Sagan sprints to opening stage victory at Tour of California

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The World Champion, Peter Sagan, got his Amgen Tour of California campaign off to a perfect start sprinting to a resounding stage victory in San Diego. Sagan’s first race back after a break following his successful classics campaign proved he is still riding strongly as he found a perfect opening in the hectic sprint finish to take the win and the first leader’s jersey with it.

Tinkoff hit the front with 5km to race and stayed present around the head of the peloton until the finish straight, keeping Peter Sagan near the front and able to find his opening in sight of the line.

Tinkoff’s Sport Director in California, Patxi Vila said from the finish: “We knew it was a good chance today and it was one of the objectives to go for the win. Katusha did a strong ride to chase today but we knew we wanted to follow and wait as long as possible, keeping the team together and this paid off.”

The race got off to a predictable start with an early breakaway of seven riders moving clear in the opening kilometres and quickly building an advantage that would see them spend the day at the front of the race. The stage featured one main difficulty along its 175km parcours, the first category climb of Honey Springs Road, a 9.5km ascent at an average of 5.5% gradient. With the breakaway holding several minutes advantage on the climb, the peloton took it fairly steady and no real splits occurred behind the leaders.

As the race headed back downhill all thoughts turned to the stage finish, and the sprint opportunity that awaited – and the gap started to fall as teams applied more pressure to the front of the race. Having sat at over six minutes, the lead was down to 2’30” with 45km to race. After the final intermediate sprint, the front group split and that signalled the end for them with the catch finally coming with just over 3km from the line.

The various sprint trains formed on the large roads running into San Diego. With a headwind finish it was important to go late, and having jumped on the perfect wheel as the sprint opened up, Peter Sagan pulled clear to take a convincing win and to start the week perfectly for the team.

Tour of California 2016 – stage 1 results (San Diego – San Diego):

1 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

4:20:41

2 Wouter Wippert (Cannondale)

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3 Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNl-Jumbo)

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4 Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie)

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5 Martijn Verschoor (Novo Nordisk)

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6 Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo)

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7 Ruben Guerreiro (Axeon Hagens Berman)

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8 Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step)

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9 Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC)

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10 John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare)

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