Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) became the youngest ever winner of a WorldTour stage race as he defended the yellow jersey on the seventh and final day of the Tour of California.
The 20-year-old Slovenian finished safely in the peloton as Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) was the fastest in the bunch sprint in Pasadena. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Team Emirates) finished second and third respectively.
It was Bol’s second win as a professional, the 23-year-old Dutchman claiming his first at Danilith-Nokere-Koerse two months ago.
His win capped off a week of success for young and emerging riders, with every stage being won by a rider aged 23 and under, except for Sagan’s victory on stage one.
Pogačar, who won stage six atop Mt. Baldy, won the race by 16 seconds from Colombian 21-year-old Sergio Higuita (EF-Education First). Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) finished third.
Highly-rated before the race, Pogačar’s profile will rise significantly after a win that showcased his attacking abilities but also a maturity that belies his age.
How it happened
A large breakaway formed from the outset. Stage three winner Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick Step) joined Davide Ballerini (Astana), Lawson Craddock (EF-Education First), perennial escapee Alex Hoehn (United States), Lennard Hofstede (Jumbo-Visma), Rui Oliveira (UAE-Team Emirates), Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma), Diego Rosa (Team Ineos), Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Storer (Sunweb).
Mainly because of the presence of Schachmann who was ninth on GC, the break didn’t last long as a counter-attack from the peloton, led by Lachlan Morton of EF-Education First, caught up to them to swell the size of the group.
All of the general classification riders, including Pogačar, Higuita, Asgreen and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), were present.
A 25-man group ascended the day’s two climbs together, though the ever-hungry Bennett did try his luck with an attack. Balerini, Hofstede, Cavagna and Schachmann then launched their own small group that clipped off the front.
With 20km to go, and the peloton back together but not far behind, Cavagna dropped back to assist Asgreen as he successfully bridged across to the breakaway.
Sitting just 20 seconds shy of Pogačar, Asgreen then took three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint.
However, the Dane realised on the first of three laps of the finish circuit that it was highly unlikely he could win by eight seconds and take the 10 second bonus on the line to dislodge Pogačar, and thus dropped back to the peloton that was readying itself for a bunch sprint.
Cavagna and Ballerini, however, counter attacked in the second lap, but they too were reeled back in.
Deceuninck-Quick Step, Bahrain Merida and CCC Team took turns on the front in the final few kilometres
Dimension Data, working for Janse van Rensburg, were on the front as they turned onto the finishing straight. With just 400m left, a crash split the peloton, leaving around 20 riders left to contest the first.
Sitting in fourth-place, Bol opened up his sprint early and hit a direct line. Sagan was to his left, but then the three-time world champion swung back in behind Bol and ran out of road to edge past the Dutchman. Philipsen appeared to start his sprint too late and settled for third.
2019 Tour of California stage seven: Santa Clarita to Pasadena (141km)
1. Cees Bol (Ned) Sunweb, in 2-53-16
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE-Team Emirates
4. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
5. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck-Quick – Step
6. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Ineos
7. Travis McCabe (USA) United States
8. Andrea Peron (Ita) Novo-Nordisk
9. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
10. Edwin Ávila (Col) Israel Cycling Academy, all at same time
General classification after seven stages
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates in 32-55-12
2. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF-Education First, at 16 secs
3. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, at 17 secs
4. George Bennett (Nzl) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 29 secs
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 41 secs
6. Simon Špilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-03
7. Jesper Hansen (Den) Cofidis, at 1-18
8. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
9. Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF-Education First, at 1-22
10. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-23