Podium for Peter Sagan at Tour of California as sprinters show their prowess on fast stage.
After the more mountainous stages and the individual time trial taking the sprinters out of contention for the past few stages, it was finally a chance for the fast men to take centre stage again today. The flat terrain made for a frenetic finale, with some tight turns and street furniture ready to catch the peloton unawares. Delivered by his teammates in a strong position, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was just unable to find the space to push on for the win, taking third on the line. With both a mountain stage and a final sprint stage still to come, the team would take every chance to work for Peter and Rafał Majka as the race draws to a close.
After the flat parcours of stage 1, the other two road stages of the Tour of California hadn’t given the sprinters much of an opportunity to show their class, with undulating profiles and difficult climbs making it hard for the fast men to contest the win. On today’s 176.5km stage, there was only one third category climb, and with this coming at the 68km point, it gave the riders plenty of time to regroup before the predicted sprint finale in Elk Grove. The closing 10km would be both flat and fast, however with a few 90 degree turns before the finish line, riders would have to stay alert not to be caught out so close to the end.
The Team Tactics
Unless the day’s breakaway managed to hold off the peloton to deny them the stage win, today was an almost guaranteed bunch sprint. This meant that the team’s priority would be to deliver Peter Sagan to the finish in a position to go for the win. The BORA-hansgrohe riders would be the driving force in the peloton to bring in any escapes and control the pace – especially in the closing 50km. With tomorrow’s penultimate stage featuring some mountainous terrain where some time could be taken, just as important would be for the Rafał Majka to finish safely to be in a position to contest the overall as the race neared its end.
On such a hot day, riders would be grateful for the comparatively flat terrain, but on days like these, what the profile lacked in altitude, the peloton so often makes up for with sheer pace, and as soon as the flag dropped to start the stage, the attempts to break away came thick and fast. Five riders managed to leave the peloton behind, quickly building an advantage, their lead topping out at 3:30. As soon as BORA-hansgrohe got on the front of the peloton though, the gap was brought down steadily, but it wasn’t until just under 2km were remaining that the catch was made, the bunch passing by like they were standing still. Five men back when the sprint started, Peter was unable to make the space, finding himself boxed in with Ewan alongside him and the eventual stage winner, Gaviria, ahead of him. In spite of this, the UCI World Champion took third on the stage and Rafał finished with the same time as the sprinters, both ready to fight another day.
01 F.Gaviria 4h04’34”
02 C.Ewan +0:00
03 P.Sagan +0:00
From the Finish Line
"It was another fast stage at the Tour of California, quite hotter than the other days. The squad again worked hard to close the gap with the breakaway – they have been putting such an effort this week. In the final kilometres, my brother Juraj, Daniel Oss and Michael Kolar did a great job in keeping me safe and positioning me well in the front of the bunch. I had a good spot for the sprint and did my best but it wasn't possible to overtake Gaviria. Rafał had a minor crash during the race but we are all happy it wasn't anything serious." – Peter Sagan
"We started the day with the aim to get the best result possible and worked hard during the whole stage to reach that goal. The guys put in a strong effort in the front of the peloton, pulling to control the race and keep the breakaway close. As expected, it all came down to a fast bunch sprint at the finish and Peter got another podium place. We would have liked a victory but Gaviria was stronger. I think that Peter is on the right path to reach his peak form. This year, he started his preparation for the second half of the season a bit later, so he isn't exactly where he was at this period last year." – Patxi Vila