Peter Sagan Sprints to Stage 1 Victory in 2012 Amgen Tour of California
Peter Sagan overcame a flat tire five kilometers from the finish only to have teammate Ted King tow him back up to the pack at more than 40 miles per hour to pass his stage victory challengers within the last 100 meters to win stage 1 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.
California must suit Slovakian Peter Sagan of Team Liquigas-Cannondale well. The 22-year-old rider overcame a flat tire five kilometers from the finish only to have teammate Ted King tow him back up to the pack at more than 40 miles per hour to pass his stage victory challengers within the last 100 meters to win stage 1 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California before thousands of screaming fans in Santa Rosa - the city where Team BMC Racing's headquarters are located.
"I want to thank my teammates for helping me win this stage," a happy Sagan told the press after the stage and elaborated "Ted King, who helped me with 3 kilometer to go and Daniel Goss who piloted me to the front so I was able to win. It's going to be really tough to hold onto the yellow jersey. This race will definitely get harder and harder as we go."
Today's stage kicked off the seventh edition of the race, which will take riders and fans nearly 750 miles throughout some of California's most iconic terrain, including the Pacific Coast, Mt. Diablo and Big Bear Lake over the next six days, before ending in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, May 20.
The Amgen Tour of California peloton of 128 riders, who headed out behind Santa Rosa native and three-time Amgen Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep on two short neutral laps before setting out on the 115.9-mile course. The Stage 1 route took the peloton through the Sonoma wine country before winding up and over to the Pacific Coast, and then back into Santa Rosa, where Sagan outsprinted Team Garmin-Barracuda's Heinrich Haussler and American Fred Rodriguez of Team Exergy to take the stage one victory.
After the two neutral laps around Santa Rosa, the riders wasted no time attacking, resulting in six riders forming a breakaway group. Included in the breakaway were Maxime Bouet (FRA) of AG2R La Mondiale; Jeff Louder (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team; David Boily (CAN) of Team Spidertech Powered by C10; Andrew Dahlheim (USA) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling; Sebastian Salas (USA) of Team Optum Powered by Kelly Benefit Strategies; Josh Atkins (NZL) of the Bontrager Livestrong Team; and Sam Johnson (SUI) of Team Exergy.
"Bissell Pro Cycling is connected to Santa Rosa since this is where we train," Jacques-Maynes commented after the stage and added "We rode this course at our training camp in February. Coleman Valley has a lot of history here. There are some pretty gnarly descents, but we had good cooperation with the weather today. It was just a great day to be out with a great crowd. I'm really happy to win a jersey. Bissell is one of the most aggressive teams out here and that's what we are here to prove."
As the road tipped upward, the peloton closed in on the breakaway, dropping the gap to eight minutes and 45 seconds. At the half-way mark in the stage and 10 kilometer from the day's first KOM, the break was eight minutes and 30 seconds ahead of the peloton as they rolled down River Road. Boily picked up the day's first King of the Mountain (KOM) points on Cazadero Highway, followed by Salas and then Atkins. This same group crossed the second and third KOMs of the day, both on Fort Ross Road, in the exact same order.
With 60 kilometer to go, the break still held a lead of eight minutes and 15 seconds over the peloton, with Team RadioShack-Nissan working the most to reel them back in. Turning inland, the riders headed toward their fourth and final KOM of the day on Coleman Valley Road, where the peloton began to stretch out with Team Garmin-Barracuda putting in the most effort at the front and some mad spectators working hard to get in the way of the riders. Boily crossed the KOM line first, followed by Salas and Bouet. Stretching to a single line, the peloton trailed the breakaway by only 40 seconds.
As the peloton closed in, Boily was absorbed, leaving only Jacques-Maynes, Bouet and Louder. Team Rabobank continued to drive the chase and eventually caught up with the three leaders. Shortly thereafter, Sagan's bike flatted, but Sagan was able to work his way back up to the front. Just outside of the 3 kilometer, there was a crash that took out notable sprinter Michael Matthews (AUS) of Rabobank. Sagan managed to avoid the trouble and sprinted to the finish. Haussler finished second and Rodriguez crossed the line in third position.
Commenting on his 2nd place finish Haussler said "It's always a bit up in the air about how my form is after altitude. And I'm just coming off a big altitude block. So second today shows my form is there, and that's a good sign. We're very motivated here in California, and we'll keep looking for
"It was great to be here in my hometown in Santa Rosa," Leipheimer commented after the stage and continued "Today was a huge success. The course was beautiful, and I knew every meter of the road. To be honest, I suffered a little, and suffering on your own roads isn't fun, but I am just happy to be here. The Amgen Tour of California is important in order for me to get to the Tour de France and London Olympics. There's a lot of racing left and this is my motivation to improve, be as fast as possible and train as much as possible."
2012 Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 Results:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 04:42:35
2 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin - Barracuda
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy
4 Leigh Howard (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Team BMC Racing
6 George Hincapie (USA) Team BMC Racing
7 Ryan Anderson (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10
8 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9 Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team
10 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
11 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
12 Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team
13 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
14 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
16 Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
17 Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan
18 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos - Shimano
19 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
20 Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
21 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
22 Marc De Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
23 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
24 Pieter Weening (Ned) GreenEdge Cycling Team
25 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin - Barracuda