Long sprint, shorter sprints, head wind, tailwind, teammates in the mix or not. Get Mark Cavendish near the front of any bike race with a flat finish, and he rarely loses.
The British rider from the Isle of Man who’s often called the “Manx Missile” showcased his power again Monday, claiming his second straight win over Peter Sagan in the Amgen Tour of California.
Cavendish appeared momentarily blocked as the riders made the final turn toward an estimated 400-meter finish in Stage 2. But the Etixx-Quick Step rider bolted past Sagan just before the line and claimed the 120.4-mile road stage from Nevada City in 4 hours, 47 minutes and 2 seconds.
“(Sagan) came underneath me in the last corner, and it was perfect,” Cavendish said after his 130th career win. “With the pressure he’s under, I knew he would hit out early, so I was happy to come off his wheel. He actually did a good job of boxing me in, so I had to really start the sprint late.”
Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), a Slovakian who has 11 Tour of California stage wins but only one win this season, was the runner-up, one-quarter of a wheel behind. Wouter Wippert (Drapac) of the Netherlands was third in the same time.
Cavendish holds an eight-second overall lead over Sagan. Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) of San Diego, who was involved a several-hour breakaway with three other riders and gained bonus time, is third overall, trailing by 11 seconds.
“Today, I did better,” said Sagan, who moved to the front earlier in the opening stage sprint. “There was a gap, and everyone was fighting for position. Cavendish is a pure sprinter, and he is faster. Maybe (Tuesday) I will do better.”
In the opening stage in Sacramento, Cavendish capitalized on the lead-out of Australian teammate Mark Renshaw and won easily. The second-stage sprint in a crossing head wind was about 300 meters shorter, and the 25-time Tour de France stage winner didn’t have the same sustained team support.
“There were four of us at the last corner, and I had to come around Peter on my own,” Cavendish said. “I was a bit nervous, and I didn’t know if I had it.”
About 15 riders crashed with at the back of the main field as the riders approached a sharp left turn with about 4 miles left. The fallen cyclists included Ben Jacques-Maynes of Corralitos, the only cyclist who has ridden in all 10 race editions.
Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagen Berman) is out of the race after suffering a dislocated shoulder and facial lacerations and losing two teeth.
For the second straight day, a breakaway developed early in the stage. Carpenter, Daniel Oss (BMC) of Italy, Markel Irizar Aranburu (UCI) of Spain and Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis-Hagens Berman) of Cuba established nearly a five-minute lead after 25 miles.
The nearly always undulating early route took the riders through Grass Valley, Alta Sierra and Meadow Vista and just east of Auburn. The riders negotiated the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge and continued south and the stage’s only climb, a 2-mile, category-4 (lowest-ranked) effort into Cool.
The stage continued past El Dorado Hills toward Rancho Murieta and advanced past Wilton and west of Dogtown toward Lodi. The finish featured two city loops concluding at Hutchins Street Square, a community center.
The leading foursome built as much as a 5:10 advantage with temperatures in the low 70s. Increasing head winds and crosswinds then began to hamper the leaders’ margin, which was reduced by about two minutes within the next 10 miles.
The eight-day race, which began Sunday in Sacramento, will continue Tuesday beginning and ending in San Jose. The 105.7-mile Stage 3 has six climbs, including the first substantial ascent of the event, a 3.6-mile effort up Mount Hamilton. The climb to an elevation of 4,216 feet should determine the riders competing for the overall title. The stage finishes with a 11/4-mile climb with some sections at a 10 percent gradient.
James Raia is a Sacramento-based freelance reporter. He has covered the Amgen Tour of California every year.
Third stage of the
Tour of California
Distance: 105.7 miles, including six climbs, with a 3.6-mile final effort up Mount Hamilton
Start: San Jose, 10:45 a.m.
Finish: San Jose, approximately 3:45 p.m.
TV: NBCSN, 2-4 p.m.