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"Today was a sprint, it's not for GC. Today was a very long climb, but it was in the middle of the stage, then it’s flat then the tough stages come the next days. For sure this year it will be very hard to be in the fron...

Photo: Tinkoff (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

RACE PROFILE
|
NEWS
16.05.2016 @ 13:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One year after his surprise overall victory, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) continued his love affair with the Tour of California by winning the bunch sprint on the first stage of the 2016 edition of the race. Timing his sprint in the strong headwind perfectly, the world champion managed to pass Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) just metres from the line to take both his 14th stage win in the American race and the first leader’s jersey.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Peter Sagan plays down GC expectations after stage 1 victory

The UCI World Road Race Champion, Peter Sagan, got his Amgen Tour of California campaign off to a perfect start sprinting to a resounding stage victory in San Diego. His first race back after a break following his successful classics campaign proved he is still riding strongly as he found a perfect opening in the hectic sprint finish to take the win and the first leader’s jersey with it.

 

Having marked out the first stage as one that suited Sagan, the team was ready to fight to the finish to get him into position to unleash his sprint effort. Having stayed out of trouble in the wheels during the majority of the stage, Tinkoff hit the front with 5km to race and stayed present around the head of the peloton until the finish straight, keeping Sagan near the front and able to find his opening in sight of the line.


Tinkoff's Sport Director in California, Patxi Vila said from the finish:

 

“We knew it was a good chance today and it was one of the objectives to go for the win. Katusha did a strong ride to chase today but we knew we wanted to follow and wait as long as possible, keeping the team together and this paid off.”

 

“I’m very happy to be here again, to catch a first victory here, in the first stage. Thank you to all my teammates. Today was a good day,” said Sagan of his 14th Amgen Tour of California career victory (the race’s all-time record holder for stage wins). “I came here the first time in 2010…it was a very nice race, very good organization, very nice hotels, food… Also, the level of the race is very good, and it’s also very good for preparation because it’s good weather. Now it’s the Giro and Tour of California. And I prefer to come here to train and prepare. And also I like California for the fans, and I’ve won a lot of stages here, and I’m very happy always to return here.”

 

“The fans are very nice. Every year it’s more and more fans for me, and I’m very happy for that,” said Sagan, who spoke of his love for California in the days leading to the race. The fans loved him right back, erupting into roars when he catapulted over the finish first by the length of his handlebars.

 

 

"Today was a good day; it was a little bit hard stage," Sagan said in the post-race press conference. "After 50-60 kilometers it was one long climb then descent, it was a little bit windy, but the temperature was good, cloudy but a little bit of sun, but not very hot. I am very happy to win today."

 

"Today was a sprint, it's not for GC," he added. "Today was a very long climb, but it was in the middle of the stage, then it’s flat then the tough stages come the next days. For sure this year it will be very hard to be in the front in GC."

 

The various sprint trains formed on the large roads running into San Diego with the fluo Tinkoff jerseys visible at the front, as well as Sagan’s rainbow bands. With a headwind finish it was important to go late, and having jumped on the perfect wheel as the sprint opened up, Sagan pulled clear to take a convincing win and to start the week perfectly for the team.


 “It was a great sprint but it’s also a win for the whole team as the boys did a fantastic job today,” Vila said. “We have a lot of young guys in the team here but they listened and committed to the plan perfectly. We didn’t want to show too early as it would be hard to hold position so they were patient and listened to each other and to the radio and it worked out. The spirit here is great – it’s a group that are already really close from the classics and we’re looking forward to the rest of the week.”

 

The stage win is Sagan’s 14th at the Tour of California, proving that it really is a race close to his heart. After winning the overall classification at last year’s race, he is also not new to the leader’s jersey and will wear it going into tomorrow’s second stage, 148.5km from South Pasadena to Santa Clarita, another potential opportunity for the Slovakian sprinter.

 

Wouter Wippert close to first win for Cannondale in California.

“2nd in the first stage of @AmgenTOC hard and chaotic finish but was good to be back sprinting again! Thanks @Ride_Argyle boys,” Wouter Wipper tweeted after sprinting to second place.

 

Dylan Groenewegen: I thought I was going to win

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to third in the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter took the lead with 350 metres to go, but Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) passed for the win and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) second.

 

It was unsure before the race that the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California would be a bunch sprint. Halfway, there was a long first categorised climb, but the peloton did not break up.

 

“Katusha and Dimension Data controlled the race and made sure we’d have a bunch kick,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “We wanted to start our lead-out as late as possible and chose to take the lead with three kilometres to go. It was looking good, but we were blown away. Dylan Groenewegen still got his chance to show off and he did it strongly. He had a lot of power.”

