Amgen Tour of California Stage 3: Alaphilippe 3rd out of Field Sprint!
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Julian Alaphilippe got himself on the podium by finishing 3rd out of the field sprint behind solo stage winner Toms Skujiņš (Hincapie Racing Team) in 169.8km Stage 3 of Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday. The 22-year-old French rider, who just signed a two-year contract extension with the team after a strong performance at the Ardennes Classics, finished behind Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in San Jose.
Skujiņš went on the attack out of an original seven rider escape group on HC Mt. Hamilton, and his advantage was 4' over the peloton with 48.6km to go. However, the peloton wasn't able to time the chase in time to pull Skujiņš back and keep him from winning and taking over the leader's jersey. He went into the stage down 42" in the overall classification. Skujiņš even kept his effort up enough in the uphill finish with multiple gradients of more than 10%, to finish with a 1'06" gap, securing the Yellow Jersey going into Wednesday.
Mark Cavendish, who won the first two stages and wore the leader's jersey, stayed with the peloton as long as he could before a gruppetto was formed. The gruppetto crossed a little more than 21 minutes down. Cavendish trades yellow for green going into the next stage, as he remains the Points Leader with 30 points.
Alaphilippe did a tremendous job keeping himself in a reduced peloton that was down to less than 30 riders in the final kilometers, thanks to a high tempo set by Team Sky on the front. As a result of his top 3 finish, Alaphilippe is now 4th GC, 44" down. He will wear white tomorrow as the Best Young Rider.
Etixx - Quick-Step Cycling Team looks next to 173.1km Stage 4. While this stage is seen as one that favors a sprint finale, there are some up-and-down sections, including Tepusquet Road, in the middle of the parcours.
"He was just fine today and he even got the white jersey," Sport Director Brian Holm said of Alaphilippe's performance. "We know he's fast, and he's a competitor. He's strong. He was there with riders like Alejandro Valverde in the Ardennes, so this performance is not really a surprise. We thought he might be a little tired after the Ardennes Classics, but he's got class. He wanted to stay with the front group and he did it, and he got 3rd behind a guy like Sagan. So we're happy with the result. As for the rest of the team today, everyone did well. Cavendish hung on as long as he could and he had teammates there with him as the race leader. Now he has the Green Jersey and tomorrow looks like a sprint stage. I think we will wait and see however, as the day after can also be a sprint. We will wait and see what we can do tomorrow, if we will work like we did the first two days or if maybe someone will support us. We saw what happened today with teams working all day only to miss the catch. We got two stage wins in the first two days, so the pressure is off a bit. We'll think first before we start riding on the front tomorrow, and we'll keep doing our best for good results in the next days with high morale."
"This season is all about new experiences for me as a young rider, and this is my first time at Tour of California" Alaphilippe said. "This was also my first eight-day stage race with a mountain stage and a time trial still to come. I have to say I'm enjoying it a lot. So far we had great teamwork with Mark winning two stages, and defending Yellow. It was important to learn how to work in support of him, sometimes using a lot of energy in front. I was also honored to be his second-to-last leadout man yesterday. We accomplished the goal of the win, and I was happy I contributed in the last kilometers. Today I thought might be a chance to maybe show myself if the condition was there. Voila, my condition was good. I was able to stay in the front group with the best guys. In the end it was clear we couldn't catch Skujiņš, so congratulations to him for a strong stage. I still wanted to go for the podium on the uphill finish and I did it. Against a guy like Peter Sagan I can be satisfied with a 3rd place. Now I am in the White Jersey for Best Young Rider, and 4th in the GC. Tomorrow begins more chances for sprints with Mark. We'll see what we can do. I'm learning more and more day-by-day, and if there can be an opportunity for me in the next days, why not, we will see what I can do to protect my overall position."