Australian criterium champion Kaden Groves avoided the carnage to sprint to a strong second place on stage four of the CRO Race.
The Tour of Slovakia stage winner made it over the final climb of the day, before dodging a series of crashes and powering to his second top-three finish of the race.
A strong breakaway group of seven riders escaped early on the 197km stage and the peloton were made to work hard to bring the last of the escapees back ahead of the finishing circuit in Crikvenica.
Team BikeExchange put Tsgabu Grmay to work on the front of the bunch and it was eventually all back together ahead of the final climb of the day with 10km to go. GC contender Simon Yates kept a watchful eye on proceedings over the top with Groves on his back wheel, but despite splits opening up, it was back together again as the pack raced back into town.
The narrow streets and tight turns made for a hectic finale, with Groves narrowly avoiding a crash inside the final kilometre. With just a handful of riders left to contest the sprint, the 22-year-old bided his time before launching his kick for the line and taking a strong second place behind stage two winner Olav Kooij.
“It was a pretty easy day until the last 50km, then we raced into a sketchy circuit, about 10km around. The boys did a really good job of positioning us into the lap the first time.
The KOM wasn’t really long enough for anyone to animate it, so I got over in the front group with Simon, Andrey, Tsgabu and Callum. Then it was super messy with teams just fighting for position into the technical final corners because there were corners at 2.5km, two and 1.5km and within the final kilometre there were plenty of turns.
I had to spend quite a lot of energy in the final kilometre getting myself into position because I was too far back, but in the end it worked out well and I avoided the crash with 400 metres to go.
I had really good legs but just fell short of the winner. Again I got to show my form is really good and now it’s on to tomorrow with Simon, it’s a good opportunity for him and everything is looking promising so hopefully we catch a break soon.”
2021 CRO Race Stage 4 – Results:
1. Olav Kooij 4:49:16
2. Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange) ST
3. Josip Rumac ST
Photo Courtesy of the CRO Race.
— Team BikeExchange to www.greenedgecycling.com