 

“We succeeded in our aim to take the lead at the right point,” Groenewegen added. “We weren’t able to have a proper lead-out, though, because we were passed on the right and the left with one kilometre to go. In the final 350 metres, I found some space and started my sprint. I thought that I was going to win, but it was too early with the headwind in the final metres. The men worked well today and I’m satisfied with my sprint.”

 

Groenegewen was the best young rider in the first stage and grabbed the white jersey.

 

On Monday, the second stage of the Tour of California features more climbs in its profile, so it will be harder to force a bunch sprint. That will give Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s climber George Bennett the chance to deliver.

 

Novo Nordisk sprinter surprises with fifth place in top-level Californian sprint

Team Novo Nordisk’s Martijn Verschoor beat out many of the world’s top sprinters when he finished fifth on Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Earlier in the race, teammate Joonas Henttala spent more than 85 miles in the breakaway. Henttala and Verschoor are now sitting sixth and eighth overall, respectively, while Team Novo Nordisk stands third in team classification.

 

“When you start the race strong and everyone rides well together, it sets the mood for the entire day,” Verschoor said. “Joonas was the first to attack and make the break. The rest of us worked together heading into the final kilometers and in the last moments I found a gap, jumped in and went for it. I’m happy with fifth.”

 

Niccolo Bonifazio left frustrated after choosing Cavendish’s wheel in California

The Amgen Tour of California kicked off Sunday with a 170.5-kilometer opening stage that culminated with the expected bunch sprint. Niccolo Bonifazio got his first taste of American-style racing with a sixth place in a chaotic, headwind finish as the ever-savvy Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) took the win with a well-timed, late burst of speed.

 

"It was great teamwork," said Bonifazio. "From four or five kilometers to go they managed very well for me, but I am not happy with the result. I was well positioned, I was in Cav's wheel, but surprisingly he did not really sprint and I was a little locked in and then the top three were out of reach. We will have another chance."

 

Jasper Stuyven and Kiel Reijnen – both good sprinters in their own right – were the last lead-out men for Bonifazio in a complicated run-in. Bonifazio grabbed probably one of the best wheels when it comes to a sprint in Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), but the headwind and wide boulevard made it impossible for any team to take full control. 

 

It was a messy sprint, as Kiel Reijnen explained in detail:

 

"The race was nervous today, a lot of fighting all day long, and some rough roads so you definitely had to pay attention all day. It was head-crosswind on the way back into San Diego and I think everyone was expecting it do a little more damage than it ended up doing. There was a lot of fighting in the last 10kms because guys were nervous of the wind.

 

"My job was to follow Markel (Irizar) until his job was done, and then take the guys into around a kilometer to go. It was really chaotic because it was a headwind, which made it easy to move around in the bunch but that makes positioning hard because you are fighting 140 dudes. 

 

"In the end, I saw Bonifazio had lost the wheel of Stuyven a little bit, so I took him up with like a kilometer to go. The headwind sort of slowed things down and Cavendish was there with his lead-out train so I just let Bonifazio go around me so he could stay on the wheel of Cavendish. That was maybe 800 meters to go or so, a little bit early, but also it was a good wheel to be on.

 

"I think we suffered today from the headwind; it made for a discombobulated last 500 meters and I think Bonifazio got caught in a little bit of that and didn’t fully get to open up his sprint. But we have faith in his legs and I think we will get another chance."

 

Portuguese youngster surprises for Axeon in California sprint

Ruben Guerreiro scored a top 10 finish Sunday for the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team in the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California that started and finished in San Diego.

 

The 21-year-old from Portugal was seventh as world road champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won the sprint finish at the end of the 175-kilometer race. Wouter Wippert (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) was runner-up and Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) finished third.

 

Guerreiro, the winner of G.P. Palio del Recioto in Italy in March, said he was not necessarily planning to be contesting the sprint.

 

"Normally Logan (Owen) is a faster finisher," Guerreiro said. "But I was feeling really great during the stage and just following the top WorldTour sprinters. In the last kilometer, there were 20 guys in front of me but I kept going and going and followed a good wheel that took me to the front."

 

Axeon Hagens Berman General Manager Axel Merckx said a top 10 finish is a good start in one of the team's most important races.

 

"On paper, the sprint was probably better for Logan," Merckx said. "But as you can see from the race situation, it is good to have more than one sprinter in the team. One guy can be in good position and other guys come around him and get swarmed. I think that's what happened. But seventh is a good result for us."

 

In addition to Guerreiro's top 10 placing – his third on the season – teammate Neilson Powless finished 13th and in the same time as the stage winner. Powless is a California native who currently leads the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour.

