Peter Sagan of Liquigas once again proved the strongest man in the peloton, blasting past the competition in the final hundred meters of Stage Three of the Tour of California to take his third win and keep the leader’s yellow jersey.
The 22-year-old Slovakian champion easily stayed near the front of the peloton through the stage’s three categorized climb, and when all organization fell apart in the final kilometer, showed his skill at the right wheel to follow.
With the riders sprinting into a headwind, timing was everything, and Sagan times his run perfectly. Garmin rider Heinrich Haussler started the sprint, with Sagan third wheel and Omega’s Tom Boonen fourth.
Haussler went too soon, and faded slightly in the final few kilometers; Boonen waited a fraction of a second too long and finished third. Sagan used his competition as a leadout train, then came around the two riders in front of him and crossed the line just ahead of Haussler, completing his sweep of the Tour of California’s opening stages
Perfect Stage for a Power Rider
Stage Three was a perfect stage for a power rider. It featured three categorized climbs: Cat 4 Calaveras Road 8.4 km into the route; Cat 2 Mt. Diablo at 87.4 km and Cat. 3 Patterson Pass, 15 km from the finish line.
This last climb was a perfect launching platform for crazy breakaway attacks; a rider who got a small advantage on the climb could push hard on the descent and possibly spoil the day for the sprinters, either by forcing them to work too hard on the climb or winning the stage, making the sprinters fight for second place.
A strong man like Peter Sagan or Omegas Pharma-Quicktep’s Tom Boonen were well-suited to this stage. The final climb was ling but not steep, so the heavier riders could keep up with the pure climbers and still have legs left at the end.
A four-rider break developed just over the first Cat 3 climb, only 8.5 kilometers into the 185.5 km stage. These four riders— Sébastian Salas (Team Optum,) Jonathan Patrick McCarty (Spidertech,) Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Cycling,) Wilson Alexander Marentes (Colombia-Coldeportes,)—got a gap of about eight minutes before Jeremy Vennell decided they were slacking and attacked, 69 km from the finish line. Wilson Marentes latched on, and the pair stayed away until the 25-km mark.
Liquigas and Omega Pharma-Quickstep led the chase, Liquigas riding for race leader Peter Sagan, Omega for roleur Tom Boonen, who had wanted to challenge Sagan in the first stage but punctured 500 meters from the finish.
Next: Crosswinds, Headwinds