The leader jersey changed hands for the third time in three days at the 2016 Amgen Tour of California, with Etixx – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) clutching the Queen Stage victory with a determined push up the final steeply sloped meters of Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County. The 23 year-old French rider who won last year’s Mount Baldy stage and placed second overall, just three seconds from top finisher Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), has clearly found California climbs to his liking.
“Today was really hard, everyone waiting the last climb for the big fight, so I was a little bit nervous we arrived here [at the final climb]”, said Alaphilippe. “I wanted to wait until the last moment because I don’t know my condition after the break, so I’m really, really happy to win today.”
Photos © Darrell Parks
Soon after the peloton of 144 took off from Thousand Oaks, home to title sponsor Amgen, a breakaway group of seven emerged. Nearly four hours and 95 miles later, that group dwindled to two Americans still out front on the approach to Gibraltar: Axeon Hagens Berman’s 21 year-old Greg Daniel (Denver, Colo.) and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Tanner Putt (Boulder, Colo.). Daniel attacked for a solo stint heading into the infamous 7.5-mile climb up Gibraltar Road, earning the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey today.
The chase group was pulled up the mountain by Cannondale Pro Cycling Team in support of Lawson Craddock (USA), with BMC Racing Team for Brent Bookwalter (USA) and Alaphilippe also within the pack of 20+ riders.
Two miles into the climb, the youngest rider in the peloton, Axeon Hagens Berman’s Neilson Powless (age 19) from Roseville, Calif. took the lead, creating a gap that grew to 15 and then 30 seconds with less than three miles to ride.
“On the final climb I felt really good. I was in the top three riders getting into the climb. After maybe 2K [kilometers] on the climb I looked back and noticed that there was a really large gap,” said Powless. “I just decided to keep it steady and see how long I could go, and it turned out to be a really successful ride, and gave me a lot of confidence just to know that I can climb like that, because in the past I haven’t seen myself as a top, top climber. So, yeah, I have a lot of confidence going into the next couple days.”
Strong climbers Lachlan Morton (AUS) of San Diego-based Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Peter Stetina (USA) of Trek – Segafredo made a move to catch Powless with 2.7 miles left. Stetina, who is coming back from a severe leg injury, soon escaped to a solo lead and hung on through the 10 percent average grade of the final mile until Alaphilippe attacked in the last quarter-mile, overtaking Stetina and also the Amgen Race Leader Jersey with his win today. Stetina, who resides in two of this year’s Host Cities – Santa Rosa and Lake Tahoe – finished the stage in second place, followed by George Bennett (NZL) of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo in third and Santa Rosa-based BMC Racing Team’s Brent Bookwalter (USA) in fourth. After his tremendous effort, Powless ended the day in fifth place.
Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman (Elk Grove, Calif.), who took second place on Stage 2 yesterday, joined the breakaway to gather KOM points on the first three categorized climbs of the day to retain the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey.
A crash at the bottom of Gibraltar Road today took Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh (GBR), a favorite for today’s stage, out of the race with a suspected broken collarbone.
Stage 3 Podium
1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (BEL)
2. Peter Stetina (USA), Trek – Segafredo (USA)
3. George Bennett (NZL) of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED)
Stage 3 Jersey Winners
1. Amgen Leader Jersey – Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (BEL)
2. Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Evan Huffman (USA), Rally Cycling Team (USA)
3. Visit California Sprint Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff (RUS)
4. SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey – Neilson Powless (USA), Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team (USA)
5. Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Greg Daniel (USA), Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team (USA)
STAGE 4 TOMORROW, PRESENTED BY VISIT CALIFORNIA
Wed., May 18 – Morro Bay to Monterey County’s Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway Start Time: 10:10 a.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.