SANTA ROSA Peter Sagan overcame a flat back tire with five miles left Sunday to win the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California in a wild sprint finish in downtown Santa Rosa.
The world's fourth-ranked cyclist won by two bike lengths on an overcast day along the 116-mile course that took the peloton through some of Sonoma's most stunning landscapes, such as the Russian River Valley and the Pacific coast.
But it was Sagan's poise that highlighted the day. He didn't panic when falling off the pace as the peloton overcame an all-day break that included Watsonville's Ben Jacques-Maynes.
Sagan, Liquigas-Cannondale's top sprinter, finished the stage in 4 hours, 42 minutes, 36 seconds to win a stage for the fourth time at the Tour of California. Garmin-Barracuda's Heinrich Haussler was second, followed by Berkeley's Fred Rodriguez.
"It was a little confusing finish," Sagan, from Slovakia, said in Italian. "I almost crashed with 3 kilometers left."
The seventh edition of the tour wasted little time for drama as French rider Maxime Bouet led a breakaway almost from the onset. The AG2R La Mondiale rider pushed the pace with seven others. As usual, Jacques-Maynes joined the early leaders, who are not expected to compete for the overall title.
Jacques-Maynes, 33, takes advantage of such attacks to help draw attention to his Bissell Pro Cycling team. He finished fourth in the third King of the Mountain climb near Fort Ross to earn points toward winning the Tour's best climber award.
The King of the Mountain is a race within the Tour. For riders such as Jacques-Maynes not seriously contending for the overall title, a climbing or sprinting title offers another way to have a successful week.
Bruyneel status A spokesman for the RadioShack-Nissan team said he couldn't confirm whether manager Johan Bruyneel was subpoenaed by federal agents upon arriving at San Francisco International Airport last week for the start of the Tour.
Philippe Martens, speaking just before the Stage 1 start, said Bruyneel didn't tell the team anything about talking to investigators, as reported by VeloNation.com and Bicycling magazine.
Bruyneel wasn't with RadioShack-Nissan riders as they departed from their team bus Sunday morning just before the start of the eight-day tour that ends next weekend in Los Angeles. He is expected to be with the team today for Stage 2 from San Francisco to Aptos.