Tour of California Stage 1 Comes Down To Centimeters

11-May-2014: Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team tried their luck in the crosswinds, but the 193.3km 1st Stage of AMGEN Tour of California Stage 1 was destined for a group arrival as the wind changed on Sunday with too many kilometers remaining. OPQS switched back to preparation for the bunch sprint, and Mark Cavendish was able to beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) by mere centimeters for the victory after the team took control of the front at the right time late in the race.

OPQS rider Tom Boonen became the Manx Missile’s final leadout man when Mark Renshaw suffered a mechanical with 11km remaining. Thanks to OPQS keeping the pace high in the final kilometers, Cavendish was in the top 6 or 7 positions going into the final stretch.

The British Champion launched off the wheel of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and was able to catch up to Degenkolb, who launched from the front of the group. Moreno Hofland (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) was 3rd.

Belgian based OPQS looked right at home in the California crosswinds. Boonen, Cavendish, Matteo Trentin, and Mark Renshaw helped split the field with a breakaway already up the road and less than 60 kilometers to go, which formed an approximate 18-rider echelon. The group was down to 15 and eventually caught with 22km to go. Boonen and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) stayed off the front a bit longer, but decided to focus instead on the bunch sprint finale.

This is the 30th victory for OPQS, in three disciplines, in 2014. Cavendish continues his momentum from Presidential Tour of Turkey — his previous race about a week ago — where he won four stages.

“To be fair, I won Milano – Sanremo by 10 centimeters before,” Cavendish said. “I’ve lost a sprint in the Giro d’Italia by three centimeters. Both of those, I knew the outcome. This is the first time in my career I really had no idea. I had to wait a little bit until they confirmed. So, I’m super happy. It was hard, that line was coming up too fast, and John was strong today. But my Omega Pharma – Quick-Step teammates did a perfect job to keep me up there. There were a lot of trains vying for position. We knew it was going to be windy, but to be honest the wind changed direction on the way back. We thought it was going to be a crosswind in the last 20 miles on the main road on the way to Sacramento. We sensed the move that split the group. Omega Pharma – Quick-Step is a Belgian team. We felt the crosswinds, knew the split was going to happen, and we just went straight to the front. It split and we were there. We were well represented with four guys. But then we turned right and it was a headwind. That’s when we thought it was going to be a crosswind. If you’ve got a small group, that much distance, and a headwind, you’re never going to stay away. We sat up and didn’t deplete our energy any further. I could feel the work we did earlier in my sprint and I could see it in the guys setting up for the sprint. But they still kept me up there and led me out perfectly. We gave a good show for Omega Pharma – Quick-Step and we got the best result from our effort. I’m really proud of what we did today.”

Jersey Winners
· Amgen Leader Jersey – Mark Cavendish (GBR), Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team (BEL)
Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Will Routley (CAN), Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
Visit California Sprint Jersey – Mark Cavendish (GBR), Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team (BEL)
Note: John Degenkolb (GER), Team Giant-Shimano (NED) will be wearing the sprint jersey during stage 2
Crunchies Best Young Rider Jersey – Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR), Bissell Development Team (USA)
Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Charles Planet (FRA), Team Novo Nordisk (USA)

Stage 1 Men Top – 3
· FIRST— Mark Cavendish (GBR), Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team (BEL)
SECOND – John Degenkolb (GER), Team Giant-Shimano (NED)
THIRD – Moreno Hofland (NED), Belkin-Pro Cycling Team (NED)

Women’s Circuit Race Top – 3
· FIRST – Carmen Small (USA), Team Specialized-lululemon (USA)
· SECOND – Coryn Rivera (USA), UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA)
· THIRD – Brianna Walle (USA), Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)

Photo: Corvos