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Sagan held off Farrar in a photo finish to take third in the final stage of Tour of California, pick up 4 bonus seconds and win the race overall; Cavendish won the final stage in dominant fashion

Photo: Tinkoff-Saxo














17.05.2015 @ 21:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) lived up to expectations by taking a hugely dominant sprint win in the final stage of the Tour of California but it was the battle for the overall victory that had everyone on the edge of their seats. In a photo finish, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) held off Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) in the battle for third to pick up 4 crucial bonus seconds that saw him win the race with a 3-second advantage over Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep).


After yesterday’s huge drama on Mount Baldy, all was set for a thrilling finale to the Tour of California but few would have expected the stage to come down to the nail-biting affair that decided the 8 days of tough racing in America. In the end, Peter Sagan came out on top after Mark Cavendish had taken the expected bunch sprint victory but upon crossing the line, no one knew who the overall victor was.


Going into the stage, Sagan was 2 seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe and he needed to pick up bonus seconds in either the intermediate sprint with 45km to go or in the expected bunch sprint. However, Etixx-QuickStep were determined not to give him an easy ride and so they went on the attack right from the start.


First they put Matteo Trentin and Yves Lampaert in a 5-rider breakaway that almost blew the Tinkoff-Saxo team up. They had to work extremely hard to bring it back before the intermediate sprint and when the junction was made, Sagan only had Daniele Bennati left at his side.


The Italian did a hugely impressive work to shut down the many counterattacks from Etixx-QuickStep before Sagan got a bit of help from former teammate Daniel Oss (BMC) who did a small lead-out. However, Etixx-QuickStep were intent on using all their sprinting firepower to deny Sagan the bonus seconds.


Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and Alaphilippe all sprinted against the Slovakian who did a very impressive sprint to nearly pass Cavendish. However, he had to settle for second and as Renshaw managed to brake just in time for Alaphilippe to take third, he only reduced his deficit to 1 second.


That forced him to finish in the top 3 in the stage if the wanted to win the race overall and Etixx-QuickStep planned not to make it easy for him. However, Tinkoff-Saxo got some help from Drapac, MTN-Qhubeka, Unitedhealthcare and Jamis who all wanted a sprint finish and so it came down to the expected sprint finish.


Etixx-QuickStep decided not to do a lead-out as they had all their fast riders sprinting for the win and instead it was Trek who delivered Danny van Poppel on the front. While Cavendish came fast from behind, Sagan came off the Dutchman’s wheel but he was about to lose it all as Cavendish easily passed him and drew Wouter Wippert (Drapac) along in his slipstream.


Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) passed him on the left-hand side and metres from the line he found himself in fourth. However, he made the perfect bike throw to edge Farrar out by mere centimetres to take third behind Cavendish and Wippert, with the Brit taking his fourth stage win in the race.


Hence, Sagan could make his usual wheelie to celebrate his win with a 3-second margin over Alaphilippe while Sergio Henao (Sky) completed the podium. Cavendish won the sprints jersey, Oss was the best climber and Alpahilippe the best young rider. With three riders in the top 10, Sky won the teams classification.


The WorldTour teams will now travel back across the Atlantic to continue their racing in Europe but there will still be exciting racing in the US during the next few weeks. The American road championships will take place from May 23-25 in Chattanooga.


A flat stage

After the dramatic queen stage, the Tour of California ended with a short 105.2km stage from L.A. Live to Pasadena. There were no categorized climbs in the flat stage that ended with 9 laps of a 5.1km finishing circuit around Rose Bowl where a sprint finish was expected.


There were no non-starters when the peloton gathered for their neutral ride under a beautiful sunny sky. They got the race off to the usual fast start with lots of attacks and it was Sky and Etixx-QuickStep who controlled the opening phase.


Aggressive Etixx-QuickStep

Christian Knees (Sky) and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) were the first to get a small gap and this forced Tinkoff-Saxo into chasing mode. When they were brought back, Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) gave it a go and he managed to build and advantage of 20 seconds after 12km of racing.


Danny Pate (Sky) tried to bridge across and he was joined by Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin) and Trentin to form a strong quartet. They made it up to Lampaert to make it a quintet while Tinkoff-Saxo were chasing hard.


Tinkoff-Saxo chase hard

The gap hovered between 15 and 20 seconds for a long time before the peloton started to lose a bit of ground. With 75km to go, it had gone out to 30 seconds.


Matti Breschel, Jesus Hernandez, Michael Mørkøv and Jay McCarthy were working hard for Tinkoff-Saxo and they got some assistance from Daniele Ratto (Unitedhealthcare). The pace was so fast that riders were even getting dropped in the flat terrain.


The break is caught

Daniele Bennati also started to work for Tinkoff-Saxo and the hard effort started to pay off. With 65km to go, they had reduced the gap to 15 seconds. However, the work took its toll on Ratto, Breschel and Hernandez who all disappeared from the front.


Lampaert and Zepuntke were the first to drop back and with 67km to go, the final trio was also brought back. Christian Knees (Sky) and Lampaert launched an immediate counterattack and after the Belgian had dropped back, Bennati latched onto Knees’ wheel.


