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Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) shot off Mark Renshaw’s wheel to win the kickoff to the 10th Amgen Tour of California on Sunday.
The Manx Missile made it look easy, sailing across the line in front of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing Team) to collect his 10th victory of the year along with the first leader’s jersey of this year’s Amgen Tour.
The story of the day, though, may have been the abandonment by Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin). A team spokesman said he was looking to build form ahead of the Tour de France, but had developed an upper respiratory bug exacerbated by allergies.
William Clarke (Drapac Professional Cycling), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), Rob Britton and Robert Sweeting (SmartStop) formed the break of the day for the 123-mile stage. A mechanical took Britton out of the break, but the others carried on.
Fisher was next to go, leaving Clarke and Sweeting out front on the finishing circuits. Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) bridged to them as the catch came and spent a few lonely moments off the front. But Tinkoff-Saxo and Etixx-Quick-Step soon put a stop to that, and with two laps of the circuit remaining the Tinkoff team was parked smack on the sharp end.
As the bell rang for last lap Etixx came forward for Cavendish. Giant-Alpecin likewise moved up, as did BMC Racing, along with Sagan, who appeared to be free-lancing his way to the finish.
Renshaw had had a bit of a shock earlier in the stage, hitting a pothole and crashing hard. But when he lit it up with Cavendish in his slipstream, that was all she wrote. Sagan would have to settle for second, with BMC Racing’s Jean-Pierre Drucker in third.
American John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare) was fourth, with Canadian Guillaume Boivin (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) fifth.
“I thought Mark Renshaw might have gone a bit long, but when I saw Sagan in the wind I knew I had it,” said Cavendish. “I didn’t go too early, or too late. I went with 200 meters to go, and we timed it just right, and I’m super happy to win again in Sacramento.”
He’s hoping to win again down the road, too.
“Another two for sure, maybe another three or four, but tomorrow for sure,” said Cavendish, when asked how many more field sprints he believes he can win this week. “I would like to win in the yellow jersey tomorrow.”
For that, his lead-out man will need a bit of a tuneup.
“Renshaw hit a pothole in the road, and went down hard. I was riding right next to him, and he literally just disappeared,” said Cavendish. “But he came back and he was not too scratched up. He’s got a bit of a sore neck. We’ll get the physios on him tonight, and hopefully he’ll be good tomorrow.”