The 2016 Amgen Tour of California presented by AEG came in like a lion with World Champion and reigning race champion Peter Sagan (SVK) of Tinkoff roaring to victory in a bunch sprint to the finish line in Mission Beach, San Diego, putting him back into the yellow leader jersey he wore at the race’s conclusion last year. Today’s stage kicked off the 11th annual 8-day stage race, which features some of the most accomplished riders in the sport competing across 782 miles before concluding in Sacramento next Sun., May 22.
“I’m very happy to be here again, to catch a first victory here, in the first stage. Thank you to all my teammates. Today was a good day,” said Sagan of his 14th Amgen Tour of California career victory (the race’s all-time record holder for stage wins). “I came here the first time in 2010…it was a very nice race, very good organization, very nice hotels, food… Also, the level of the race is very good, and it’s also very good for preparation because it’s good weather. Now it’s the Giro and Tour of California. And I prefer to come here to train and prepare. And also I like California for the fans, and I’ve won a lot of stages here, and I’m very happy always to return here.”
Photos © Darrell Parks
The picturesque 108-mile ride began with a breakaway group of seven riders who sprang out to take a 4+-minute lead over the peloton, which they held for much of the stage. Team KATUSHA rode at the front of the peloton for much of the stage, with Team Sky, Tinkoff and BMC Racing Team lending a hand to chase down the leaders in the final miles. For his part in the breakaway, Jacob Rathe (USA) of San Diego-based Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, the 24 year-old rider who is coming back from artery surgery last season, was awarded the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
With about two miles left in the stage, Team Lotto NL – Jumbo leapt to the front of the pack with Tinkoff jockeying for position to bring Sagan to the front. The last mile and a half saw a chaotic peloton fighting for control, with Lotto NL – Jumbo seeming to take over but Tinkoff still in the mix. Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team’s Tom Boonen (BEL) made a move toward the final meters which did not prove strong enough for the win today, turning in an 8th place finish. Nothing could hold back the explosive World Champion, with Sagan claiming the coveted Amgen Race Leader Jersey as well as the prize for Sprint points today.
“The fans are very nice. Every year it’s more and more fans for me, and I’m very happy for that,” said Sagan, who spoke of his love for California in the days leading to the race. The fans loved him right back, erupting into roars when he catapulted over the finish first by the length of his handlebars.
Cannondale’s Wouter Wippert (NED) took second place (and will wear the Visit California Sprint Jersey tomorrow) with fellow countrymen Team Lotto NL – Jumbo’s 22 year-old Dylan Groenewegen (NED) earning third place on the stage as well as the SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey.
American rider Oscar Clark (USA) of Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear will ride tomorrow in the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey, which he earned in the one KOM climb today during his time in the breakaway. Speaking of the level of competition at the Amgen Tour of California, he commented:
“It’s great for us. It’s the biggest race we do all year, so to have the world champion and past world champions, and all the big name riders, it’s awesome for what we do,” said Clark.
Alexander Kristoff’s (NOR) Team KATUSHA rode hard for him all day with the famed sprinter getting swallowed by the other teams and coming in 16th for the day.
Stage 1 Podium
1. Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)
2. Wouter Wippert (NED), Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)
3. Dylan Groenewegen (NED), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED)
Stage 1 Jersey Winners
Amgen Leader Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)
Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Oscar Clark (USA), Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear (USA)
Visit California Sprint Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS) (jersey will be worn tomorrow by Wouter Wippert (NED), Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)
SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey – Dylan Groenewegen (NED), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED)
Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Jacob Rathe (USA), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis (USA)
STAGE 2 TOMORROW, PRESENTED BY SRAM
Mon., May 16 – South Pasadena to Santa Clarita (92.3 miles)
Start Time: 12:05 p.m. PDT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:45 p.m. PDT
Amgen Tour of California fans can catch the action daily with live coverage of the race on NBC Sports Network (live conclusion on NBC on May 22), follow along on the Microsoft Tour Tracker App for mobile and desktop, and connect with the race through all of their favorite social media platforms. Links are available at the Social drop-down menu at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com and fans can use #AMERICASGREATESTRACE to join the conversation.