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Stephens  sprints  to victory,  Neben retains yellow

Following an emotional week for Axeon Hagens Berman, Australian cyclist, Michael Rice sprinted across the line to take the victory for the team on stage 3 circuit road race in Highland Friday. Holowesko I Citadel’s TJ

Eisenhart was not far off his wheel to finish second, followed by Canyon Bicycle Pro Cycling’s Francisco Mancebo in third.

“It’s been a really emotional week, and a tough week for everyone, not just for the team,” Rice said at the finish. “It’s really nice to get the win for Chad today. He was a really close friend of mine actually, so it definitely means a lot.”

Axeon Hagens Berman chose to race this week despite Chad Young passing less than a week ago. “There’s mixed emotions there,” Rice added. “Certainly being together as a group this week to support each other and get through it the best we can has turned out. I think it’s been the best thing.”

The 93km circuit proved to be a contested GC battle compared to previous editions, as several teams were hoping to gain valuable seconds with the intermediate time bonuses and seconds available for the top three finishers. Holowesko controlled the race throughout the day, setting the pace and keeping a tight leash on a 7-man break that had grown to 9 before delivering Eisenhart near the front at the final turn, to contest for the stage.

“I felt good on the climb the whole day,” Eisenhart said. “Robin [Carpenter] would usually win on a day like this had he not been working all day. He was still up there, so I just stayed on his wheel coming into the final corner. I saw Haedo (UHC) go, and Rice on my right and the three of us went. Rice just had the jump on me early and I was not able to close it – which is a bummer. I really wanted to win for the guys today, but second is good enough I guess. I put a little more time in [on GC].”

Eisenhart (Holowesko) maintains a 42-second lead ahead of Mannion (UHC) and 45-seconds ahead of McNulty (Rally), after earning the 6-second time bonus for finishing second on the stage.

Earlier in the day during the women’s race, Team TIBCO’s Lauren Stephens took the victory for the second time in her career on the Highland circuit.

Sho-Air Twenty20’s Leah Thomas finished just behind in second for the second time this week after her second place in the time trial. UnitedHealthcare’s Ruth Winder was a repeat as well, rounding out the podium in third, after finishing in third on stage 1.

Stephens (TIBCO) and Thomas (Sho-Air) spent most of the day as part of a

7-rider breakaway after Rise Racing’s Jamie Gilgen had been the first to attack from the field, spending several laps solo before being caught by the chase.

“To come out here and win today is great,” Stephens said. “I suffered in the head yesterday; I don’t know how I made it to the top.”

Stephens had suffered a mechanical during the opening stage time trial, having to fix the problem without any assistance.

“It’s so disappointing standing on the side of the road during the time trial, fixing my own mechanical,” Stephens added. “I was really focused on today, I won this back in 2014 when they first brought the stage back. To come out here and win today is great.”