 

Merckx said the team enjoyed a smooth and uneventful start to the eight-day race that ends next Sunday in Sacramento. But the former Olympic medal winner said Monday's 148.5-km race is much different.

 

"It is hillier, so it is going to be harder at the start," he said. "So there is going to be more fighting before the break goes. Today, the break went right away. Tomorrow, I predict it will be harder for the break to go. It might take a little longer because Katusha might not pull any more because they pulled all day. It will be interesting to see who takes charge."

 

Tom Boonen in the top 10 in first race after spring break

In the last kilometers, Etixx – Quick-Step took the front together with Giant-Alpecin and Katusha, and prepared the sprint for Tom Boonen, who was racing for the first time since coming runner-up in Paris-Roubaix. Despite a chaotic sprint – won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) ahead of Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) – the 35-year-old Belgian managed to find his way through the bunch and concluded in 8th position, a result which gives an extra boost of confidence to the team ahead of the next stages of the US event.

 

Jempy Drucker sprints to improve BMC’s car position in California

The opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California saw BMC Racing Team’s Jempy Drucker battle to ninth place in an inevitable bunch sprint.

 

Sport director Jackson Stewart said: “Today was definitely a typical sprinter’s finish. It had a big, wide road into a sweeping right turn then a U-turn and then final was just a big sweeping right so the last kilometer was always curving into the sprint.

 

“Jempy gave it a good go and we had some of our guys helping him out but with the level of the sprinters here, we knew we could be competitive but we weren’t expecting to do super well. It was great that we were able to be up there and in the mix and we got a good car position for tomorrow so overall we’re happy.

 

“It’s always nice to have a good car position when you’re trying to go for the GC. Today we had two mechanicals so our luck there wasn’t that good, so the closer we can be the better especially for a hard stage like tomorrow when we go into the hills a little and the roads are a bit narrower.”

 

Jempy Drucker said: “As the day went along the better my legs felt and at the beginning of the day we said that I should give it a go in the sprint. The guys did a great job to help me and I feel good after that stage.

 

“In the last 2 kilometers I was a bit boxed in and I tried to get an opening but it was not so easy. It was a difficult approach to the line with the head wind and nobody really knew the final straight or finish line so I think it was hard for all the teams to set up a sprint train.

 

"This is only the first day of the race and it was my first sprint in a long time so I can definitely build up on that. I know I can do better so I am looking forward to having more opportunities.”

 

Sky: Danny Van Poppel wanted it a bit too much

Andy Fenn and Danny van Poppel battled it out in the opening stage sprint at the Tour of California, narrowly missing out on a pair of top-10 finishes.

 

The duo hit out as the opening stage culminated in a bunch kick on wide roads in San Diego. Van Poppel saw an opportunity to launch his sprint early but, despite surging towards the head of the pack, the Dutchman found himself exposed in the headwind sprint, eventually dropping back.

 

Fenn arrived late and edged through into 11th, with Van Poppel one place further behind in 12th. The rest of the team finished safely ahead of more selective stages to come during the week.

 

World champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) showed his class to cut through a messy sprint and take victory. The Slovakian saw off Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) to win the stage and pull on the first gold jersey.

 

Team Sky had stuck together in the peloton as the 175km opener looped inland, moving up in unison with Pete Kennaugh and Alex Peters hitting the front with 5km to go, helping to drag back the last remnants of a seven-man move.

 

After the stage Sport Director Gabriel Rasch filled TeamSkyc.om in.

 

"It was a good chance for Danny today but he wanted it a bit too much I think," he said. "He started a bit too early in the sprint so naturally he was a bit upset at himself. It is a good experience and something to learn from. He will get another chance, hopefully tomorrow. The guys did a good job for him in the sprint.

 

"The riders have settled in well out here. Kiry (Vasil Kiryienka) and Gianni (Moscon) got in on Friday but they came through the day fine today - no issues. Gianni said he felt good. He's just come off a break so he'll probably need a few days to get back into the swing of racing. 

 

"Tomorrow looks like an interesting stage. It could be a breakaway, or it could be a smaller bunch sprint. Hopefully it could be a good day for Danny if he can get over the last climbs."


Alexander Kristoff fails to win after huge Katusha work in California

A hard day’s work was the rule of the road for the opening stage on Sunday at the 11th Amgen Tour of California with Team KATUSHA riders doing the lion’s share of the work to bring sprinter Alexander Kristoff to the final in position to vie for the win. A move from behind took the Norwegian sprinter out of contention to earn the win, but overall there was general satisfaction for the day’s effort.

