Peter Sagan aced the final corner to win stage 2 at the Amgen Tour of California Monday. Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) extended his overall lead in the eight-day race with a 10-second finish-line bonus.
Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) finished second, with Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) third.
“Today was very hard, the climbs went very fast. I was thinking I wanted to be on the front on the last climb to try to win another a stage. In the last kilometers I knew I wanted to take the first position on the last turn because it was very near the finish,” said Sagan. “I’m very happy about this Tour of California, it’s starting very well for me. I want to say thanks to my team, they worked hard for me. I’m now thinking about winning another, and maybe when we start the harder climbs we will work for Vincenzo [Nibali].”
Six riders made their way off the front of the bunch after the day’s first sprint and build a maximum advantage of almost six minutes. Riders in the break were: Brad White (UnitedHealthcare), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano), Michael Creed (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Juan Pablo Suarez (Colombia-Coldeportes). With Vennell just 10 seconds off the GC lead, there was no way the favorites would let the move go to the finish.
White, Vennell and Geniez survived onto the upper reaches of the Empire Grade climb, 70km from the finish. As White and Vennell struggled on the wheel, Geniez attacked sharply, setting out alone.
Back in the peloton, Sagan was among a number of riders to crash on the right side of the road near the top of the Empire Grade climb. The overall leader sat on the tarmac for half-a-minute before remounting. Despite pressure at the front of the bunch from Garmin’s Nathan Haas, Sagan and Rabobank’s Laurens Ten Dam made contact with the bunch before the summit.
Garmin kept the pressure on as the peloton plummeted down the descent and Tom Peterson, a previous winner in Santa Cruz, split the bunch.
Up front, Geniez was taking all risks and nearly crashed a number of times. Despite his best effort, however, the peloton drew Geniez in with 35km to go.
Chris Jones and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) took over the pace-making ahead of teammate Rory Sutherland on the Cat. 2 Bear Creek Road climb and led over the top. Sagan again encountered trouble shortly thereafter, requiring a front wheel change on the rolling terrain after the summit.
Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) launched an attack in the crosswind-battered rollers leading to the Summit Road sprint point. Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare) was among a handful of riders to latch on and the champion of the Dutch Antilles took top points.
The group sat up and Timmy Duggan led the Liquigas train through to the front of the race, Sagan sitting third wheel. A peloton of perhaps 60 riders approached Santa Cruz, with all of the overall favorites present.
Sutherland launched a late attack for the 10-second bonus inside 3km to go, but Garmin shut the move down just inside 1km to go.
“I didn’t think I had it in the legs, but I crashed in the Bonny Doon and can’t move my hand real well so I thought I’d have a go,” said Sutherland. “Well, they all slowed down… I thought, ‘well, may as well just keep going.’”
Howard led the bunch into the final, right-hand corner a few hundred meters from the line and went inside. Sagan went outside and came over the top of the Aussie at the exit. On the point, Sagan stood on his pedals and jumped into his sprint.
Haussler nipped Howard for second on the line.
“Unfortunately, Peter Sagan, he corners like he’s on rails and he had a bit of extra speed coming out of the corner,” said Howard. “Look, it’s Peter Sagan — he was just too powerful today in the final sprint.”
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