SANTA ROSA, California (VN) — Peter Sagan won the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California Sunday in Santa Rosa. The Liquigas-Cannondale rider came back from a late puncture to take out a bunch sprint and earn the first overall leader’s jersey for the eight-day race.
Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) was second, with Fred Rodriguez (Exergy) third.
“Boonen flatted coming across the railroad tracks, I think,” said Rodriguez. “I tried to come around Sagan with about 200 meters to go with a slight uphill and I just didn’t have the legs. Sagan was really strong today.”
Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare), David Boily (Spidertech-C10), Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Sebastian Salas (Optum), Josh Atkins (Bontrager-Livestrong) and Sam Johnson (Team Exergy) slipped off the front early on in the 186.5km stage and eventually gained an advantage of more than 10 minutes.
The group carried an eight-minute advantage onto the Coleman Valley Road climb, 24km from the finish. The escapees splintered on the climb, however. After the Johnson dropped off the pace, Louder, Bouet and Jacques Maynes emerged as the lone survivors at the foot of the descent, but the gap had dropped to just 40 seconds.
Rabobank put two riders on the front of the chasing peloton, which was down to less than 30 riders by the summit of the day’s fourth KOM. With a little help from Liquigas at the front, the chase drew the three escapees in over the long, moderately uphill approach to Santa Rosa. At the back, the peloton swelled to almost 50 riders.
At 10km to go, Bouet led the leaders in a solid cross-headwind from the right, just 20 seconds ahead of the chasing bunch. Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) went to the front with 9km to go and chopped the gap to a handful of seconds.
With Louder on the front of the break, Bouet looked over his left shoulder and shook hands with Jacques Maynes, the peloton bearing down on them, and with 7.5km to go, the group’s day on the front was done.
Just as the peloton made the catch, Sagan suffered a poorly timed flat. Rabobank and Garmin stayed on the front, drilling the pace, and Liquigas dropped Ted King and Alessandro Vanotti back to help the Slovak all-rounder. The three riders made contact inside 5km.
“With 10km to go, I knew there was still time get back on, I didn’t stress out too much about it,” said Sagan. When I was U23 I was in a similar situation. I flatted with 6km to go, rejoined the peloton, attacked and escaped immediately with one other rider. I didn’t win, but I got second.”
Just after the Liquigas trio regained contact, Rabobank’s Michael Matthews crashed, slowing Sagan and sending King and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) to the ground. The delay couldn’t dispatch the Slovak champion and when Orica-GreenEdge faded inside the final kilometer, Daniel Oss took over on the point and dropped Sagan off for the final kick.
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