Saxo Bank’s J.J. Haedo challenged him in the final few meters, but Mark Cavendish closed the deal for HTC-Columbia on the first stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California.
After a massive show of power by HTC-Columbia, which rode the front almost from the day’s start, Cav’ jumped from behind his trusty leadout man Mark Renshaw and immediately opened a huge gap over everyone but Haedo, who clung to his wheel. In the last 50 meters, Haedo began moving up around Cav, but the line was coming up quicker.
Cavendish wasn’t fazed.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I win by three bike lengths or half a meter,” he said, quickly adding that his team did a huge amount of work to set him up.
BMC’s Alexander Kristoff was third.
Haedo said he was pleased with his sprint.
“I am happy with myself and I tried to win, which is what’s important for me even if you have one of the fastest guys in the world up there,” Haedo said. “We always try to win, that’s what the team is about. We know we are not the team to beat here, but when we’re there [at the end] we’re going to get a chance for sure.”
One man who didn’t get a chance today was Quick Step’s Tom Boonen, who won in Sacramento in 2008 ahead of Heinrich Haussler and Mario Cipollini. Boonen and a number of other riders hit the deck in the closing kilometers as the fight for positioning heated up. George Hincapie (BMC), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Andrew Pinfold and Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) were among those limping across the line missing some skin and some Lycra.
An early break
The 104-mile journey from Nevada City to California’s capital city got going with four riders forcing a break in the first 15 miles and then building a lead of over four minutes. The break:
- Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank)
- Chad Beyer (BMC)
- Mark De Maar (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis)
- Paul Mach (Team Bissell)
On some twisty, undulating roads on a beautiful California day, the four rolled out a gap that peaked at about five minutes at the 30-mile mark.
“It was a rough day,” de Maar said, half joking. “The first 20 minutes of the breakaway I was regretting that I went. But after that it was a really nice day, with huge crowds. I felt like I was in the Giro, only Vinokourov was missing.”
De Maar and Mach attacked their other break companions towards to top of the day’s one categorized climb, Auburn Foresthill Road. Then Mach put attacked and held a gap over the top to grab the KOM points and secure the 2010 Tour of California’s first climber’s jersey.
The quartet reformed soon after and got back to business, rotating smoothly.
Behind, HTC-Columbia was rotating smoothly, too, carefully regulating the speed of the peloton. Cervélo TestTeam and Jelly Belly lent some horsepower to the chase and after a long pursuit across the open country, the break was reeled in just outside the three 5km finishing circuits around the capital building and surrounding grounds.
As the circuits began, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Cervélo, Saxo Bank and Liquigas tried to join HTC’s 30mph party at the front. But with seven and eight of Bob Stapleton’s finest bent to the task at the front, the other teams could only send up a rider or two to briefly take the front before fading off.
Saxo Bank, with crowd favorites Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt, gave HTC the biggest scare, taking the helm with 1.5 laps to go. But Cavendish’s team still had a forest of matches to burn, and ignited a few to regain the front. Only Haedo could hold the wheel when the Manx Missile finally stuck his nose in the wind and opened his famous sprint. (Related: Cavendish’s Scott Addict)
For his work in the break and over the KOM, Mach captured the climber’s jersey, and a little taste of a dream.
“It’s kind of a dream within a dream,” said Mach, a resident of stage 2 start town Davis. “I wasn’t guaranteed to even get [into the race]. So to be here in the biggest race in America and get a jersey — and then to start in a jersey in my hometown — it just keeps getting better. It’s still sinking in.”
“I’ve never done a race of this size before,” Mach said. “As we got closer to Sacramento, the crowds got bigger and bigger, there was a tunnel of sound there in the finishing circuits. It was pretty unreal.”
As for Kristoff, who joined BMC from the Norwegian Continental team Joker-Bianchi this year, pulling on the best young rider’s jersey was a treat, but not one he expected to last.
“Since I’m not so good in the climbs, I think it’s only one day in the jersey,” Kristoff said. “I will do my best, but I don’t expect to have it at the end [of the race]. Hincapie, if he’s okay after today, he will go for some stage wins, and we have some other good guys who could win as well.”
The intial doctor’s report on Hincapie was that he had some road rash and a headache, but was otherwise okay.
Monday’s second stage, 172km from Davis to Santa Rosa is similar to the 2009 stage between the same two cities, but after the Howell Mountain climb at the100km mark this year’s route heads south down the Napa Valley before tackling a much tougher finale. With no finishing laps this year, expect a medium-size group containing all the GC favorites to contest the straight-shot finish in Levi Leipheimer’s hometown. (Related: • 2010 Tour of California route descriptions • Stage 2 preview)
- Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara — who won the 2009 Amgen Tour of California prologue and then dropped out sick the next day — started the 2010 edition under the weather as well. At sign in, Cancellara said he spent all Saturday resting in his room, and he felt a little better than 24 hours ago, but was still suffering from “sinus problems, or jetlag, or something.” His Saxo Bank teammate Haedo said Cancellara was running at 80 percent. In any event, the Swiss national champion was still present and accounted for at the front of the race when things got down to business in Sacramento.
- All the crashed riders, and those held up by the crashes, were given the same finish times as the rest of the bunch.
- 1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
- 2. J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank)
- 3. Alexander Kristoff (BMC)
- 1. Cavendish
- 2. Haedo
- 3. Kristoff