It was another memorable edition of the Amgen Tour of California and here are the key points we picked out of the eight-day race

Mark Cavendish can still produce the goods

Mark Cavendish wins stage eight of the 2016 Tour of California

Mark Cavendish wins stage eight of the 2016 Tour of California

Write him off at your peril – Mark Cavendish can still win a bunch sprint against some of the fastest men in the peloton, even when he has no teammates around him.

On stage eight in Sacramento, Cavendish burned through his Dimension Data leadout well before the final kilometre as the peloton worked to bring back a splintering breakaway on the finishing circuit.

Cavendish, the day after his 31st birthday, simply sat on Alexander Kristoff‘s wheel in the last kilometre before speeding past the Norwegian and Peter Sagan to take the win.

Compared to last season’s four wins in California it could seem that Cav’s lost a step, but most of the sprints didn’t really suit him and on stage one he didn’t really find himself in a position to compete.

He’s got his eye on the Tour de France‘s first yellow jersey in July, and if the sprint is flat he’s got a great chance of taking it, judging by Sunday’s performance.

Peter Sagan loves to take the race to everyone else

Peter Sagan (right) wins stage one of the Tour of California

Peter Sagan (right) wins stage one of the Tour of California

He may have been safe in the green sprinter’s jersey and had nothing but the stage win to play for on Sunday, but Sagan just can’t help trying to spark the race into life.

On the final stage, when the peloton were just trundling along, Sagan tried to take advantage of a slight crosswind and stormed off the front of the pack – hoping his teammates would go with him and cause splits in the bunch.

It didn’t work that time, but it shows the world champion’s remarkable tactical nous and knowledge of just how to catch your opponents unaware.

This comes the day after he spent most of the stage out in the breakaway, fell back to the peloton and then still managed to almost win the stage in the final sprint. Anyone who thought being world champion might dampen Sagan’s instincts has been proved completely wrong.

Neilson Powless has a bright future

Nielsen Powless at the Tour of California

Nielsen Powless at the Tour of California

For the domestic American teams at the Tour of California, getting some airtime in the breakaway, a decent seeding in a stage finish and maybe a rider in the top 20 would count as a successful race.

But for Axeon Hagens Berman – team of young British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart – the race was about showing the wealth of talent the team is producing, starting with 19-year-old Neilsen Powless.

Powless finished in ninth overall, three places above 39-year-old Haimar Zubeldia (Trek-Segafredo), who started his professional career just two years after Powless was born.

Consecutive top-10 finishes, including fifth on the summit finish of Gibraltar Road, launched Powless into the top 10, sitting fifth overall until the final stage where he was distanced in the frenetic finishing circuit.

He’s being touted as the next big American prospect and it surely won’t be long before we see him in the WorldTour.

Julian Alaphilippe loves California

Julian Alaphilippe, stage eight of the 2016 Tour of California

Julian Alaphilippe, stage eight of the 2016 Tour of California

Julian Alaphilippe has been to the Tour of California twice in his career and has finished first and second in the overall classification.

Last year, in fact, he finished second by just three seconds as Sagan took bonus time on the final sprint to deny the young Frenchman his first stage race title in his breakout season.

This year, Alaphilippe wasn’t to be denied, taking the win on Gibraltar Road on stage three and holding his overall lead right to the line in Sacramento.

For someone who suffered with glandular fever over the offseason, the Etixx-Quick Step rider has performed remarkably well this season. Eighth in De Brabantse Pijl, sixth in the Amstel Gold Race and second at the Flèche Wallonne – it was almost as if he had never been ill.

Then to go across to California and dominate the race with six top-15 finishes, topping the GC, coming second in the mountains classification and third in the points classification – that’s some consistency from a very exciting young rider.

The American teams can dominate on home soil

Andrew Talansky at the Tour of California

Andrew Talansky at the Tour of California

While the lower ranked American teams looked to do as best they could against the big boys in California, the WorldTour teams from the States were going all in for the win.

Of the top six finishers on the general classification, five were from Cannondale and BMC and three were American riders.

Andrew Talansky showed by Cannondale are sticking by him as their Tour de France leader by finishing fourth overall, while Lawson Craddock showed that he’s a stage race star of the future by finishing one place back.

Cannondale also picked up two stage wins, with Ben King and Tom Skujuns taking individual glory on stages two and five.

BMC claimed second and third place with Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter – Dennis won the time trial in Folsom pretty comfortably from Talansky, while Taylor Phinney came third.

  • poisonjunction

    Generally we seem to be on the same ‘page’, but note Cav’s ToC stage win.
    Having ‘worn out’ his own ‘sprint train’, it was good to see a sparkle of his best remembered wins over the last 150yards, as head down, out of the saddle, he determinedly switched from rider to rider, through and around the jostling sprinting melee, then a small figure finally emerges from the forest of heaving riders as if beckoned by a magicians wand, Cav victorious on the line!

    I can always delete this if you think its a bit OTT!! [:-)

    Determining ‘voluntary’ . . . Greipel for one, apparently made it quite clear[to the media?] he would not be competing after Stage 13, so though understandable, its puzzling that the Giro organiser was/ is ‘miffed’ as he disappeared . . . along with the prize money!

    His entry would have been made by the team and surely at this point the Organiser had the opportunity to resist his inclusion?
    OR
    IF it is the case that ‘Team’ acceptances [probably]do not specify a final constitution, there was some point beforehand at which the organser was aware and could have made known his displeasure and ‘forced’ the Team to make changes, possibly by a threat to withdraw their entry completely or a future ban etc.

    We won’t bring WWll into the sporting arena!!

  • Sutton Atkins

    I agree with the “walking away” point. It’s a little disrespectful tbh. But also ToC is 7 days, Giro is 21, and most of them did at least 7 days of the giro. But it’s a good idea that they should leave their prize money if they voluntarily abandon. (although I don’t know how they would determine if ti was ‘voluntary’ or not.)

    In this article I took the word ‘peloton’ to mean the full professional peloton of riders, meaning everyone, not just those in Cali. This was because it’s saying that Cav is still a world beater, and ‘hyping’ him.
    “He’s got his eye on the Tour de France‘s first yellow jersey in July, and if the sprint is flat he’s got a great chance of taking it, judging by Sunday’s performance.” However, I disagree, I think he’s taken on too many goals this year in too many disciplines, and his level is not what it was, despite a win in Cali.

    But you’re right, it could also mean just the peloton in Cali.

  • J1

    Neilsen Powless – I would say Cannondale should sign him up, but I want to see him improve, not get worse.

  • poisonjunction

    The full report read ” . . . some of the fastest men in the peloton . . ” Cav rode the full distance ‘pimples and all’ and beat those that were there.

    Which of your trio rode the full distance of The GIRO’?

    it would be fairer if when deliberately ‘walking’ away, riders forfeited their prize money.

  • Sutton Atkins

    “fastest men in the peloton”… he didn’t beat Kittel, Greipel, or Ewan.