By Nigel Wynn
Peter Sagan won his second consecutive stage in the Tour of California on Monday to strengthen his overall lead in the American stage race.
Just as he did in the race's opener on Sunday, the Liquigas-Cannondale sprinter simply out-paced his rivals to clinch the victory in Santa Cruz.
Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) repeated his second place from stage one, with Australian Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) taking third.
Haussler now lies eight seconds behind Sagan in the overall classification, with Howard in third at 13 seconds.
The second stage's climbs provided plenty of fireworks. Sagan found himself on the floor on the Empire Grade climb and was slow to remount. Garmin-Barracuda were on the front of the bunch and maintained the pace.
Some solid pedalling and a few sticky bottles from the team car saw the leader re-join the front group, which later swept up Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) – the only survivor of an early six-man break – in the final 35 kilometres.
United Healthcare took to the front of the bunch over the Bear Creek Road climb, and once again Sagan encountered a problem – this time, a puncture. A quick wheel-change for the Slovak and he was back with the leaders.
Sagan's Liquigas then took control of matters on the descent and run-in to Santa Cruz. A late attack by Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare) couldn't spoil the sprinters' party, and another win for Sagan.
British rider Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) finished in 69th place after getting caught up in a crash with several other BMC riders, hurting the wrist he fractured in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April. He also had to have a cut stitched on his knee. Cummings lies in 60th spot overall, seven minutes and four seconds down on Sagan.
Tuesday's third stage from San Jose to Livermore looks to offer more of the same. The day's three categorised climbs are widely spaced apart, with the final ascent of Patterson Pass followed by a descent to the line in Livermore. Enough time for the sprinters' teams to regroup and organise a bunch finish.
The UCI 2.HC-ranked Tour of California concludes on Sunday, May 20, in Los Angeles. The race was won by Chris Horner (RadioShack) last year.
Tour of California 2012, stage two: San Francisco to Santa Cruz County, 188.5km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale in 5-02-00
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos-Shimano
5. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Exergy
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
7. Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager-Livestrong
8. Marc De Maar (AHo) United Healthcare
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos-Shimano
10. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep all same time
69. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 6-44
Overall classification after stage two
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale in 9-44-15
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda at 8 secs
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 13 secs
4. Jeffry Louder (USA) United Healthcare at 14 secs
5. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Exergy at 16 secs
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell at 16 secs
7. Marc De Maar (AHo) United Healthcare at 17 secs
8. Markel Irizar (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 19 secs
9. Josh Atkins (NZl) Bontrager-Livestrong at 19 secs
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 20 secs
60. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 7-04
Tour of California 2012: Related links
Stage one: Sagan wins California opener
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