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After a hectic chase that left Etixx-QuickStep short on manpower, Cavendish easily beat Waeytens and Sagan to take his third win in the Tour of California; Skujins defended his lead

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step/ Tim De Waele










15.05.2015 @ 01:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After yesterday’s disappointment, Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) found back to his winning ways when he took a hugely dominant sprint win on stage 5 of the Tour of California. A hard chase had left Etixx-QuidkStep short on manpower but the Brit negotiated the wet finale perfectly to distance Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) by a clear margin. Toms Skujins (Hincapie) survived the treacherous conditions to defend his overall lead,


Yesterday Mark Cavendish saw his winning streak in the Tour of California sprints being broken when he had to settle for third behind Peter Sagan and Wouter Wippert in a very technical uphill sprint on stage 4 of the Tour of California. Afterwards, he admitted to having hesitated a bit in the tricky finale and so he was determined to make up for the mistake in today’s stage five which was the final opportunity for the sprinters before the two big GC days.


Cavendish managed to put things straight on a very wet day in California as he turned out to be clearly the fastest in the bunch sprint that decided the race after a big crash had split the field in the finale. He seemed to be at ease when he powered clear of Zico Waeytens and Peter Sagan to take a comfortable win.


However, it was no easy task for Etixx-QuickStep to set up the expected bunch sprint. A very strong breakaway proved to be much harder to catch than expected and they had to use a lot of firepower to bring them back.


Danilo Wyss (BMC), Geoffrey Curran (Axeon) and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) were the surviving members of the early break and they had been chased hard by Etixx-QuickStep, Tinkoff-Saxo, Drapac and the Hincapie riders for most of the team. In the finale, Sky had also come to the fore while Tinkoff-Saxo were short of manpower and had backed off.


With 10km to go, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Etixx-QuickStep) and the Hincapie riders blew up and it was now left to Drapac and Sky to bring the leaders back. Etixx-QuickStep knew that they were about to lose it all and so they sacrificed lead-out man Matteo Trentin before Stijn Vandenbergh, Van Keirsbulck and Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) found some resources to get back on the front.


With the gap down to 20 seconds, a big crash near the front brought down lots of riders. At the same time, Wyss attacked from the breakaway and he immediately distanced his companions.


Howes sat up and waited for the peloton while Curran tried to make it back to the lone Swiss who entered the final 5km with an advantage of 15 seconds. In the peloton, it was now Etixx-QuickStep all over the place, with Trentin and Van Keirsbulck chasing hard.


With 4km to go, Curran was brought back and now Wyss was also starting to fade. He did his best to keep the peloton at bay but on a small climb with 3km to go, he was brought back.


Van Keirsbulck swung off and left it to Yves Lampaert to set the pace as they entered the final 3km. Tinkoff-Saxo briefly hit the front before LottoNL-Jumbo took over with Sep Vanmarcke leading sprinter Tom Van Asbroeck into position


Vanmarcke swung off and it was now Michael Mørkøv to setting the pace for Tinkoff-Saxo. However, he had the Etix-QuickStep train on his wheel and as they passed the flamme rouge, the Belgian team took over.


Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and Daniel Oss (BMC) both took a turn but Mark Renshaw, Cavendisg and Sagan were lined out behind the Italian. That put the Australian in the perfect position to do his lead-out and everything seemed to be perfect for Cavendish.


However, Renshaw had hit the front too early and as he started to fade, Waeytens launched a long sprint. Cavendish reacted quickly to move onto the wheel of the young Belgian and from here the outcome was never in doubt. When he opened the gas, he easily passed his rival and rolled across the line with a big winning margin.


Toms Skujins avoided the crash and even though Sagan reduced his overall deficit to 18 seconds, the Latvian defended his lead. He takes it into the first big GC stage of the race tomorrow which is the day of the time trial. However, bad weather have forced the organizers to change the original 24.2km course at altitude to a short, flat 10km test at sea level. Nonetheless, the stage will offer the GC riders a first chance to make a difference.



A lumpy stage

After yesterday’s lumpy stage, it was a very similar affair in stage 5 which brought the riders over 154km from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. After a flat start, the riders got to a rolling section with four smaller climbs before they tackled the final 40km that were a long gradual uphill to the finish.


