Eight days and slightly less than 700 miles after it started, the Amgen Tour of California arrives in Sacramento on Sunday with only one pertinent unanswered question.
While young Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe is ideally positioned to win the men’s title, what’s still pending is if there’s something else Peter Sagan can do on a bike.
Sagan (Tinkoff), the defending race titlist, won’t win the event this year. But he claimed Stage 1 in a flat sprint in San Diego and won Stage 4 while approaching 50 mph downhill on the Laguna Seca racetrack in Salinas. And Saturday, he finished an improbable second to Alexander Kristoff of Norway in Stage 7 of the eight-day race.
Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), 23, finished 14th in Stage 7 and maintained the overall lead he has held since claiming the mountainous Stage 3 near Santa Barbara. Rohan Dennis (BMC) of Australia is second, trailing by 16 seconds, with teammate Brent Bookwalter of Asheville, N.C., third and trailing by 38 seconds.
It was a hard day; I just managed to hold him off. I just managed to make it over the mountains and I was lucky he was at the front earlier using a lot of energy.
Alexander Kristoff, on beating Peter Sagan to win Stage 7
The 85.7-mile concluding men’s stage is scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. at 9th and L streets with a neutralized (non-competitive) start into West Sacramento, where the official start will commence on South River Road.
The riders will advance to Clarksburg on Highway 160 and the turnaround just south of Walker Landing. The return will progress north on Route 84, advance over the Tower Bridge and conclude with three laps on a several-block radius around the state Capitol. The finish is scheduled between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m.
Alaphilippe, who lost the event to Sagan by three seconds on the final day last year, probably won’t face a challenge since the flat route isn’t conducive to successful breakaways.
The 43.5-mile women’s race is scheduled to start at 11:40 a.m., also with a neutralized lap and then 20 loops, also around the Capitol. The finish is scheduled between 1:20 and 1:30 p.m.
Neilson Powless, 19, an Axeon Hagens Berman rider from Roseville, remained fifth overall, trailing by 1 minute, 8 seconds. Evan Huffman (Rally) of El Dorado Hills was 83rd overall and remained the leader of the best climber’s division.
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), a part-time San Mateo resident, likely will retain her 15-second overall advantage in the women’s concluding Stage 4. She took the lead with her solo win Thursday in South Lake Tahoe in Stage 1.
Guarnier’s team finished second in the Stage 2 time trial Friday in Folsom, and Guarnier finished fourth in the 69-mile Stage 3 on Saturday won by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) of the Netherlands.
“It was like a typical circuit; it’s always a little hectic on corners,” Guarnier said. “You don’t take any day for granted, and tomorrow we have our work cut out for us. I am still gunning for the (leader’s) jersey, so for me, it’s stay focused and look forward to racing tomorrow.”
Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-RiderBiker) of Boise, Idaho, a two-time Olympic time-trial gold medalist, is second overall. Claremont’s Evelyn Stevens, Guarnier’s teammate, is third, trailing by 25 seconds.
16 Julian Alaphilippe’s lead in seconds over runner-up Rohan Dennis in the overall standings
Sagan’s dramatics began midway through the 109.1-mile Stage 7 when he powered ahead of a seven-rider breakaway and rode alone for 25 miles while building a two-minute lead. Sagan, the reigning world road champion, purposely slowed his pace and was caught by the field about 10 miles from the finish. The prevailing thought was that he was conserving energy for Sunday’s finale.
But Sagan was near the front again for the sprint. While Kristoff was assisted by several teammates, Sagan lunged at the line and nearly caught Kristoff.
Kristoff, who won by about 2 inches and is considered among cycling’s elite sprinters, acknowledged Sagan’s strength.
“It was a hard day; I just managed to hold him off,” he said. “I just managed to make it over the mountains, and I was lucky he was at the front earlier using a lot of energy.”
The women’s final stage will mark the completion of the first of only two U.S. stops on the inaugural season of the women’s WorldTour, and its profile is optimal for Coryn Rivera. The 23-year-old Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) is considered the country’s best pure sprinter. As a 17-year-old junior, she claimed the same stage in Sacramento in 2010.