Sagan opens Tour of California with big win

Peter Sagan (SVK) of Tinkoff roared to victory in a bunch sprint to the finish line in Mission Beach, San Diego, putting him back into the yellow leader jersey he wore at the race’s conclusion last year.

Today’s stage kicked off the 11th annual eight-day stage race, which features some of the most accomplished riders in the sport competing across 782 miles before concluding in Sacramento next Sunday, May 22.

“I’m very happy to be here again, to catch a first victory here, in the first stage,” Sagan said of his 14th Amgen Tour of California career victory. “Thank you to all my teammates. Today was a good day. I came here the first time in 2010. And I prefer to come here to train and prepare. And also I like California for the fans, and I’ve won a lot of stages here, and I’m very happy always to return here.”

Photos by Clipped In – copyright

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 108-mile ride began with a breakaway group of seven riders who sprang out to take a four-minute lead over the peloton, which they held for much of the stage. Team Katusha rode at the front of the peloton for much of the stage, with Team Sky, Tinkoff and BMC Racing Team lending a hand to chase down the leaders in the final miles.

For his part in the breakaway, Jacob Rathe (USA) of San Diego-based Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, the 24 year-old rider who is coming back from artery surgery last season, was awarded the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey.

With about two miles left in the stage, Team Lotto NL-Jumbo leapt to the front of the pack with Tinkoff jockeying for position to bring Sagan to the front.

The last mile and a half saw a chaotic peloton fighting for control, with Lotto NL-Jumbo seeming to take over but Tinkoff still in the mix. Etixx-Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team’s Tom Boonen (BEL) made a move toward the final meters, which did not prove strong enough for the win, turning in an eighth-place finish.

Cannondale’s Wouter Wippert (NED) took second place with fellow countryman Team Lotto NL–Jumbo’s 22-year-old Dylan Groenewegen (NED) earning third place on the stage as well as the SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey.

American rider Oscar Clark (USA) of Holowesko|Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear will ride tomorrow in the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey, which he earned in the one KOM climb today during his time in the breakaway.

“It’s great for us,” Clark said. “It’s the biggest race we do all year, so to have the world champion and past world champions, and all the big name riders, it’s awesome for what we do.”

Alexander Kristoff’s (NOR) Team Katusha rode hard for him all day with the famed sprinter getting swallowed by the other teams and coming in 16th for the day.

Stage 1 Podium

  1. Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)
  2. Wouter Wippert (NED), Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)
  3. Dylan Groenewegen (NED), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED)

Stage 1 Jersey Winners

Amgen Leader Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)

Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Oscar Clark (USA), Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear (USA)

Visit California Sprint Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS) (jersey will be worn tomorrow by Wouter Wippert (NED), Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)

SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey – Dylan Groenewegen (NED), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED)

Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Jacob Rathe (USA), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis (USA)


Stage 2

Monday May 16 – South Pasadena to Santa Clarita (92.3 miles)

Start Time: 12:05 p.m. PDT

Estimated Finish Time: 3:45 p.m. PDT

Catch the action daily with live coverage of the race on NBC Sports Network (live conclusion on NBC on May 22).