Peter Sagan may not have been able to keep up with Mark Cavendish as the Manxman won his fourth stage of the Tour of California, but the Tinkoff-Saxo rider did just enough on the line to grab the bonus seconds that would secure him the title.
Cavendish, supported by incumbent yellow jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe, and Wouter Wippert took first and second and MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar looked set to snatch the vital third place.
But a well-timed lunge for the line saw Sagan take the all-important time bonus seconds by mere inches, enough to leapfrog Alaphilippe, winner of stage seven’s summit finish at Mt Baldy, into first place in the General Classification.
“After the finish I didn’t know if I was third or fourth and I had to wait,” Sagan said. “My soigneur came running to me and yelled “you’re third, you’re third” and I asked him several times, if he was sure and then the race organizers confirmed it to me three times and in the end I believed them. I am very pleased.”
Cavendish’s win was his fourth of the race, having crossed the line first in stages one, two and five, while Alaphilippe’s win on Saturday ensured a great week for the Etixx-Quick-Step team.
Alaphilippe said after claiming the yellow jersey on stage seven that he would continue with the original plan of working for Cavendish on the final sprint in Pasadena, even if it meant relinquishing his lead.
Team Sky finished with three riders in the top 10, with Sergio Henao claiming third, Ian Boswell seventh and Peter Kennaugh ninth. Young Brit Tao Geoghegan Hart finished in 13th place, two minutes and 36 seconds down on Sagan.
Tour of California stage eight, Los Angeles – Los Angeles (105km)
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx-Quick-Step, 2:14:55
2. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac Pro Cycling, st
3. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN-Qhubeka, st
5. Tom van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
6. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Jamis-Hagens Berman, st
7. Zico Waeytens (Bel) Giant-Alpecin, st
8. Andrea Peron (Ita) Novo-Nordisk, st
9. Logan Owen (USA) Axeon Cycling, st
10. Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Novo-Nordisk, st
1. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff-Saxo, 28:13:12
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick-Step, at 3sec
3. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 37sec
4. Joe Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Garmin, at 1m14s
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1m15s
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Trek Factory Racing, at 1m16s
7. Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky, at 1m23s
8. Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory Racing, at 1m24s
9. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky, at 1m44s
10. Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop, at 2m10