Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) did it again at the Amgen Tour of California on Monday, winning his second stage in a row, but this one was a squeaker.
At the end of a 120.4-mile stage from Nevada city to Lodi, it came down to a photo finish as Cavendish jumped off Peter Sagan’s (Tinkoff-Saxo) wheel in a headwind sprint to win by a bike throw.
“Going into the last corner Sagan made sure he was ahead of me, but I was happy to be on his wheel,” Cavendish said in a team press release. “It was a headwind finish. I took a quick glance and I saw a Drapac rider come up. I tried to go around but was a bit closed. I didn’t give up, and I went again. I saw on the left Sagan had the slipstream of the Drapac rider, and into the headwind that was a massive advantage. I knew he’d get the slingshot. So I knew it would be hard against a strong guy like Sagan. At the line I wasn’t sure if I got it.”
The early breakaway included Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Racing), Luis Romero (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Markel Irizar (Trek Factory Racing), and Daniel Oss (BMC Racing).
At one point, the four leaders had an advantage of more than five minutes.
Inside of 50 miles to go, Etixx-Quick-Step took to the front to bring the gap down to a reasonable three minutes, which is where it stood for the next 30 miles of racing.
With 10 miles left, the gap was 1:40 as the leaders approached the finishing circuit around Lodi.
The gap was down to an even minute with eight miles left, nearing the city limits.
In the final 7 miles of racing, a crash split the field, and Giant-Alpecin’s GC leader, Warren Barguil, came to grief. Jamis-Hagens Berman’s Ben Jacques-Maynes was also caught in the crash and was reportedly taken to a hospital with injuries.
Barguil was clearly in difficulty, off the back, only able to pedal with his left leg.
As the break rode through the finish straight with two laps left, Romero had been dropped and the peloton had the leaders in sight.
The peloton made the catch with three miles remaining.
“Etixx-Quick-Step was the team that rode on the front most of the day again,” Cavendish continued. “Tinkoff-Saxo put one rider in front to help with the chase, but this still meant we were really short in riders at the end. There was only four of us at the end with Matteo Trentin, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mark Renshaw in front of me.”
Tinkoff-Saxo got down to business, setting up the sprint for Sagan.
Drapac also got involved in the action at the front, dropping off Wippert early in the finish stretch.
Sagan sat second wheel, and Cavendish was close behind. At first it looked like the Etixx-Quick-Step leader went a bit to soon in the headwind sprint. Sagan was next to jump, but Cavendish took his second consecutive win with a bike throw.
Sagan was second, and Wippert finished third.
Cavendish extended his overall race lead to eight seconds with a time bonus earned with the stage win.
“I wanted to surprise Cavendish in the final stretch and I did but he proved to be faster than me,” Sagan said. “He crossed the finish line ahead of me but with a very slim margin, less than on yesterday’s stage. I’m not a pure sprinter, and Cavendish is faster. Tomorrow’s finish suits me very well.”
There is a possibility of a GC shakeup after Stage 3, which is a 169.8km up-and-down race that includes Mt. Hamilton, in San Jose. Mt. Hamilton is steep and the descent is also technical. There is a short, steep uphill finish with gradients of more than 10 percent.
“Tomorrow is a mountain stage, so it will be a different story for the stage and likely also the GC,” Cavendish said. “But we won two stages in a row here at Amgen Tour of California in stages that we came here to win. We defended the yellow jersey as we wanted today. We’ll do our best tomorrow and see if there are other chances for victories in the next days.”