ATOC: Cavendish Wins 4 of 8, Alaphilippe Finishes 2nd GC!
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish won half of the total Amgen Tour of California stages, with his 4th and last victory being the 105.2km 8th Stage from L.A. Live to Pasadena/Rose Bowl on Sunday in a bunch arrival. He beat Wouter Wippert (Drapac) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in an action packed final stage that also decided the overall classification by mere seconds.
Thanks to a solo victory by Julian Alaphilippe on Mt. Baldy in Stage 7, the 22-year-old rider went into the final stage just 3" ahead of Sagan in the overall. That meant the final stage on Sunday, with a crucial intermediate sprint section and a 7-lap finishing circuit before an anticipated sprint finale, would decide whether Alaphilippe or Sagan would take home the yellow jersey.
Etixx - Quick-Step went into the stage aggressively, with non-stop attacking ahead of the intermediate sprint. Yves Lampaert, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh, Matteo Trentin, and Martin Velits all contributed to the efforts. Cavendish made sure he got the top bonus seconds by finishing 1st, with Sagan 2nd. Alaphilippe kept his grip on the yellow jersey by placing 3rd at the intermediate sprint section. This meant he held on to just a 1 second lead in the GC before the sprint.
All other attacks were eventually neutralized, including a late flyer from Van Keirsbulck, with chasing being done by teams like UnitedHealthcare, Tinkoff-Saxo, Trek Factory Racing, and BMC Racing Team.
Cavendish won the final stage convincingly with a leadout from Mark Renshaw, but the overall classification came down to mere centimeters between Sagan and Tyler Farrar (MTN - Qhubeka) in a bike throw for the final podium spot. Sagan was able to get 3rd, therefore he secured the yellow jersey by 2" over Alaphilippe. Alaphilippe finished 12th in the stage.
Alaphilippe won the white jersey for best young rider, and Mark Cavendish extended his points classification lead to win the green jersey.
Etixx - Quick-Step won five stages out of eight, and was on the podium every stage. Cavendish's win is the 27th road win for the team in 2015.
"I'm happy to finish off a strong Amgen Tour of California with my 4th win, and the 5th for the team out of eight stages," Cavendish said. "Really it's about the team and how we rode all week. We were on the podium every day. We rode so strong. We went for the stage today and still protected Alaphilippe in the GC with some great racing all day, leaving it up to a photo finish in the sprint. In the end we got two jerseys, yet another stage win, and a 2nd place overall. I'm super proud of what we've done here and think things are going in the right direction ahead of the Tour de France. I really have to congratulate Julian for how he performed this week going for the overall. He is really talented. I didn't actually know how talented he was in the big mountains until yesterday. We already saw him in the Ardennes Classics finishing 2nd behind guys like Alejandro Valverde. But to do what he did yesterday really shows his form. But even more, it is about his personality on and off the bike. He's got a winner's attitude. He doesn't care what anyone thinks, he's going to go for it anyway, and that is someone who is going to go far in life. He's a good kid too, a super nice kid. As for me, I've been happy with my form all year, which to me is the same as my form last year at this time. Had I not crashed in the first stage of Le Tour in 2014 I am fully confident I could have gone for multiple stages. So we'll see what I can do this year. I'm feeling really good. My team is fully committed and focused. I go next to Tour de Suisse and the British National Championships, and we'll see what I can do to improve my form even more before July."
"Today the goal was to try and defend my jersey," Alaphilippe said. "The guys did it perfectly. Mark sprinted for the intermediate sprint and then I did the best sprint possible both in the intermediate sprint, and at the finish, to try and take away the seconds from Sagan. But it was pretty impossible to beat him. I was hoping for it, because you have to always try to go for the best results. But I would say I'm not very disappointed about it. I considered wearing the yellow jersey into the final stage like a bonus. The glass is half full, not half empty. My first experience at Amgen Tour of California included my 2nd career victory, a 2nd place in the GC, perfect teamwork, Mark winning four stages, and us on the podium every day. We won two jerseys, including me in white as best young rider. What more can I expect? If someone told me at the beginning of Tour of California that I'd be able to win a stage and finish 2nd in the overall, I'd have probably told them they are crazy. so I think in the end I have to be happy I lost to a great champion, and this race will be forever in my heart."
"They worked hard today for this win," Sport Director Brian Holm said. "It was a very fast race. At the intermediate sprint everyone rode strong. We attacked and then Cavendish got the top bonus seconds. Alaphilippe took one second in 3rd, which kept him in the lead as we hoped. Normally everyone was tired. But UnitedHealthcare rode on the front and nobody expected it. So we knew it would be very difficult until the end. We went for the stage win and with a guy like Sagan, you can only cross your fingers and hope he doesn't make top three. He did it by centimeters, but that is cycling. Really at the end of this week, we can't complain at all. I don't think anyone expected the kind of success we had. Cav, we all know he is fast. But he can't win without a bunch sprint. We needed a strong team and they really controlled the race from kilometer zero to the finish in every sprint stage. We got some help by Hincapie Racing Team and Tinkoff-Saxo on a stage or two, but it was really up to our riders to chase for Cav. Everybody delivered. including Martin Velits and Stijn Vandenbergh returning to competition after injuries. So I have to say I'm happy with the team as a whole, and also Cavendish for finishing the job four times in eight days. We know he could win here and he did. But the big surprise was Alaphilippe on Mt. Baldy yesterday. We put absolutely no pressure on him. We simply told him to follow as best he could and see how far he could go. He did it and won the stage. He's got a good attitude and he's a talented bike rider. You can't just win with attitude, you've got to have the legs. Mt. Baldy is a finish for pure climbers. I thought Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Robert Gesink (Team LottoNL - Jumbo) were going good and would be the guys to watch for that finish. But then I saw Julian ride away from Henao and win a summit finish of an eight-day stage race. That is very big. With all our five victories, two jerseys, and an amazing performance of Alaphilippe to take 2nd GC, we have to be proud of what we did in California."