Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Kasper Asgreen scored his first professional win after surging to victory on stage two of the Tour of California.
The Danish rider attacked in the final few hundred metres in South Lake Tahoe and despite appearing to be flagging held off the challenge of Tejav van Garderen (EF-Education First) by just a few metres.
Although he was unable to win the stage, Van Garderen does take control of the general classification, holding a six second advantage to Team Ineos’ Gianni Moscon who was four seconds further back on the stage.
A surprise second in April’s Tour of Flanders, it is Asgreen’s first ever professional victory and the 24-year-old richly deserved his triumph after animating the race throughout the final 60 kilometres
Van Garderen, who won the race in 2013, inherits the yellow jersey from stage one victor Peter Sagan who, as predicted, didn’t contest what was a stage reserved for the climbers and rouleurs.
How it happened
The long stage began at almost sea level in Rancho Cordova and from there it was all up, the highest point of Carson Pass at 147km sitting at 2,616m elevation.
A strong breakaway formed early on, and Team Ineos’ Luke Rowe was the standout name. The Welshman was joined by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Evan Huffman (Rally UHC), Davide Ballerini (Astana), Pawel Bernas (CCC Team), Michael Storer (Team Sunweb) and Michael Hernandez (United States).
Behind the escapees, the peloton were not keen on allowing them too much of an advantage, and as such as their lead rarely creeped over three minutes.
The lead was reduced to less than a minute with 100km still to race, forcing Team Jumbo-Visma to block the road to prevent any attacks from riders who could be deemed a threat on the general classification. Regardless, Edward Anderson (Hagens-Berman Axeon) was allowed to join the break.
EF-Education First worked relentlessly at the front of the peloton, Taylor Phinney in particular putting in a monster effort as the breakaway riders succumbed, leaving just Anderson and Hernandez alone out front with more than 70km until the finish.
The catches prompted Phinney’s teammate Lachlan Morton to attack and he pulled away comfortably. Asgreen followed shortly after in his shadows, while a chase group of 14 sat less than two minutes behind the leading duo who were separated by around 25 seconds.
Morton was soon caught, joining the leading group that contained Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), twice a runner-up in this race, David de la Cruz (Team Ineos) and Neilson Powless (Team Jumbo-Visma).
As the peloton behind realised the potential of some of that group, they worked harder to close down their gap and shed their own numbers. Bennett soon launched a big attack, bringing with him Powless.
Their lead didn’t stick, though, and when they were reeled in it allowed Asgreen and Ballerini to move ahead in the final 10 kilometres That immediately resulted in a response from Van Garderen, Moscon, Dennis and Rob Britton (Rally UHC) who clubbed together to catch the pair.
Despite repeated efforts, with no-one able to mount an attack that stuck, ten riders made it to the final climb at South Lake Tahoe together. An-ever willing Ballerini attacked once more, his Astana team determined to win this stage.
But Van Garderen then hit the front to ramp up the speed and effort, attacking with 1,600m remaining, bypassing Ballerini.
But Asgreen, Moscon and Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) responded to his move. As Van Garderen continued to fight to remain clear in the final few hundred metres, Asgreen moved to the right of the American and overtook him.
The young Dane was able to stay away and hang on to win on the line, a deserved result after a day of animating the race.
Four other riders crossed line ahead of a larger bunch containing Rigoberto Uran (EF-Education First), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma), all three of whom finished 31 seconds shy of Asgreen.
Tour of California 2019, stage two: Rancho Cordova > South Lake Tahoe (194.5km)
1. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick Step, in 6-17-11
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF-Education First, at same time
3. Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos, at 4 secs
4. Tadej Pogacar (Slv) UAE-Team Emirates, at 10 secs
5. Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16 secs
6. Jonas Gregaard (Den) Astana, at 27 secs
7. Rob Britton (Can) Rally UHC, at same time
8. Sergio Huguita (Col) EF-Education First, at 31 secs
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF-Educaion First
10. George Bennett (NwZ) Team Jumbo-Visma, all at same time.
General classification after stage two
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