More attacks

Stijn Vandebergh (Etixx-QuickStep) joined the trio but a Jamis rider brought it back together before Bennati again hit the front. He stayed there until the attacking started again when only 10km remained to the sprint.


Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep), a Cannondale rider and McCarthy got a gap but Sagan shut it down. Instead Nathan Earle (Sky) took off and he was joined by Danny van Poppel (Trek) but Sagan was given some help from Daniel Oss (BMC) who brought the duo back.


Etixx-QuickStep continue

A Hincapie rider was the next to attack but he never really got a gap over the peloton which had been whittled down to just around 30 riders sue to the fast pace. Instead, Earle and Ted King (Cannondale) got a small advantage but they were also brought back as Breschel took a huge turn.


The pace went down and so lots of riders rejoined the group. The breather was not a long one as Vandenbergh attacked again and when he was caught his teammate Lampaert tried.


A strong Bennati

Bennati and Breschel came back to the fore and they brought the Belgian back. Bennati rode strongly on the front but the relentless Lampaert tried again with a Hincapie rider.


An impressive Bennati brought those two riders back 4km from the sprint and then maintained his fast pace. He had to dig deep to bring back another move from Vandenbergh.


Sagan takes two bonus seconds

Lampaert tried again but was passed by his teammates Vandebergh and Guillaume van Keirsbulck who made the lead-out. When Van Keirsbulck swung off, McCarthy and Oss did a lead-out for Sagan.


Cavendish did a very long sprint and Sagan was quick to move onto his wheel. The duo went head-to-head but despite a big comeback from the Slovakian, it was the Brit who took the 3 bonus seconds. As Alaphilippe rolled across the line in third, he maintained a 1-second lead in the standings


New attacks

As soon as the sprint was over, the attacking started again, and it was Jesse Anthony (Optum) who got a gap.  When he was brought back, Sky gave it a go but it was the Hincapie pair of Joseph Lewis and Oscar Clark who managed to escape.


The attacking continued behind the two leaders who quickly got a 10-second gap, Manuel Senni (BMC) and Anthony and picked up Lewis who had been dropped by the team. They joined Clark to form a strong quartet as they entered the final 40km.


The chase gets organized

Tinkoff-Saxo, Drapac and Unitedhealthcare went to work immediately while Sergio Henao (Sky) returned to the peloton after a chain problem. As Jamis also came to the fore, Tinkoff-Saxo could even take a small rest while the gap was kept stable at 20 seconds.


Stephen Leece, Jonathan Clarke, Darren Lapthorne, William Clarke and Janez Brajkovic were among the riders who worked on the front. With 5 laps to go, the gap was still 25 seconds and so Breschel and Hernandez started to work for Tinkoff-Saxo.


The attacking starts

With 4 laps to go, the gap was still 25 seconds and now MTN-Qhubeka also started to chase with Daniel Teklehaimanot. Surprisingly, Senni decided to attack from the break and only Clark was able to keep up with him.


Anthony also made it back to the front and he launched an immediate counterattack. He stayed clear for a little while but at the end of the third lap, Senni and Clark made it back.


Van Keirsbulck attacks

Lewis was brought back as Clarke, Brajkovic, Leece, Hernandez, Breschel, Clarke, Lapthorne and Teklehaimanot traded pulls in the peloton. Meanwhile, the attacking continued and after Anthony had given it another go, it was Clark who got clear. With 12km to go, Senni and Anthony were brought back but Clark continued to press on.


When the gap was down to 10 seconds, Etixx-QuickStep started again and it was Van Keirsbulck who launched the first attack. He quickly passed Clark who was brought back while Cannondale-Garmin took a huge turn.


MTN-Qhubeka take control

When he swung off, Jamis, Drapac, MTN-Qhubeka, Tinkoff-Saxo and Unitedhealthcare went back to work and they brought Van Keirsbulck back. There was no room to recover though as another four-ride group with Philip Gaimon (Optum), Ben King (Cannondale), Dion Smith (Hincapie) and an Axeon rider went clear. They were joined by an Unitedhealthcare rider but it all came back together.


MTN-Qhubeka now had their train on the front and they neutralized an attack from a trio that again included Anthony. The American took a huge turn on the front to lead the peloton onto the final lap.


A thrilling sprint

MTN-Qhubeka took over with Johann van Zyl taking a huge turn before a Jelly Belly rider took over. Matthew Goos was next for MTN-Qhubeka and then the Trek train hit the front.


Matthews Busche and Laurent Didier took huge turns before a BMC rider gave them a small breather. He kept an attack from Gregory Daniel (Axeon) on a short distance before he brought him back with 2km to go.


That was the signal for Trek to hit the front with Markel Irizar, Stijn Devolder, Jasper Stuyven and Danny van Poppel. Devolder led them under the flamme rouge before Stuyven took over.


Bennati took over, with van Poppel and Sagan on his wheel before the Dutchman launched a long sprint. In the end, Cavendish took the win but the big triumph was taken by Sagan.



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