Report & Photo Gallery: ATOC – Skujins Wins on Mountain Stage and Takes GC Lead

In what might come to be the greatest escape of the 10th anniversary Amgen Tour of California, 23-year-old Toms Skujins (LAT) of the Hincapie Racing Team suffered through the mountainous 107.6-mile stage to claim a solo victory by more than a minute along with the coveted Amgen Race Leader Jersey.

Stage 3, presented by SRAM, began and ended in 10-time host city San Jose, the only city to have hosted the Amgen Tour of California every year since it began in 2006. In between, there was high drama at high elevations as riders confronted six King of the Mountain (KOM) climbs: one HC at Mt. Hamilton, a Category 2 climb and four Category 4 climbs, including the uphill finish.

The first 20 miles of the race were spotted with several foiled breakaway attempts, with the peloton traveling at speeds over 40 mph. Near Livermore, BMC Racing Team’s Daniel Oss (ITA) found his way to the successful breakaway for the second day in a row, along with six other riders, who worked together to increase their lead up to nearly 5 minutes at the 3-hour point of the 4.5-hour race.

Photos © Darrell Parks

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Oss swept the first three KOMs, after which the group began to break up, with Skujins sailing off to a solo lead, which he steadily increased to 1:35 over the chase group and 4 minutes over the peloton by the time the more than 4,000-foot KOM summit at Mt. Hamilton was in his sights. Oss kept his hopes alive for the KOM competition, crossing the Mt. Hamilton KOM line second. With Skujins winning today’s competition, it will be second-place Oss who will wear the KOM jersey tomorrow since Skujins will don the coveted yellow leader.

“This is big. It’s pretty massive for us… I knew that a breakaway had a chance today,” said Skujins, who was Latvia’s Under-23 National Road Race Champion in 2013. “The last half-mile was just pure pain. My legs were locking up… I was not able to go any harder.”

Oss said of his two consecutive days in the breakaway that he wasn’t surprised. “It was a really hard start. I found a good moment and I tried because a few riders were there. I went because it was also good to think about the final climb because maybe from the group someone will want to attack and I can stay there for a teammate to help in the final.”

In the peloton, Tinkoff-Saxo and ultimately Team Sky drove up the pace to try to catch the escapees, with all but Skujins reabsorbed. The Latvian rider’s lead was just too large, and though he was struggling going it alone on the final climb to the finish, his efforts paid off with the overall race lead and a :32 advantage over Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan (SVK), who finished second for the third day in a row and holds on to second place overall. Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team’s 22-year-old Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) was along with him to take third (fourth overall, +:43) as well as the SRAM Best Young Rider award today. Team SmartStop’s Rob Britton (CAN) holds third position overall (+:44).

Heading into Stage 4 of 8 tomorrow, the 25 leaders in the general classification are separated by less than one minute.

1. Toms Skujins (LAT), Hincapie Racing Team
2. Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff-Saxo
3. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team

Amgen Race Leader Jersey: Toms Skujins (LAT), Hincapie Racing Team
Visit California Sprint Jersey: Mark Cavendish (GBR), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
Lexus King of the Mountain Jersey: Toms Skujins (LAT), Hincapie Racing Team
Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey: Daniel Oss (ITA), BMC Racing Team
SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team


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