At the end of the 170km opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California, HTC-Columbia led their sprinter Mark Cavendish to victory with a perfect lead out around the streets of downtown Sacramento.
“I’m really happy,” said Cavendish after the stage. “I thought it was going to be a bunch sprint and the team controlled it perfectly. When you’ve got eight guys giving 100% and all trusting each other it just works. Only one guy crossed with their hands in the air but it’s a team effort.
“The beginning was quite hard when the attack was trying to go but after that the team controlled it all day to keep the gap down. A couple of teams helped us along the way and then we took over. We’ve got the best team in the world for leading out a sprint and we know not to take over too early or too late.
“I trust Mark Renshaw’s wheel, he trusts Bernie Eisel’s wheel, Bernie trusts Tony Martin’s wheel and it just goes like that. I’m the one who crosses the line first but all the guys in front of me deliver me perfectly.
“California is always a really nice place to race. The people are always enthusiastic and come out to support the race and especially now that the race is in May and the weather is great.
“We are a Californian team and we have American sponsors and it’s an important thing for us to do well here. Hopefully we can get a couple more sprints but the pressure’s off a bit now and we would really like to go for GC. Mick Rogers is in the form of his life so I can hope that I can also contribute to that goal too.”
Marc de Maar of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis covered an early move by former Rabobank teammate Maarten Tjallingii that turned into the main break of the day, a four-rider move that saw them out front for the better part of 100 km, and not getting caught by the peloton until 15 km to go.
“It was a good move,” de Maar said. “We worked well together. But once the sprinters’ teams things took over the chase, we pretty much knew that the break wouldn’t last.”
Now all together, the peloton then had to navigate three laps of a circuit in front of the State Capital.
But on the second to last lap, a touch of wheels sent Andrew Pinfold (UnitedHealthcare) to the tarmac. While he escaped injury, he sustained bruising and road rash, but did finish the stage. On the back stretch of the final lap, more of the typical first-day nervousness in the bunch forced Karl Menzies to brush up against the HTC-Columbia team bus that was parked along N Street. Amazingly, he stayed upright and avoided serious injury.
Meanwhile, out of the final corner onto the long finishing straight a touch of wheels sent Tom Boonen (Quick Step) to the ground, along with a large portion of the pack.
BMC’s George Hincapie was also a victim of the crash on the closing circuit. The result was a dented helmet and road rash to his shoulder. Luckily the injuries were superficial and he was able to finish the stage.
“I thought I was in good shape to get around the crash and then all of the sudden, Boonen was on the ground in front of me,” said UnitedHealthcare rider Matt Crane. “I really couldn’t do anything to avoid him and I t-boned him.”
Only about 15 riders got through the last crash cleanly to contest the sprint, which was won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) ahead of J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank).
Today’s stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California is from Davis to Santa Rosa and features two intermediate sprints and four King of the Mountain points, which includes the famed Trinity Grade, may be the perfect launch pad for a decisive breakaway for a stage win.
George Hincapie (BMC): 116th 4:04:46
Chris Butler (BMC): 79th 4:04:46
Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare): 115th 4:04:46
Davide Frattini (Team Type I): 55th 4:04:46