Tejay van Garderen (EF-Education First) maintains control of the Tour of California, despite crossing the finish line more than 54 seconds adrift of winner Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step).
In an uphill sprint finish, Jakobsen beat Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Team Emirates) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hangsrohe) in Morro Bay, registering Deceuninck-Quick Step’s third consecutive win in the Tour of California 2019.
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But the main story of the day is reserved for the confusion surrounding Van Garderen and the general classification. On a stage that shouldn’t have caused the 2013 winner any problems, a snapped chain inside the final 10 kilometres forced him onto a new bike that he struggled to handle.
He was unable to get back to the peloton and finished 54 seconds back. Team Ineos’ Gianni Moscon, who was six seconds shy of the American before the stage, was brought down in a crash inside five kilometres, meaning he too failed to cross the line in the leading group; the Italian finished seven seconds worse off than Van Garderen.
It looked, therefore, like race leadership had been ceded to Asgreen, but an hour after the stage, officials dramatically announced that Van Garderen was indeed still the holder of the yellow jersey.
Race officials said that Van Garderen was in the main bunch when the last crash occurred inside three kilometres. Initial television footage didn’t show how many kilometres were remaining when the peloton split, but commentators did not say that were less than 3,000m remaining.
Nonetheless, officials have credited everyone with the same time as they say the crash occurred in the final three kilometres meaning that much to Van Garderen’s relief and Asgreen’s anguish, he maintains his lead.
How it happened
The stage began without Kristijan Durasek of UAE Team Emirates after he was named in connection with the Austrian blood doping scandal, the rider being provisionally suspended by the UCI.
Cloudy, windy and rainy conditions greeted the riders at the start of the coastal stage in Raceway Laguna Seca. A five-man breakaway consisted of Michael Hernandez (United States), Roy Goldstein (Israel Cycling Academy), Joonas Henttala (Nova-Nordisk) and the Hagens Berman Axeon duo of Ian Garrison and Jonny Brown, the latter being the reigning American road race champion.
The peloton were content to allow the escapees an advantage of around four minutes, comfortable that they would bring them back later in the stage.
Behind, however, Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen crashed in the middle of the pack and looked to be sporting several wounds. Trek-Segafredo, Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-Quick-Step were doing most of the pulling on the front of the peloton.
Racing into a headwind, the break – especially Hernandez – started attacking each other with their lead just a minute. It was to no avail, though, eventually all being scooped up with nine kilometres remaining.
At 8.4km, race leader Tejay van Garderen suffered a snapped chain, forcing him to dismount. Team-mate Lachlan Morton gave the American his bike, but the EF Education First man initially looked in pain as he struggled to rejoin.
Just a few kilometres later as he closed down the peloton, Van Garderen and his temporary bike was unable to turn right and he missed the turn, going straight. Four of his team-mates, including Rigoberto Urán, dropped back to pace him back to the leading group that was preparing itself for the sprint.
Up ahead, Team Sunweb pressed on. More drama ensued as tape on the road brought down a few riders in the peloton, creating a split. Van Garderen, though, had caught up to what was now the second group on the road.
Inside the final 2,000 metres, Team Ineos took charge on the front, leading a reduced group of around 35 riders towards the finish.
Michael Mørkøv (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) led out the sprint as they turned right into the finishing straight, the Danish rider bringing with him only six riders.
It was Philipsen who was tucked in right behind Mørkøv and he sprinted first, powering forward in the middle of the road.
The Belgian had Sagan in his shadows who then went right in an attempt to pass Philipsen. Once Sagan swung off, Jakobsen – who had been sitting in fourth, biding his time as he sat conserving his energy in the slipstream, went left.
The 22-year-old passed Philipsen and just edged him as they crossed the line, Sagan sitting up to take third place. It is Jakobsen’s 11th win as a professional, and his fourth this season.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was unable to contest the finish.
Tour of California 2019, stage four: Raceway Laguna Seca > Morro Bay (212.5km)
1. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) in 5-53-22
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE-Team Emirates
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
5. Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension-Data
6. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana
7. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
8. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Ineos
9. Danny van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma)
10. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, all at same time.
General classification after stage four
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 (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 36 secs