Amgen Tour of California | Final: France’s Alaphilippe Becomes Youngest-Ever Winner of Amgen Tour of California
After 782 miles and eight days of racing, 23 year-old Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team clinched the 2016 Amgen Tour of California championship, becoming the youngest rider to hold that title in the race’s 11 years. U.S. National Road Race Champion Megan Guarnier (Glens Falls, New York) of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team also celebrated victory in Sacramento as the four-day Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM which concluded along with the men’s event.
After ceding last year’s race to Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan (SVK) by a mere three seconds, a determined Alaphilippe earned the traditional yellow Amgen Race Leader Jersey with a solo victory on the Gibraltar Road Queen Stage (3) Tuesday and has successfully defended it every day since, with a 16-second advantage at today’s start that he grew to 21 seconds when all was said and done. This first stage race win of his young career may foreshadow more headlines on the horizon with what would be his Grand Tour debut if he’s selected for his team’s Tour de France squad this summer.
“This victory is really important. It’s my first win of the season, and it’s the first time that I won a General Classification,” said Ardennes sensation Alaphilippe, who is the first French rider to win top honors in California. “It’s really something special to win this race, especially here in California, and I’m really proud of my team all week, especially today because it was a really stressful day for a lot of riders in the peloton. Everyone wanted to be in the front….It was a good day and I’m really, really happy.”
Sunday’s Sacramento course took the 133 world-class cyclists on a 85.7-mile jaunt including a crossing of the iconic Tower Bridge leading into three 2.2-mile laps around Capitol Park to the finish line in the shadow of the Capitol Building. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Mark Cavendish (GBR) came away with a hard-earned victory after an epic sprinter showdown, claiming his tenth all-time Amgen Tour of California stage win, second only to Sagan who holds the race record with 15 after taking Stages 1 and 4 this week.
Out on today’s course, an early breakaway of seven held until the closing circuits. Etixx – Quick-Step, protecting their yellow jersey winner, and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, looking for the stage win, took turns patrolling at the front of the peloton and had pulled the gap back to one minute with about 25 miles left to ride. The peloton with Tinkoff in control bore down on the leaders coming into the circuits, bringing the gap to less than 45 seconds.
The leaders were finally swallowed in the final lap, with the world’s all-star sprinters lining up to face off for a fast finish, including Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka with Mark Cavendish (GBR) on the wheel of his lead-out man Mark Renshaw (AUS). Also near the front as the peloton hurtled toward the finish at speeds in excess of 30 mph were Tinkoff with World Champion Sagan, and Team KATUSHA with star sprinter Alexander Kristoff (NOR), fresh off his stage win yesterday.
Even Alaphilippe joined the final flurry to the finish where Cavendish delivered his tenth Amgen Tour of California stage win (second only to Sagan), followed over the line by Sagan himself then Kristoff. Team Sky’s Danny Van Poppel (NED) took third yesterday and settled for fourth today, followed by Team Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb (GER), who has had a strong showing in California as he comes back from a severe injury after a car hit several team members during a training ride in January.
Cavendish, who holds a near record of 26 stage wins at the Tour de France, won four stages last year at the 2015 Amgen Tour of California, including several neck and neck finishes with Sagan, to claim last year’s Points classification. Today marks Cavendish’s fourth stage win in Sacramento (2010, 2014, 2015, 2016) including another close finish over Degenkolb in 2014.
“I’ve been coming to the Amgen Tour of California for many years. There’s a reason all the top riders in the world come over to America to race here.” Cavendish. “It’s always been a great race, and Kristin and AEG always put on a tremendous show, as well a great, relaxed race for the riders to come to….I’m happy to be here and I’m definitely coming back.”
In the classification competitions, the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) award for the week went to a rider familiar with the Sacramento-area terrain, 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 will take home his career sixth Amgen Tour of California Visit California Sprint Jersey with the classification win this year. The SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey went to the Sacramento-area 19 year-old Neilson Powless (Roseville, Calif.) of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team, who has worn the jersey and been in the top-5 overall for much of the race, finishing in ninth overall after today. Toms Skujins (LAT) of Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA) was the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider.
“The route and the racing I really enjoyed,” said Huffman. “I thought it (the race) was more challenging than last year, which was good for me and my team, so overall I’m happy.”
Stage 8 Podium
2016 Final Standings
2016 Jersey Winners
Amgen Leader Jersey – Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (BEL)
Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Evan Huffman (Elk Grove, Calif.), Rally Cycling Team (USA)
Visit California Sprint Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)
SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey – Neilson Powless (USA), Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team (USA)
Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Toms Skujins (LAT), Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)
Overall Team Classification – BMC Racing Team
(c)2016 AEG | SCVTV