Colombian Alvaro Hodeg of Deceuninck-Quick-Step team celebrates on the podium after winning the second stage of the Tour Colombia on Wednesday. Photo: Luis Eduardo Noriega/EPA

MEDELLIN – Colombian Alvaro Hodeg took over the orange leader’s jersey at the Tour Colombia after winning Wednesday’s second stage in La Ceja.

The 22-year-old Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter relieved his more decorated compatriot Rigoberto Uran of the overall race lead, thanks to time bonuses on the stage.

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome finished safely in the bunch.

Estonia’s Martin Lass took second in the bunch sprint at the end of the 150.5km stage, with Colombian Sebastian Molano third.

The stage’s big favourite and local hero Fernando Gaviria was nowhere to be seen in the final dash to the line.

“This victory... is the best of my career so far,” said Hodeg, who at 1.90m cuts a distinctive figure amongst the posse of diminutive Colombian climbers.

Uran, the Tour de France runner-up in 2017, took the race lead on Tuesday when his Education First Drapac outfit won the opening 14km team time-trial.

Froome is taking part in his first race of the season as he bids to regain the Tour crown he lost to compatriot and Sky teammate Geraint Thomas in 2018.

Altitude will play a crucial role in July’s Tour de France, with seven climbs rising above 2 000m, including the Col de l’Iseran, the highest paved mountain in Europe at 2 770m.

Four of Tour Colombia’s six stages are set entirely above 2 000 meters.

Froome has spent two weeks training in Colombia ahead of the race, and described it as “a fantastic place to train in terms of the altitude”.

Uran’s teammates Daniel Martinez and Lawson Craddock are now second and third overall.

Thursday and Friday’s stages are almost entirely flat street circuits, but after Saturday’s hilly route, Sunday’s finale finishes on the steep Alto de Palmas summit.

That is where the overall standings will likely be decided, with a host of Colombian climbers expected to be in the mix, including Uran, last year’s winner Egan Bernal, former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana champion Nairo Quintana and prospect Miguel Angel Lopez.

AFP