we’ve come second, we call came here believing this was our year. And then it didn’t happen. We’re happy for Sergio, but we all wanted more.”