Mitch Docker Sprints to Sixth on Opening Stage of Amgen Tour of CaliforniaSun 12 May 2013
Mitch Docker was the top finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE on the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Most commonly slotted into one of the final spots in the team’s sprint train, Docker had the opportunity to sprint for himself in Escondido. He managed sixth in the field sprint, good for eighth on the stage, with two riders crossing the line just ahead of their chasers.
The Australian outfit had planned to ride for Michael Matthews. Despite a strong showing throughout much of the race, Matthews lost contact with the front group over the category three Cole Grade climb. More difficult than the profile suggested, the final climb dislodged more than half of the field with the likes of Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin Sharp) all distanced from the front group.
The stage followed formula in the opening 125 kilometres with an early break going clear. Consisting entirely of riders on domestic teams, the escape built up an advantage of nearly 12 minutes during the first half of the race. BMC and Cannondale did the bulk of the chase work with Saxo-Tinkoff and Omega Pharma Quick-Step lending assistance as the gap began to tumble.
“The team plan today was centred around Michael Matthews,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “He’s quite a good sprinter, and he can also climb. On paper, the stage looked like it would be for him. He was going well today, but it was so hot – around 40°C all day. He was dropped a couple kilometres before the top of the cat three climb.”
An elite selection had formed over the top of Cole Grade, with a handful of riders reconnecting with the bunch on the descent. By that point, only two riders remained up the road from the early break. They were overtaken with around five kilometres left to race.
As the field swept up the leading duo, Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked. Francisco Mancebo (5 Hour Energy) quickly bridged across to the move. The pair opened up a 10” gap that held steady as they soared toward the finish where Westra beat Mancebo to the line. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the sprint for the final spot on the podium 6" behind Westra.
“Most of our guys were in survival mode today,” said Wilson. “They didn’t cope well with the heat. A lot of riders in the race suffered. It’s hard mentally to deal with these conditions. It ruins the focus. Tomorrow is going to be another hot day, so we'll see how it goes for us."
Michael Hepburn and Fumy Beppu fared the worse, finishing outside the time limit on the opening stage.
"They may still be let back in but I don't know yet unfortunately," noted Wilson. "They both gave it everything to finish inside the time limit but with the high speed of the stage and in the heat they just couldn't manage it. They picked the wrong day to have bad legs."