Bunch Sprint in Sacramento Opens Amgen Tour of CaliforniaSun 11 May 2014
The sprinters had earmarked the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California, and they delivered in Sacramento, with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma- Quick-Step) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) treating fans to a photo finish. The Manx Missile was declared the victor and pulled on the first race leader’s jersey. Matt Goss opened his account with an eighth place finish.
“The sprint was obviously very hectic,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “The bunch was really nervous today. The guys tried to do something for Gossy, but it didn’t work out.”
“The goal today was to keep things together for the finish,” Wilson added. “There are a lot of really strong sprint teams here, and there are not a lot of chances for the sprinters. We were confident it was going to be a bunch sprint, so we put all our eggs in Gossy’s basket. We want to give him the chances whenever we can.”
The first stage began and ended in California’s capitol city. The day’s break formed early with Matt Cooke (Jamis-Sutter Homes), Charles Planet (Team Nov Nordisk), Eric Young (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Teo Geoghegan Hart (Bissell Development) and Thomas Leezer (Belkin) going clear. The quintet soon had five minutes in hand, which was Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s cue to take up the chase.
With 50 kilometre remaining, the early escape was back in the bunch, and Team Sky was on the front forcing a split in the crosswinds. Their efforts caused the formation of an elite group of 15 riders. Goss had made the selection.
“The wind was the real story today,” said Wilson. “It was really windy out there. That was a big factor in the race. A few teams were able to use the crosswinds to split the fields. Gossy made the split, which is a really good sign. He seems to have good legs.”
The leaders were never able to extend the gap beyond the minute mark, and the race eventually came back together. A handful of riders countered the catch with Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly) and Greg Daniel (Bissell Development) eventually going clear. The trio led the peloton onto the finish circuit for two laps around downtown Sacramento.
The bunch swept up Reijnen, the last man standing, inside the final lap as the sprint trains stood by on the ready. Cannondale, Giant Shimano and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step all vied for position with the finish line looming. To the delight of the crowds, the sprint was so fast and so competitive it proved too close to call on the line.
“This is the best field that I’ve ever seen at the Tour of California,” said Wilson. “The teams are taking it very seriously. It’s great for the race. Half of the WorldTour teams have half of their Tour de France teams racing here. This is a very motivated field.”
“It’s certainly going to be a more competitive race this year,” Wilson added. “With the quality of the teams we have here, everyone is chasing results. That could change how the racing unfolds. Stages such as today – it was always going to be a bunch sprint. In other years, maybe a break would stand a chance.”
Racing continues tomorrow with an individual time trial in Folsom. The discipline specialists and the overall contenders will all be keen to post a strong result.
“Damien Howson wants to have a good go tomorrow,” said Wilson. “Jens Mouris is also going to give it a crack. Those are the only two that will ride full gas for us.”