Amgen Tour of California | Photo Finish in Stage 7
With thousands of fans lining the streets of Santa Rosa, Team KATUSHA’s star sprinter Alexander Kristoff (NOR) catapulted to a stage win, his eighth of the season, by a rim over all-time Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder Peter Sagan (SVK) of Tinkoff, who had spent much of the 109.1-mile day in a breakaway. The Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease™ Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM also spent the day in Santa Rosa, with cycling’s winningest woman Marianne Vos (NED) cinching the victory for Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team.
“It was a hard stage… I was really struggling on the climbs… at the end, Peter [Sagan] was in front alone, and he had two minutes, and we had to chase hard. And at the end he almost beat me also, so it was an impressive ride by him but I just managed to hold him off, and I’m really happy to win here in California,” said Kristoff who earned a bronze road race medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
With the men’s main peloton heading together into three downtown Santa Rosa circuits after 8,600 feet of climbing around the veteran Host City, no one gained time over race leader Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team, putting the 23 year-old in good position to defend his Amgen Race Leader Jersey earned on the Gibraltar Road Queen Stage (3), with hopes of becoming the race’s youngest champion when the race concludes tomorrow in Sacramento.
“Today I think for me it was the hardest stage of the week, because I really felt the pressure on my shoulders…I had a lot of enemies today. But I finally stay in yellow for tomorrow, and it’s not finished yet but I’m really, really happy to keep my yellow jersey again today after a really hard stage…It’s not finished, so we will see tomorrow,” said Alaphilippe, who came in second overall in last year’s Amgen Tour of California, just three seconds behind Sagan.
The jersey competitions were mostly sewed up today, with the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey going to Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman (Elk Grove, Calif.) after what was one of the most mountainous of all the Amgen Tour of California editions. In addition to his World Championship title,Sagan (SVK) has racked up Points classification wins at the Tour de France (4) and Amgen Tour of California (5), and will likely add to his collection with another Visit California Sprint Jersey this year. The SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey looks to be safely in the hands of Neilson Powless (USA) of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team, who sits in fifth place overall and retains the jersey for the fifth consecutive day.
“Today we knew it was going to be hard, and it proved to be the case. I had to really rely on my whole team to keep the race under control so I could get up the road and score some more points, and I’m really happy I was able to do it,” said Huffman.
Sagan (SVK) rode as part of a breakaway of six until he struck out solo with around 30 miles left to ride, increasing the gap to +1:30” over the chase and two minutes over the peloton at the 20 mile mark.
Sagan, sporting the Visit California Sprint Jersey which he’s held for the entire race, kept a +1:10” advantage over the peloton with 14 miles left to ride, and also picked up the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey today. Sagan holds the all-time record for stage wins (15) at the Amgen Tour of California, with Mark Cavendish (GBR) next with nine. The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider celebrated his 31st birthday today out on the roads of Santa Rosa.
Team KATUSHA drove the peloton forward, catching the chase group with 18 miles left to ride, which had included George Bennett (NZL) of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo, Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) of BMC Racing Team; Rob Squire (USA) of Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear;Krists Neilands (LAT) of Axeon Hagens Berman and later on, Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Lawson Craddock (USA). They went on to sweep up Sagan just inside of 12 miles to the finish.
Back together, the group approached downtown Santa Rosa and three 2.5-mile circuits, with the cyclists riding at about 35 mph and the sprinters moving forward in anticipation of a bunch sprint at the end. During the second lap, Team Lotto NL – Jumbo’s Mike Teunissen (NED) launched an attack, but could not hold off the thundering peloton, though he held on to his position toward the front to take fourth place today.
In the final mile of the final circuit, two Team KATHUSA members led out Kristoff, flanked by Sagan, with Team Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb (GER) nearby as well. The young team of Axeon Hagens Berman continued their week of aggressive riding with a couple of riders up front, including Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR).
On the finishing straight, Kristoff took off toward the line; Sagan came close to overtaking him in the final meters as he launched his bike over the finish, but ended the stage in second by a tire rim. Team Sky’s Danny Van Poppel (NED) took third. Degenkolb pierced the top-10, ending the stage in eighth place as he finds his form following a severe injury.
The leader board stays in tact today with Alaphilippe maintaining his16-second lead over BMC Racing Team’s Rohan Dennis (AUS) and his teammate Brent Bookwalter (Albuquerque, New Mexico) at +:38”. Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s U.S. National Time Trial Champion Andrew Talansky(New York, New York) remains in fourth (+:47) with Roseville, Calif. native, Neilson Powless (USA) of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team in fifth (+1:08”).
Stage 7 Podium
Stage 7 Jersey Winners