Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California in Santa Clarita on Tuesday.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was second and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was third.
“Thank you to all my teammates because they worked well all day, not just the final kilometer,” said Sagan. “The last three kilometers were crazy with all the sprinters who wanted to win.”
Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) finished with the peloton to defend his overall lead.
The Amgen Tour continues Wednesday with the 134-kilometer fourth stage from Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara.
With crosswinds belting the peloton, a group of more than 20 riders broke free in the opening 20 kilometers. Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) and Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) sparked the action and Laurent Didier (RadioShack), Farrar and Jacob Rathe (Garmin), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Alex Candelario (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Carter Jones and Chris Baldwin (Bissell), and Sagan each made the split.
Jones, leader of the mountains classification, was first over the Cat. 4 Munz Ranch Road KOM, 30km into the race, and would go on to keep his climber’s jersey for another day. The breakaway wasn’t meant for the finish, however, and the peloton came back together before the descent to the day’s second rated climb, Lake Hughes Road.
Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) rode away from the peloton shortly after Jones and co. were caught, taking with him stage 1 winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), Chad Beyer (Champion System), and Gavin Mannion (Bontrager).
The group pushed out to more than four minutes’ advantage, Acevedo’s Jamis team keeping them on a short leash.
“I didn¹t really think it was going to stick from the start. It was a strong breakaway but I thought it was doomed to fail from the start because we never had more than four minutes,” said Beyer. “It was windy all day which made it a really hard all day. All headwind
on the final descent and it was not easy.”
Bert Grabsch (Omega Pharma), Guido Palma (Jamis), and Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) were among the men to abandon a day after extreme temperatures blasted the race on its way into Palm Springs.
With 65km to go, the breakaway held a lead of 3:05 over the bunch. Cannondale and Garmin-Sharp began chipping into the work in the field, taking responsibility ahead of what they hoped would be a mass gallop.
The peloton put in a long, steady chase from there, finally drawing three of the escapees — Schleck, Westra, and Mannion — in with 16km to go. Beyer held on for a short while, but the bunch soon swallowed him. Race officials rewarded the American with the most courageous rider award.
Garmin, Omega Pharma, UnitedHealthcare, and Cannondale each pushed to the front, sharing the workload on the mostly flat run-in to the boulevard finish.
Markel Irizar (RadioShack) tried to spoil the bunch finish, jumping with 5.4km to go. Garmin chased him down, however, and the peloton was together with 4.3km to go.
Five green Cannondale jerseys lined up at the front, with the Amgen Tour’s record stage winner, Sagan, sitting at the back.
Optum, Garmin, and Saxo-Tinkoff each pushed to the front and with 3km to go, it was the Danish outfit that took control, Jonathan Cantwell in tow.
With 1.5km to go, it was four Saxo riders at the front. BMC Racing rushed the leaders, however, moving up the right side. Thor Hushovd sat third wheel, behind world champion teammate Philippe Gilbert, but with 800 meters to go, UnitedHealthcare took to the front ahead of the final, right-hand corner.
Orica-GreenEdge charged up the right side of the road on the finish straight, with Baden Cooke leading Michael Matthews. Cooke opened the sprint and drove for the line and thought he’d delivered a winner, but Sagan came from the fringes to burst around the Aussie and take his record ninth career win at the Amgen Tour.
Farrar nearly pipped Matthews at the line, but settled for third. Double stage winner at the Tour de Romandie earlier this month, Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma), was fourth.