While Europe is focussed on the Giro d’Italia, the biggest race on the US calendar – the eight-day Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) – kicks off today. We’ll be bringing you a full review at the end of the race, but check back here for quick daily updates (little ticks, if you will) from an event which features star names such as Peter Sagan (winner of five stages last year), Tejay van Garderen, Thomas de Gendt, Dave Zabriskie, Andy Schleck, Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel and recent VeloVoices interviewee Jens Voigt.
Stage 1: Escondido, 165km
Westra burns the bunch A very late attack from Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) stymied the chasing peloton as the Dutch national time-trial champion took a surprise victory in Escondido under brutally hot conditions. Only Francisco Mancebo (5-hour-Energy-Kenda) could follow Westra’s late attack but he was no match for the Dutchman in the final metres. The temperature and a late mechanical left Peter Sagan off the top step of the podium but he managed to be the best of the rest for third.
Stage 2: Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs, 198km
Acevedo aces the Tramway Road The riders were thrown from the frying pan into the fire on stage two with temperatures reaching 111ºF (44ºC) as they entered Palm Springs. An early break containing Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) gained an astounding 12:15 on the peloton before BMC and Saxo-Tinkoff gave chase and slowly reeled them in. The final Tramway Road to the finish proved to be brutally challenging as it exploded the peloton with gaps emerging as soon as the climb started. An elite group containing most of the favorites formed but it was Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) along with Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who distanced everyone and rode to the red kite together. At 500 metres Acevedo pounced for the win and the overall GC lead. Van Garderen was second on the stage, at 12 seconds and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) was third, at 27 seconds. The US domestic teams showed the WorldTour teams that they have come to race in California!
Stage 3: Palmdale to Santa Clarita, 177km
Sagan sizzles in Santa Clarita Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won today’s stage by more than a pinch, out-sprinting Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), who were second and third respectively. Early crosswinds and several attacks ultimately resulted in a breakaway of four riders including stage-1-winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM). He was joined by Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), Chad Beyer (Champion System), and Gavin Mannion (Bontrager). That’s right, you’ve read that correctly. Andy Schleck was in the break. The four held off the main field until about 16km from the finish where multiple teams attempted to take control. Garmin, OPQS, UnitedHealthcare, Cannondale, and Saxo-Tinkoff all tried taking control but no team could manage the chaos as the riders came into Santa Clarita. After the final turn at about 800m, the action hit boiling point. Orica-GreenEDGE flew up the right-hand side with Matthews in tow but Sagan came sizzling off his wheel to take his 9th career win in California!
Stage 4: Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, 134 km
Farrar doubles up on the day for Garmin American veteran sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) won stage four in commanding style, taking a second win for Garmin on the day after his teammate Ramunas Navardauskas won stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia with a solo break. Stage four in California seemed destined for a bunch sprint and Farrar took full advantage, out-kicking Ken Hanson (Optum) in second, and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) in third. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, who netted his ninth career victory in the race in stage three, came in a disappointing fifth after having to sprint from quite a ways back due to poor positioning in the final metres. The general classification remained unchanged with Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) maintaining his overall lead.
Stage 5: Santa Barbara to Avila Beach, 185 km
Jens Voigt storms Avila Beach With 50km to go in stage five, strong winds splintered the peloton into six echelons as Radioshack purposely hammered on the front causing major damage behind. Eighteen riders made the elite, high-powered, front group. Among them were overall race favorites Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff). Also present were Jens Voigt, Matthew Busche, and Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Leopard); Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp); Thor Hushovd, and Michael Schär (BMC Racing); Baden Cooke, Mitchell Docker, Michael Matthews, and Christian Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge); Jonathan Cantwell, and Jay McCarthy (Saxo-Tinkoff); Alex Candelario (Optum); Peter Sagan(Cannondale); and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM). This group of mostly WorldTour riders would not be seen again by the rest of the field until after the finish. Missing from the group was race leader, Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman). With 5km to go, “the Jensie” attacked his companions and instantly opened up a 10-second gap. Docker and De Gendt tried to chase the German down but Jens would not be denied. The group couldn’t bring the 41-year old back in time. Voigt rolled over the line celebrating his devastating final move – a popular winner with the American fans. Tyler Farrar finished second and Thor Hushovd nabbed third. Tejay van Garderen took the overall race lead. Michael Rogers now sits 42 seconds down on GC in second place. Former leader Janier Acevedo has dropped 50 seconds back in third.
Stage 6: San Jose, 31.6km individual time trial
Van Garderen consolidates overall lead Tejay van Garderen bolstered his position at the top of the standings by winning the individual time trial, putting over a minute into second-placed Michael Rogers to extend his overall lead to 1:47. On a flowing course with a draining 3km climb at the end, van Garderen judged his effort beautifully as he charged up the ascent to finish 23 seconds ahead of stage one winner Lieuwe Westra in a time of 48:52, who in turn was five seconds quicker than third-placed man Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp). Rogers was fourth in 49:57, building a sizeable cushion over new third-placed man Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE), with van Garderen’s BMC teammate Matthias Frank now fourth. Janier Acevedo has dropped from first to third to fifth in consecutive days.
Stage 7: Livermore to Mt. Diablo, 146km
Konig is king of the queen stage, Van Gerderen seals the lead. Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) won stage seven with a late attack on Janier Acevedo as the two approached the final metres on the summit of Mt. Diablo. With 3km remaining, Acevedo surged out of the group of remaining elite riders in a effort to steal the third podium spot from Cameron Meyer. Seeing an opportunity for the stage win, Konig quickly bridged up. With 300 metres to go Konig turned on the afterburners leaving Acevedo, who just did enough to recapture third overall. Tejay Van Garderen kept his cool as his team drilled on the front to keep the time gaps under control. He retained his 1:47 lead over Michael Rogers and holds a 3:26 advantage over Acevedo going into the final stage.