Santa Rosa de Viterbo – Rising star Sergio Higuita beat Tour de France champion Egan Bernal into second on Friday to claim victory on the fourth stage of the Tour Colombia and move into the overall lead.
The Colombian national road race champion timed his attack to perfection on the third category climb to the finish of the 169km stage from Paipa to Santa Rosa de Viterbo, with Bernal settling for second and French star Julian Alaphilippe third.
It was a repeat of the Colombian road race result earlier this month when Higuita pipped Bernal.
At just 22, a year younger than Bernal, Higuita is quickly making a name for himself and last year won a stage at the Vuelta a Espana before finishing 14th overall.
On the back of two successive sprint stages, Friday’s finishing climb gave the overall contenders a chance to shine but also pitted pure climbers like Higuita against puncheurs like Alaphilippe in a thrilling battle.
Bernal’s Ineos team took up the pace leading into the final climb and on its lower slopes as he and Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz looked to gain back some of the 46 seconds they lost to Higuita’s EF Pro Cycling squad on Tuesday’s opening team time-trial.
Higuita started the day second, but on the same time as team-mates Daniel Martinez and overnight leader Jonathan Caicedo.
As the leading group quickly dwindled on the climb, Martinez hit the deck in a moment of inattention with 4km to ride, although he rapidly caught the leaders.
Carapaz launched hostilities two kilometers from the line and built up a sizeable advantage.
Alaphilippe closed the gap and went past the Ecuadoran but with a few hundred meters left he ran out of steam, allowing Higuita to surge past.
Bernal had been on Higuita’s wheel but simply didn’t have the legs to haul him in and his Colombian compatriot even had time to sit up and celebrate his victory as he crossed the line.
Saturday’s penultimate stage is over 180km from Paipa to Zipaquira, Bernal’s adopted home.
The entire six-day tour is raced at above 2,500m with Sunday’s finale ending on the climb to the Puerto de El Verjon at 3,290m.