 

”We came here to win a stage and the first stage was a chance to make something happen. The team worked very well for our sprinter so I have to say I’m very pleased with the work from our helpers. Now we still have everything ahead of us, an entire week of racing and there are many nice stages to come so if there is another chance, the guys will be sure to go for it,” said team director Torsten Schmidt.

 

Coming into the final corner with 500m to go on a sweeping right-hander, Team KATUSHA continued to work setting up the final but defending champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was able to whip around and seal the victory, earning his 14th career win in the race.

 

“The team controlled the race for the sprint for me and they put up a good lead-out to bring me to the front. Unfortunately, there was quite a headwind there in the final straight and our speed was not really that high. Sagan’s group came around the corner and overtook us quite easily. The difference in our speeds was quite a lot and when he came around I did not really have the legs to accelerate. I felt OK today but of course I do not feel so when it ends like this,” said a disappointed Alexander Kristoff.

 

"The team was good and we also managed to get into the right position. But at the end - if I was stronger I could maybe pull it off, but I was not even really close at the end. I think we were a little too exposed maybe.

 

"We were in front and in good position. I was actually in perfect position, but with the headwind I had no chance against the guy coming from behind. I was not even close.

 

"With the headwind it was really hard, harder than expected from us. We knew it was a little crosswind on the finishing straight, but at the end it was very hard and I had nothing left, so I could do nothing."

 

It’s the first time for Team KATUSHA to ride in the Amgen Tour of California.

 

Danny Pate back in the spotlight in California

"The team's goal was to be aggressive and try to grab the first KOM of the race," Rally’s Danny Pate told Cyclingnews after spending a day in the break.

 

"I covered the first break and it stuck. I am little disappointed that I wasn't able to get the KOM or on the podium - especially after seeing that they were giving away stuffed killer whales."

 

"Being in the break felt good. It was hard, but it was a good way to clear out the legs. I was sick earlier in the year and it took awhile to get better. Tour of the Gila was first race back, so I am still not on top form. The rest of the race the team looks to be aggressive and there are couple more opportunities for me - we will see."

 

Oscar Clark takes mountains jersey in California opener

American rider Oscar Clark (USA) of Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear will ride tomorrow in the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey, which he earned in the one KOM climb today during his time in the breakaway. Speaking of the level of competition at the Amgen Tour of California, he commented:

 

“It’s great for us. It’s the biggest race we do all year, so to have the world champion and past world champions, and all the big name riders, it’s awesome for what we do,” said Clark.

 

Mark Cavendish boxed in in Californian bunch sprint

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rode strong but had to leave the win to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in the end.

 

The African Team’s goal was to ride for Mark Cavendish, who won nine stages in California so far and was looking to extend his colorful palmarès. Having no rider in the breakaway the team tried to control the gap together with Katusha. Matt Brammeier was the first Team Dimension Data rider who showed himself at the front of the peloton.

 

In the crosswinds towards the finish line in Mission Beach, San Diego, teams tried to protect their leaders as good as possible. The African outfit was still to be seen at the front of the action. However, inside the last 500 meters Cavendish got boxed in.

 

Sports director Rolf Aldag said:

 

“We wanted to win today’s stage with Mark Cavendish. This was our goal and we worked hard for it, which was good and nice to see. The guys stayed at the front of the bunch for most of the race and helped controlling the gap to the breakaway.

 

”On the run-in to the finish we were positioned well. Unfortunately, Mark got boxed in and couldn’t open his sprint. But that’s racing, I guess. It was only the first stage today, so we will continue to show ourselves. There’re still a few chances to get a stage win.”

 

No success for John Degenkolb in his sprint of the 2016 season

Team Giant-Alpecin looked to John Degenkolb in the sprint but he was unable to get himself in a good position in the finale as he lost the wheel of Ramon Sinkeldam in the lead-out. Laurens Ten Dam was the first to cross the line for the team in 47th place.

 

Coach Aike Visbeek gave his thoughts after the race: “Today was a good first step for the team to work with our lead-out train towards the Tour de France . The plan was clearly to go for John and it was our first time we have the riders all together.

 

“Unfortunately, Soren [Kragh] had a puncture in the last 4 km, but the guys managed to work well together. John lost the wheel of Ramon with 2km to go and they weren’t able to get him back in position.  It was very good to see John contest the sprint on his second day of racing.”

 

John Degenkolb said: “I was surrounded by my teammates all day and I felt confident enough to go for the sprint. I lost some positions in the last 2km and had to use some extra energy to get back, but with this head wind in the sprint that effort proved too much. I’m still lacking racing fitness for the finale, but it feels great to be back racing.”

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