I think we can safely say that this year’s Amgen Tour of California – often a showcase for American riders (or at least American teams!) was stolen by a Slovakian on an Italian team. He might not have won the overall but I suspect Peter Sagan’s performance will be the one remembered when people think back to this in a year’s time. He started as he meant to finish with the first four stage wins of the eight-stage race and the final stage sprint in LA.
Four in a row
Peter Sagan’s first stage win was not a given, considering that he had a puncture inside the 8km mark, when the speed was starting to really ratchet up, and his wheel change was not the speediest.
Riding like he was being chased, he somehow missed a massive pile-up to cross the finish line before Garmin’s Heinrich Haussler and Team Exergy’s Freddie Rodriguez to take the young rider’s jersey, the sprints jersey and the leader’s yellow jersey.
Amazingly, stages two, three and four were also Sagan-Haussler one-twos. It was only third place that changed hands: Orica-GreenEDGE’s Leigh Howard (stage two); OPQS’s Tom Boonen (stage three) and Rabobank’s Michael Matthews (stage four).
Captain America’s day in the sun
Garmin-Barracuda’s time trial specialist Dave Zabriskie (aka Captain America) took the individual time trial on stage five – and with it the leader’s jersey – with Jens Voigt (that’s 40-year old veteran Jens Voigt) in second, just 23 seconds off the pace. Tejay van Garderen of BMC came in 11 seconds slower than Voigt.
Just to put this in perspective, Jens is 17 years older than Tejay. 17 years! Jens is Tejay plus a teenager. Hell yeah!
He rode the stage alone. All of it. Alone
On stage six AG2R’s Sylvain Georges rode himself inside out in a breakaway that lasted the entire stage and, with the peloton bearing down on him, took the stage with an epic ride. And who was second? Peter SuperSagan … He was nearly there on a stage that had a couple of big climbs, including a 2,210m summit on the way to Big Bear Lake. Food for thought.
Gesink on the switchbacks
Stage seven culminated in a monster climb to Mt Baldy with its ten switchbacks before a small straight and then a further five switchbacks to the line. It was a pretty sure thing that Dave Zabriskie would lose the yellow jersey on this stage and it was Rabobank’s Robert Gesink, rockin’ and rollin’ his way up the mountain, who took the stage and the yellow jersey. And ultimately the entire Tour.
Stage eight was Robbie McEwen’s swansong, the one sprint profile in the race that actually suited him. However, as much as the entire racing fanbase might have been willing him to end his career with an emphatic sprint win, it was once again Peter Sagan who took the victory from a rampaging Tom Boonen. Robbie bowed out by finishing 16th.
1. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 30:42:32
2. David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:46
3. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:54
4. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +1:17
5. Fabio Duarte (Colombia-Coldeportes) +1:36
6. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2:13
7. Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank) +2:30
8. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) +2:49
9. Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) +2:54
10. Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) +3:05
Link: Preview, Official website
Sagan was immense. Many of his five wins were on stages which featured good amounts of climbing, but it was his ride to second on the decidedly vertical stage six which really impressed. With another year’s experience under his belt, I think he’ll be a real challenger to Tom, Fabian and Philippe in the Classics next year.
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