For the first time, the riders didn’t have great weather when they gathered for the start as it was a cloudy day with light rain. Many riders had expected that it could be a day for a breakaway and so it was a bit of a surprise that the sprint teams managed to send a small 5-rider move off after just a few minutes of racing.


Wyss scores KOM points

Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), Geoffrey Curran (Axeon) and Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) had an advantage of 15 seconds after 7km of racing but they had to fight hard to get a bigger advantage. At the 12km mark, they had extended it to 35 seconds and as the peloton slowed down it went out to 1.35 2km later.


The gap went out to 3 minutes before the Hincapie team started to chase, keeping the gap stable for a while Wyss beat Howes, Curran and Morton in the first KOM sprint. Just 4km later, the Swiss repeated the performance on the second climb where he relegated Morton, Megias and Howes to the minor positions.


The peloton accelerates

Hincapie kept the gap at 3 minutes as they approached the first intermediate sprint. Here Howes was first across the line, followed by Curran and Wyss.


The riders went up the only category 3 climb of the day and here it was Morton who took maximum points, followed by Megias, Howes, Curran and Wyss. The peloton climbed significantly faster though and at the top, the gap was only 2.15.


Vandenbergh start to chase

It now started to rain heavily and rider had to put on rain jackets. This was not to the liking of Megias who was briefly dropped from the break before he rejoined his companions.


The gap was kept stable at around 2.30 as big Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) was now working with the Hincapie riders on the front. Meanwhile, Wyss led Howes and Curran across the line in the second sprint.


More teams come to the fore

The chase got more organized after the feed zone as Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) and a Drapac rider started to work with Vandenbergh and the Hincapie riders. As they entered the final 70km, they had brought the gap down to 2 minutes.


The gap stayed between 2.00 and 2.30 as they went up the final categorized climb. Here Chris Butler (Smartstop) decided to try a solo move and while Morton led Curran, Howes and Wyss over the top, he quickly built an advantage.


Butler attacks

Butler nearly went down as he missed a turn on the descent but he managed to stay upright to continue his attempt to get across. He got to within 1.30 of the leaders but as he hit flat roads, his progress stalled.


With 55km to go, Etixx-QuickStep added another rider to the chase as Martin Velits started to swap turns with Hernandez, Vandenbergh, the Drapac rider and the Hincapie domestiques. As they hit a small uncategorized climb, his climbing skills allowed him to again get closer.


Butler makes it across

At the top of the climb, the escapees were only 45 seconds ahead of Butler but the peloton had also made a lot of progress as they were only 1.25 behind. Butler made use of the final small rise to close the final bit of the gap and he made the junction with 47km to go.


The peloton took it easy and allowed the gap to grow back up to 1.45 while Butler and Megias were distanced on the descent. Later Morton also lost contact and Wyss, Curran and Howes had to plan to wait for them as they hit the gas as soon as they got to the flat roads.


The peloton ups the pace

Mark Renshaw led the peloton down the descent before Vandenbergh, Velits Hernandez and Hincapie went back to work. However, Drapac had now disappeared from the front.


Butler, Morton and Megias joined forces but they had no chance to come back. With 35km to go, they had already lost 45 seconds while the peloton was 2 minutes behind.


The peloton reacted strongly to the faster pace but as they entered the final 30km they still had to make up 2.10. Moments later, Morton and Megias were brought back Butler continued to press on before hw also had to surrender.


More teams start to chase

Even though Velits was no longer working in the front, theescaoees started to lose ground,. As they entered the final 20km, the gap was 1.50.


The gap was coming down too slowly and this forced more teams into action. Martin Kohler and Jordan Kerby started to work for Drapac and Tinkoff-Saxo also put Matti Breschel on the front to work with Hernandez, Vandenbergh and a host of Hincapie riders.


Strong effort by the escapees

Guillaume Van keirsbulck came to the fore Etixx-QuickStep and William Clarke started to work for Drapac and the added firepower paid off. With 12km to go, the gap was 1.05.


The early workers now swung off and so it was left to Clarke, Van Keirsbulck and several Hincapie riders were left to do the work. They only made inroads very slowly and so Sky also started to work with Danny Pate.



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