Update, 5 p.m. Monday: Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion who goes by the name of “Sir,” won the 20-kilometer Stage 2 time trial to take the lead in the Tour of California. Here’s the summary of the finish from VeloNews:
Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins asserted himself at the Amgen Tour of California Monday, winning the stage 2 time trial in Folsom.
Wiggins (Sky) set a winning mark of 23:18 on the mostly flat, 12.4-mile course to beat Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) by 44 seconds.
American Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) was third, at 52 seconds.
With the win, the 2012 Tour de France champion took the overall lead in the eight-day tour, which concludes Sunday in Thousand Oaks.
From steephill.tv: the stage results and overall standings. Tuesday, the race starts in San Jose, summits Mount Hamilton, plunges down the back side of the Bay Area’s highest mountain, and finishes with a climb of Mount Diablo.
Stage 1: For me, there was only one thing certain as the first stage of the Tour of California sped toward a sprint finish in downtown Sacramento on Sunday: Sooner or later, the race commentators would break out the nickname “Manx Missile.”
That moment came when the Missile — Isle of Man native Mark Cavendish — began to surge to the front about 250 meters from the end of the 120-mile stage. Cavendish, the winner of more than 120 races and individual stages in his career, moved alongside German rider John Degenkolb, who was hanging on to the lead after moving to the front about 300 meters from the finish line. (The video above, from steephill.tv shows the last few miles of the race; fast forward to 5:45 for the final kilometer of the action.
“Here comes the Manx Missile!” shouted NBC Sports race announcer Phil Liggett. “But has he got the legs? And the answer is no, he has not! As John Degenkolb comes up to the line, it’s going to be right on the line, Degenkolb will get it, Cavendish will be second on the line.”
Well, actually … Cavendish managed to throw his bike across the line and won by the width of a tire and a little more. But it was so close that neither of the men who contested the sprint was sure who won. So instead of arms thrown in the air, pumped fists, baby-rocking, bow-drawing, or any of the other victory celebrations we usually see, we got a picture of two exhausted cyclists waiting for the official finish-line photo.
The final minutes of the race call by Liggett and Paul Sherwen — assisted by retired race veteran Christian Vande Velde — featured one moment of pure Sherwen poetry. Here, he describes the plight of a breakaway rider, Kiel Reijnen, fighting to stay away from the peloton as the stage entered its final stretch:
Sherwen: It’s a long, hard ride here. The next time he comes up to the line he should hear the bell indicating one lap to go. And that will be sweet music to his ears, but the pain in his legs will still be singing out to him, ‘Please stop, please give me a break.’ But you can’t, when you’re in a situation like this, you’ve got to give it everything, you can’t look back.
You can see, if you look back down the road there, you can start to see that black mass of the main field, waiting like a hawk in the sky, waiting to come out of the sun and pounce on their prey, and they will spit him out of the back of that main field as if he was nothing at all.
Vande Velde: I really hope not …
Here’s the Associated Press write-up on Sunday’s opening stage:
By Antonio Gonzalez
SACRAMENTO — Mark Cavendish has more than 100 wins around the world, including 25 stages in the Tour de France, but he never had a victory like the one he had Sunday.
Cavendish edged ahead of John Degenkolb in a thrilling sprint to win the first stage of the Tour of California in the closest finish in the event’s nine-year history.
“It’s the first time in my career I really didn’t know the result until it was confirmed to me,” he said.
Degenkolb surged ahead of the most decorated Tour de France sprinter ever in the final stretch before Cavendish — a native of the Isle of Man dubbed the “Manx Missile” — burnished his legacy again. The two raced shoulder-to-shoulder as Cavendish came up along the right side and edged Degenkolb by the width of a tire.
It was so close that neither rider celebrated until learning the results, which were confirmed by photos, though Degenkolb looked dejected waiting for the final word. After the results were announced, he congratulated Cavendish with a heartbreaking hug.
“I knew that I lost,” said Degenkolb, a German riding for Team Giant-Shimano. “Sometimes it’s really just 1 or 2 centimeters, but normally you feel it straight away.”
Cavendish completed the 120-mile stage in 4 hours, 44 minutes, 7 seconds for the Omega Pharma-Quick Step Cycling Team. Moreno Hofland of the Netherlands and Belkin Pro Cycling was third. Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan, who has dominated Tour of California sprints the last several years and won a record 10 stages, got buried in the pack and finished fifth.
The longest stage of the eight-day, 720-mile journey through California’s eclectic climates came down to a drama-filled finishing stretch just steps away from the state Capitol — and even then it took a minute to know who actually won.
As the bell rang for one lap to go around the tree-lined downtown circuit, the teams of the big sprinters pulled to the front. Cavendish appeared to wait too long to attack — and had to work harder after teammate Mark Renshaw recovered from a punctured tire — before finally getting free and churning his legs for a powerful closing burst.
He rode along the right of Degenkolb and lowered his helmet to the line. Cavendish, who announced in April he would skip the Giro d’Italia — where he won five stages last year — for the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse after an illness, also won the Sacramento stage in 2010.
“This fits in perfectly for what I want to do this year,” he said. “I should be fresh enough.”
Carmen Small of the Specialized-lululemon team won the women’s circuit race. The Tour of California resumes with a time trial in Folsom on Monday.
The race, which has evolved into North America’s most prestigious cycling event, has lived up to the billing so far. This year’s field includes several world-class talents, including Cavendish and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.
American Tejay van Garderen, the winner last year, is not competing, instead focusing on cycling’s marquee race in July. But his BMC Racing Team still has aspirations of challenging Wiggins, who will no doubt be the man to beat on the mountains.
The overall winner figures to be sorted out on those steep climbs, including the Stage 3 ascent up Mount Diablo on Tuesday — when a heat wave is expected to send temperatures into the upper 90s — and the Stage 6 ride up Mountain High on Friday. The race ends May 18 over the same circuit in Thousand Oaks that concluded the 2010 edition.
For the opening stage, a blue sky and undulating hills on the edge of California’s Central Valley provided a more serene backdrop. But the big breezes — which came from every direction on the circuitous route — added an unexpected twist.
“There was no shortage of wind,” Canadian rider Will Routley said.
He was one of six riders — Matt Cooke, Charles Planet, Thomas Leezer, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Isaac Bolivar Hernandez — who were part of an early breakaway. They held a lead of five minutes before the peloton reeled them in with about 33 miles remaining.
A stiff headwind on the way back split the pack into two. The two groups made for a taxing and tricky ride before coming together — except for Kiel Reijnen and Jacob Rathe on a failed two-man breakaway — in downtown Sacramento, where a three-lap circuit around the Capitol made for the furious photo finish.