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"With a ripping tailwind in the final 25km and still at a 3 minute lead it turned out to be too little too late. We averaged probably 65km in the final half hour; that’s a proper finale no matter what the outcome," King says

Photo: Sirotti

EDWARD KING

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GUILLAUME BOIVIN

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PETER SAGAN

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TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

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15.05.2014 @ 13:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan holds the record of most stage victories in the Tour of California but so far the 2014 edition has not brought much luck for the Slovakian. Yesterday he again missed an opportunity when the break stayed away to the finish.

 

This year’s Tour of California hasn’t lacked for variety. On this fourth stage, the 168.9km ride from Monterey to Cambria, the riders faced an undulating course; not so much huge climbs but constant up and down. It’s hard to stay away in a small group. But it also can be hard to hide in the pack.

 

That makes it an ideal course for Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan.  Sagan has a sprint that can match the best pure sprinters, but he’s also a decent climber and a very aggressive rider, the kind of characteristics that play well here.

 

But first, there needed to be an early escape to start the game. It took almost 20km  for the day’s break to establish itself. Cannondale decided it was better to save themselves for the finish, so they sat back and let race leader Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky put his troops to work.

 

They never let the break get a big gap; it never went much past four minutes. But both the break and the field were trying to figure out the ideal speed, so the lead moved up to four minutes, down to three, back up a bit. And the field, after letting Sky set the pace most of the race, decided to help out once the final 40km (24.9mi) started, and the gap was 3:25, a gap easy to close. Both Cannondale, for Sagan, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, for Mark Cavendish, and Giant-Shimano, for John Degenkolb, lent a hand. And the break’s lead was slowly and inevitably reduced.

 

But it was going too slowly. With 22km, it was still 3:15. Omega Pharma realized that was still too large, and they sent most of their men to the front. The lead came down faster. But suddenly, it was 10km (6.2mi) left and the gap was still around two minutes. It was almost too late.

 

Omega Pharma kept going, but they had run out of road. The race was going to be decided up front. UnitedHealthCare had two riders and they took turns attacking the break, but kept getting pulled back by Kevin De Masmaeker of Novo Nordisk. With the one-kilometer flag, UnitedHealthCare started a lead out. But De Masmaeker jumped early, and then he was passed by Optum’s Will Routley, who had taken all the King of the Mountain sprints over the day. Those efforts hadn’t fatigued him, and he was able to finish off the day with the victory.

 

A little over a minute later, Omega Pharma led the field into town. Cavendish jumped at the perfect moment, and held off Sagan to win the bunch sprint for seventh place.

 

After the finish, Cannondale’s Ted King, an expert on the long chase, had to give praise to the escapees.

 

“We were keen to make the breakaway today but as a watched team with one of the best sprinters in the race, that wasn’t going to happen. The breakaway played the game really well, milking a three-minute gap going into the final 50km — so it looked to be a straightforward day for the sprinters. Cam posted up on the front with the other sprint teams to reel it back in, but with a ripping tailwind in the final 25km and still at a 3 minute lead it turned out to be too little too late. We averaged probably 65km in the final half hour; that’s a proper finale no matter what the outcome.”

 

Guillaume Boivin, who is usually tasked with leading out Sagan in finishes like this one, also was impressed “

 

We tried to catch the breakaway, but they rode a strong and smart race! Good job to them! Tomorrow is an other hard stage and we hope to fly the Cannondale colors high!”

 

Tomorrow’s stage, 173.8km (108mi) from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara faces progressively steeper hills, before reaching the massive San Marcos Pass. It’s a hard climb, but not brutal, and the finish is pretty much at the bottom. It’s another good stage for Sagan. Expect Cannondale Pro Cycling to keep it all together when they hit the pass, roar down the other side, and then set up a lead out in downtown Santa Barbara.

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