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5/14/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!

Tour of California: Sagan sprints to Santa Clarita win

May 14, Stage 3: Palmdale - Santa Clarita 177.7km

Ninth stage win for Cannondale rider

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) sprinted to the win Tuesday during Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California, the ninth stage victory at the US race in his career. The Slovakian sneaked over the finish line ahead of Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).

Baden Cooke led out Matthews with 500 meters to go, but Sagan showed phenomenal speed to come around the Australian's outside, beating him by a half a wheel on the line.

"Ted [King] did very good work, he pulled on the front all day and he took me to the front on the last kilometer, and the last 500m after Boivin was the last man," Sagan said. "He took me the last 200m on the front, and I did my sprint. I had a little bit of luck because of the headwind, so it was better to start the sprint later."

Matthews, who told Cyclingnews before the stage start in Palmdale that his legs were feeling good and that he was hoping for a sprint finish, said the sprint got very chaotic in the last 5km, but he praised his team for keeping him near the front and in with a chance.

"I wouldn't have been in the top 3 without the perfect lead-out from my whole team," Matthews said. "I think we got the result we deserved. Sagan was just a little too fast in the finish."

Farrar characterized the dash to the line as "hectic" and said he lost Sagan's wheel about 500m from the line. He was able to duck through a hole, he said, but by then it was too late.

"I felt good," Farrar said. "I think if I ride a little smarter sprint, I think I have the speed to beat [Sagan]."

The main catch was made with 16.5kms to go, with two members of the day's break, Stage 1 winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) having survived their day's adventure off the front. The third member of the group, Chad Beyer (Champion System) held on for another few kilometres having attacked with the peloton closing in. The fourth breakaway rider, Bontrager's Gavin Mannion, was dispatched from the group with about 28km remaining.

Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Leopard) burst off the front with just over 5km to go with Garmin-Sharp leading the chase, followed by Cannondale with the green train lining out for Sagan.

How it unfolded:

The third stage of the Amgen Tour of California saw the first appearance of RadioShack-Leopard's Jens Voigt, one of just a handful of riders to have started all eight editions of the race. The large German attacked from kilometer zero, driving the initial pace up to 40 km/h before the field quickly reeled him back and settled down a bit.

Voigt joined another larger group of 23 riders that immediately peeled away from the field, including a host of WorldTour riders and overall contenders. Among the breakaway riders were Voigt, Laurent Didier, Bob Jungels and Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard); Tyler Farrar and Jacob Rathe (Garmin Sharp); Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step); Tejay van Garderen, Brent Bookwalter, Mathias Frank and Michael Schär (BMC); Baden Cooke, Cameron Meyer and Travis Meyer (Orica GreenEdge);
Peter Sagan and Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale); Michael Rogers and Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Team Saxo-Tinkoff); Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Vacansoleil-DCM); Christopher Baldwin and Carter Jones (Bissell); Alexander Candelario (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies); plus Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy/Kenda).

The large group built an ultimate gap of 50 seconds heading to the first KOM of the day atop Munz Ranch Road about 30km into the route. Jones extended his lead in the mountains classification by taking ultimate points there, and his teammate Baldwin helped Jones' effort by grabbing the runner-up points ahead of Schär and Mancebo.

With so many riders in the breakaway, the field, led by the Jamis-Hagens Berman team of Janier Acevedo, was not happy to let it go and pulled the escapees back right at the KOM line.

A reshuffling at the front created the day's long breakaway with Andy Schleck (RadioSack-Leopard), Gavin Mannion (Bontrager), Chad Beyer (Champion System) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), the stage 1 winner now in the green jersey. The field appeared content with the make up of the move, with Chad Beyer placed highest at 5:07 in arrears, and the new escapees quickly started building their advantage.

"We had great cooperation all day," said Mannion, a 21-year-old development team rider. "Nobody was really skipping any turns. Those ProTour guys don't mess around once they're up the road."

The gap hovered around four minutes on the way to the day's second KOM, the Category 4 climb up Lake Hughes Road. Beyer took top honors there ahead of Schleck, Westra and Mannion, and the gap increased to 4:45. Beyer followed that effort by grabbing top points at the next KOM as well.

The leaders' advantage began dropping steadily after they descended off the third KOM, falling to just three minutes with 66km remaining. Jamis held steady at the front, with the Garmin Sharp and Cannondale teams of sprinters Tyler Farrar and Peter Sagan also throwing riders into the chase.

As the leaders approached the first intermediate sprint of the day, Westra rotated to the front, crossing the line first for maximum points and adding to his lead in that classification. Beyer took second, followed by Schleck in third. Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, likely riding for their own sprinter Gianni Meersman, also threw a rider into the chase, and the gap dropped below three minutes with about 53km remaining.

Westra took maximum points at the last intermediate sprint of the day with less than 45 km remaining, but by then the group's gap was down to 2:45, and a sprint finish was looking more and more inevitable.

With Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Cannondale and Garmin Sharp massed at the front in pursuit of the break, the lead had dropped to 2:05 starting the final 34km downhill run into the finish and was down to 1:45 just 4km later.

Mannion was the break's first casualty, falling off the pace with just 28km to go.

"I was just in the box," Mannion said. "We hit a little roller, and it was just time for me to come off."

The three remaining riders continued to swap turns on the front, pushing the pace for the finish. The gap was an even minute when Schleck, Westra and Beyer saw the time board with 23km to go. Beyer attacked the group during a moment of hesitation by the others and built a short-lived advantage as the peloton swept up Schleck and Westra. He succumbed to the chase next with about 13.5km remaining, and the field sprint was inevitable.

Sagan dedicated his win to teammate Mauro da Dalto, who went to the hospital Monday with heat sickness after stage 2.

"I'm happy I could win here another time," Sagan said. "I like California and I think the people like me. I'm here for my fans, but I want to dedicate this victory to my teammate Mauro da Dalto who was very bad yesterday with heat attack and was taken to the hospital. I was happy I could take this victory for him."

 

Read more on Cyclingnews.com
Photo credit © Jonathan Devich




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