MODESTO Greg Henderson was not supposed to win Tuesday's Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California.
That honor was predetermined to belong to his fellow Team Sky rider Ben Swift, who if all went according to plan was supposed to be on the New Zealander's back wheel when the lead pack took the final turn.
Henderson did his job, kicking into full sprint with 500 meters to the finish line. The idea, as discussed in Monday night's team meeting, was for Swift to draft Henderson until the final 200 meters, when Swift would pull ahead and win his second straight stage.
As Henderson passed the McHenry Mansion, he took a peek and did not see Swift.
"I was unaware that Ben wasn't on my wheel," Henderson said. "At 200 meters to go, I felt they would start passing me. I wasn't getting any slower, but I was starting to die. At 100 meters, they still weren't passing me, then 50, and then they didn't catch me."
In the latest in a series of Modesto mass finishes, Henderson edged Argentinian J.J. Haedo and last year's Modesto stage winner, Thor Hushovd, with the top 112 of the 144 riders all finishing in the lead group.
Henderson will take the yellow jersey from Swift into today's Stage 4, a short (81.8 miles) but technical run with several severe climbs between Livermore and San Jose.
A crowd estimated at 25,000 lined the streets of Modesto, support that had to be welcomed by the riders, who battled a headwind for nearly the entire 121.9-mile run from Auburn.
"It was a long day because of the wind " Henderson said. "The guys out front did a lot of work chasing down the breakaway while we were sitting in a bunch twiddling our thumbs.
"It was very easy for us in the peloton, so all of us had fresh legs for the last 10K. It got chaotic, with lots of changes of direction."
An Auburn crowd of 10,000 wished the riders farewell in a light rain at 10:26 a.m., and by the time they made their way to Folsom, a seven-rider breakaway already had formed.
Jan Barta crossed first to win the sprint stages in Folsom and Ione, and with 40 miles remaining, the sun peeked through the clouds for the first time as some riders began shedding their inclement weather gear.
The lead pack was down to six riders by the time it reached Woodward Reservoir north of Oakdale, and it was taking advantage of the suddenly dry conditions to maintain its margin of about 90 seconds over the peloton.
Meanwhile, the jockeying for position within the peloton seemed to ease about the time it approached Oakdale, with Christian Meier winning the sprint, then pulling back to let Andy Jacques-Maynes and Barta pull ahead.
By that point, the breakaway was almost within sight of the peloton, with Jacques-Maynes and Barta finally caught and absorbed just inside the Modesto city line.
Nearly the entire field reformed during the sprint down Scenic Drive, making the double complete loop of the downtown circuit something to remember for the Modesto fans, who witnessed four crashes.
All riders finished the race, but American William Dugan and Jesus Del Nero Montes of Spain were scheduled to be observed overnight after suffering apparent concussions.
As the leaders assembled midway through the final loop, Team Sky found itself in the lead for the second consecutive day and again was able to deliver the stage winner.
Team Sky's riders know their position after three stages is a direct result of the cancellation of the first stage and the mountainous portion of Stage 2 because of unseasonal weather.
The Auburn-to-Modesto run was supposed to be the only stage other than Friday's time trial in Solvang not to feature a King of the Mountain climb, but with all the tough ascents of the first two stages erased by weather, the sprinters have had their way.
All that should change today as the sprinters will give way to climbers.