Bahrain-Merida’s Iván García Cortina scored his first WorldTour win of his career, winning stage five of the Tour of California.
The 23-year-old Spaniard was the fastest in a smaller-than-expected group to reach the finish line together, beating Maximiliano Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Sergio Higuita (EF-Education First).
Cortina, who finished second on stage two of this March’s Paris-Nice, ends Deceuninck-Quick Step’s dominance in the race, the Belgian team having won each of the last three stages.
It was thought that the day was earmarked for the pure sprinters, but Peter Sagan’s involvement in the breakaway and a flurry of attacks on a climb five kilometres from the finish made a mockery of pre-race expectations.
Race leader Tejay van Garderen was one of just 26 riders to make it the finish line together, the EF-Education First man maintaining his lead on the general classification.
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) collected a valuable three bonus seconds, moving him up to second on GC and just four seconds off the lead ahead of Friday’s Queen stage.
How it happened
Van Garderen controversially began the day in yellow, sitting six seconds ahead of Moscon, despite finishing 54 seconds behind yesterday’s race winner Fabio Jakobsen.
Feeling aggrieved that he wasn’t the new leader, Asgreen was eager to put the pressure on Van Garderen and won the day’s first intermediate sprint, collecting three bonus seconds, putting him just four seconds adrift of the lead.
Only then was a breakaway allowed to form and it featured some high-profile names such as Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The three-time world champion was joined by Davide Ballerini (Astana), Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Team Emirates), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Leonoardo Basso (Team Ineos), Michael Schär (CCC Team), Brandon McNulty (Rally UHC), Alex Hoehn (United States), Cees Bol (Sunweb) and the Jumbo-Visma pairing of Neilson Powless and Lennard Hofstede.
Hoehn’s grip on the mountain classification faded with Ballerini collecting maximum points throughout the day, the former returning to the peloton before the catch, accepting defeat.
On the penultimate climb of the day, with the peloton less a minute behind, the breakaway attacked one another, Declercq putting in a reasonable attack that allowed him an extended stay out front.
At eight kilometres from the end, though, the peloton caught the large break, with Declercq around 20 seconds ahead.
The anticipated sprint finish failed to materialise, though. An unclassified sharp climb 5km from the finish prompted a number of moves from the peloton, most notably from Declercq’s teammate Zdenek Štybar.
Splits occurred in the peloton, lining riders out all over the road and creating a multitude of small groups with most of the pre-stage favourites failing to keep pace and dropping back.
Up ahead, Sergio Higuita and George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma both passed Stybar, the duo seeking the stage win and hoping to reduce their deficit to Van Garderen.
Unfortunately for them they were caught by a small group initially that morphed into a larger one.
Containing sprinters such as Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), more attacks were expected inside the final three kilometres.
A tailwind, however, deterred any movements and it came down to a sprint in Ventura.
Richeze was deployed as Asgreen’s lead-out, but the Dane was unable to take full advantage. Instead, sitting in the Argentine’s slipstream was Cortina who was able to go left and open up his sprint, edging past Richeze in what came down to a two-man fight for the line.
Stage six takes the peloton up the slopes of Mount Baldy, a summit finish that is certain to cause changes in the general classification.
Tour of California stage five: Pismo Beach > Ventura (218.5km)
- Iván García Cortina (Esp) Bahrain-Merida in 4-56-11
- Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck-Quick Step
- Sergio Higuita (Col) EF-Education First
- Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Sunweb
- Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step
- Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
- Pawel Bernas (Pol) CCC Team
- Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
- Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates
- Hugo Houle (Can) Astana, all at same time
General classification after five stages
- Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF-Education First in 26-13-01
- Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, at 4 secs
- Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos, at 6 secs
- Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, at 16 secs
- Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 22 secs
- Sergio Higuita (Col) EF-Education First, at 28 secs
- Jonas Gregaard (Den) Astana, at 33 secs
- George Bennett (NwZ) Jumbo-Visma, at 34 secs
- Felix Grossschartner (Ast) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 35 secs
- Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF-Education First, at 36 secs