Rémi Cavagna won stage three of the 2019 Tour of California after an impressive breakaway effort.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider was part of a two-man breakaway with Alex Hoehn (United States), and the Frenchman distanced his companion on the toughest climb of the day.
Sitting almost 18 minutes adrift of overnight leader Tejay van Garderen (EF-Education First), the 23-year-old was permitted to stay away and soloed to a memorable victory, just his second as a professional.
He crossed the line more than seven minutes ahead of second-placed Ben King (Dimension Data).
It is his team's second successive win after Kasper Asgreen's impressive win at South Lake Tahoe the preview day.
The win wasn't without its complications, though, with the winner of the 2018 Dwars door West-Vlaanderen race struggling to stay upright on many of the day's descents.
Rolling home 7-47 back, Van Garderen kept hold of the yellow jersey, maintaining his six second advantage to Gianni Moscon of Team Ineos.
How it happened
The 207km stage began in Stockton and the road gradually went skywards as the kilometres ticked by, the highlight being the ascent of Mount Hamilton, a 7.2km climb that topped out at 140.5km. From there, the peloton descended via two more smaller climbs to the finish in Morgan Hill.
A large breakaway group of 17 formed early on, with Travis McCabe (United States), second on stage one, and Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) involved. As expected, though, Dennis’ presence meant that the peloton soon reeled them in.
That prompted an attack from Hoehn and Cavagna who were allowed a lead that stretched over 10 minutes. It also allowed the former to scoop the King of the Mountains points on offer, the American doing enough to take control of that classification.
Pawel Bernas (CCC Team) then aimed to get involved, but he was obdurately stuck six minutes back from the leading duo, yet four minutes ahead of the peloton.
At 67km to go, on the slopes of Mt. Hamilton, Cavagna attacked his Hoehn, pulling a minute ahead. When the peloton hit the climb, Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) suffered an untimely chain problem.
On the descent, Cavagna had to take it extremely careful on a number of tight hairpin bends, but he managed to build an even bigger lead to both a flagging Hoehn and the peloton who appeared to concede that the day’s leader would win the stage, what with him posing no threat to Van Garderen.
The French rider, however, looked very uneasy on the descents, almost crashing on multiple occasions.
His win all but assured, EF Education First took charge at the front of the peloton ahead of the final run-in.
Simon Geschke (CCC Team) and Ben King (Dimension Data) sprung clear, chasing second-place on the stage, the latter just 2-55 down on Van Garderen. The pair caught Hoehn with three kilometres remaining and King beat Geschke to claim second-place.
The peloton, containing the general classification favourites, finished 36 seconds further back.
Stage four looks like being a day for the sprinters.
Tour of California 2019, stage three: Stockton > Morgan Hill (207km)
1. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step in 5-44-22
2. Ben King (USA) Dimension Data, at 7-11
3. Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team, at same time
4. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, at 7-47
5. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE-Team Emirates)
6. Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-Quick Step
10. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF-Education First in 9-31-19
2. Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos, at 6 secs
3. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, at 7 secs
4. Tadej Pogacar (Slv) UAE-Team Emirates, at 16 secs
5. Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 22 secs
6. Rob Britton (Can) Rally UHC, at 33 secs
7. Jonas Gregaard (Den) Astana, at same time
8. David de la Cruz (Esp) Team Ineos, at 34 secs
9. Felix Grossschartner (Ast) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 35 secs
10. George Bennett (NwZ) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 36 secs
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