Mark Cavendish can still produce the goods
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
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.