5/19/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!

Van Garderen wins Tour of California

Sagan celebrates victory in final stage


Peter Sagan won stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California from San Francisco to Santa Rosa Sunday with a virtuoso sprint victory. The result marked his 10th win of the season and his 10th career stage in California. The Cannondale rider was the first to open up his sprint with about 200 meters to go, and the powerful Slovakian held on to beat Daniel Schorn (Team NetApp-Endura) and stage 4 winner Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).

"The last kilometer was pretty hectic, but my team did a great job bringing me to the front," Sagan said. "They dropped me off with 200m to go. It felt good to get my 10th win. I want to dedicate the win to a Cannondale friend – Alex Shepherd, 11, from Oregon, who has cancer and is also a bike racer."

Tejay van Garderen, who crossed the line in the main field to secure the overall title, said the win was a big relief.

"I got the monkey off my back," van Garderen said. "Everything finally came together. I knew for years I was capable of a ride like this. For it to all fall into place is really special, especially with everything that's happened in the last month and a half for me."

The 24-year-old is in his last year as a young rider for the WorldTour races, but said he doesn't feel young anymore, because he is now a father - his daughter Rylan was born in early April - and in comparison to the other young Americans like the Tour's best U23 rider Lawson Craddock and mountains classification winner Carter Jones. He credited his newfound maturity in making the overall win possible.

"I've been close on a number of occasions, and I was starting to get worried I didn't have what it took to win one. Now I've proven I can, it's a big relief and I can go into every race a little less stressed. Sometimes if you loosen your grip it will come naturally. Hopefully this gets the ball rolling and I can start racking up a bit more," van Garderen said.

Michael Rogers (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) finished second overall, with Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) in third. BMC also picked up the overall team classification.

But the sprint win in Santa Rosa was all about Sagan. Cannondale led the peloton into the closing 10km, reeling in Antoine Duchesne (Bontrager) - the last survivor of an early break - and despite Garmin battling Sagan’s team for control, it was the lime green jerseys that assumed the lead inside the last two kilometres.

Sagan opened his sprint with 200 meters to go but was already clear of Farrar, who had to fight through having been caught too far back.

How It unfolded

A breakaway of three riders - including Vacansoleil's Thomas De Gendt, Bissell Pro Cycling's Jason McCartney and Bontrager's Duchesne - set out for a long day off the front almost immediately after a neutral rollout that took riders over San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge. De Gendt, who had already been in several lengthy breakaways during the week, initiated the moved and was quickly joined by the 37-year-old Bissell rider and the 21-year-old from Bontrager.

The trio cooperated well together and built a gap of 2:30 just 25km into the race. When the field stopped for a nature break, the gap quickly ballooned to 3:30. The gap grew to 4:30 with about 70km remaining, but a concerted chase by the sprinters' teams started cutting into the advantage. De Gendt also suffered from a mechanical, which slowed the breakaway's progress.

"After his mechanical he kind of stopped pulling hard," Duchesne said. "He was really pulling hard in the beginning and doing the most of the work, but after his mechanical – that wasn't his bike and he said that he felt terrible; the seat was too high and stuff like that – so it kind of slowed us down a little."

The lead had fallen below two minutes with 40km remaining and was down to 1:20 just 10km later. The field eased up a little bit after the gap came down below a minute, hoping to let the breakaway dangle in front before reeling the escapees back just before the race entered Santa Rosa for two laps of the 4km, eight-corner finishing circuit in town.

"They were hard to bring back," van Garderen said. "It ended up not being such an easy day."

Cannondale rider Ted King, who was rotating on the front with his teammates in support of Sagan's chances for a sprint, agreed that the three breakaway riders made it tough on the peloton on the last stage of the eight-day race.

"It was a short but super-hard stage today," King said. "The three guys got a pretty significant gap. We were rotating straight away, and we were rotating quickly and the gap was going up. That just meant we had to rotate significantly harder."

As the lead trio approached the outskirts of Santa Rosa, Duchesne attacked the group, dropping De Gendt first and then McCartney. McCartney eventually fought his way back to the leader, while De Gendt faded back to the group.

"I had trouble warming up, but the legs started opening on the last hour," Duchesne said. "Then it was going pretty slow and I saw that the pack was coming up, so I thought I'd give it a try. I was trying to go for the most courageous, but I didn't make it. I was going for that, but that's alright."

The two leaders held out for a while longer but ultimately fell prey to the charging bunch before the group started the final circuits. Cannondale took the lead on the first loop. But Garmin-Sharp set up its train on the front heading into the final lap. Cannondale fought hard to put Sagan back into perfect position. Turning left onto the finishing straight for the final time, the group passed under an overpass for California 101. Sagan surged to the front while Farrar got briefly boxed in.

"A couple guys came from behind as we went under the tunnel, and I didn't react fast enough," Farrar said. "So I got pinched there. Sagan's fast, and you can't make any mistakes against him."

Sagan slipped across the line and posted a familiar arms-aloft salute, while van Garderen cruised in for his first major stage race win since the Circuito Montanes in 2009 when he was a development rider with Rabobank.

Sagan's effort netted him the final points jersey of the race, while Bissell put two riders on the final podium with Carter Jones in the KOM jersey and McCartney winning the jersey for most courageous rider on the day. Bontrager's Lawson Craddock finished as the best young rider.

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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wins the final stage of the Tour of California.
photo credit: Casey B Gibson


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