One second separated Anna van der Breggen from the overall leader going into the final stage of the women’s Amgen Tour of California on Sunday, a 20-lap circuit race around the downtown streets of Sacramento.
“It’s not much,” said van der Breggen, an Olympic gold medalist from the Netherlands. “But it’s still difficult, if you’re not really a sprinter, in a stage like this.”
Van der Breggen used a burst of speed during the stage’s intermediate sprint to claim a critical time bonus with five laps left. And her Boels-Dolmans teammates helped guide her to a main field finish as she secured the overall title.
By one second.
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American Katie Hall, who’d entered Sunday with the overall lead, finished the four-day, 256.6-mile race in second place by the slimmest of margins. Arlenis Sierra of Cuba was third overall, 31 seconds behind.
Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini claimed Sunday’s stage, followed by Coryn Rivera of Tustin – who won Stage 3 on Saturday – and Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.
The main drama, though, had played out well before the finish. Van der Breggen needed to make up one second over a 43.5-mile race. But that would be a difficult task with Hall’s teammates from United Healthcare constantly at the front of the peloton, trying to protect their rider’s lead.
It hardly helped that, minutes into the race, van der Breggen was involved in a crash.
“They really braked hard in front of me and I could not avoid it,” she said. “So it was a small crash. It was not that bad.”
Order was restored in plenty of time for what van der Breggen figured would be her best chance to catch Hall: A one-lap sprint in which the top finishers earned seconds off their overall time.
Bronzini won the sprint, earning a three-second bonus. Van der Breggen crossed second to claim a two-second bonus and effectively take over the overall lead.
“We knew if we got the seconds at the intermediate sprint, we would be safe if I finished at the front of the peloton,” van der Breggen said. “So that was the main goal, just finish it up right. And we did it like that.”
Hall, the Stage 2 winner in South Lake Tahoe, and United Healthcare finished first in the team classification.
“This was a really big deal for us,” Hall said. “We’re not on the (Women’s WorldTour), so being able to take it to the WorldTour teams was really an honor. I’m happy we went away with Team GC because it really was a team effort.”
Bronzini’s team, Wiggle High5, was down to three riders by the final stage. But after a difficult showing in the early hilly stages, Bronzini placed third in stage three and used another late sprint Sunday to edge the field across the finish line at L Street near the Capitol.
“Today I really gave my heart because we are here with a smaller number but stronger,” Bronzini said. “Like yesterday, I said I have my two angels around me, and I wanted to demonstrate to them that I’d give my 100 percent.”
Van der Breggen, 27, is coming off a successful 2016 that included winning a gold medal in the women’s road race at the Rio Olympics, a bronze medal in the Olympic time trial and the European Road Race Championships a month later. Yet entering the Tour of California, she might not have been the favorite on her own team.
Defending champion Megan Guarnier of San Mateo also rides for Boels-Dolmans. But after winning the first stage and beginning Sunday in third place overall, Guarnier fell back in the final stage and finished 33rd.
“She told me to give it all to defend the jersey,” van der Breggen said. “That was a big compliment from her. I couldn’t have asked more than that, and from the whole team. They were amazing.”