Etixx - Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish earned his 10th win of the season on Sunday to open Amgen Tour of California. The British rider finished off great work by his teammates to control the race, and crucial work by teammate Mark Renshaw in the final kilometer, which brought him to the front of the peloton to launch his sprint perfectly at the end of 203.1km stage in Sacramento.
Cavendish beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing Team) for the win. It was the third time in his career he won a Tour of California stage in Sacramento, as he also won in 2010 and 2014.
The race came back together with about 10km to go as an original breakaway of four riders was down to just two before it was caught. Keil Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) tried an attack, but was also neutralized. The peloton, led by Etixx - Quick-Step, Tinkoff-Saxo, and MTN-Qhubeka, was determined to have a bunch sprint at the end of the finishing circuit.
Etixx - Quick-Step waited patiently to hit the front with the leadout train. They moved up with about 4.7km to go, and were able to maintain enough control going into the final kilometer for Renshaw to guide Cavendish to the front despite teams such as Giant-Alpecin, Tinkoff-Saxo, and BMC Racing Team battling for position. Renshaw did so despite a crash due to a pothole earlier in the race. He was able to continue riding without consequences after the fall, and play a crucial role as the last leadout man for the Manx Missile.
Etixx - Quick-Step's win total is now 24 for the 2015 road season.
Cavendish will wear the leader's jersey going into the second stage. He also leads the points classification going into 193.7km Stage 2 on Tuesday. The 2nd Stage from Nevada to Lodi is undulating earlier in the stage, but much of the remaining parcours is flat.
"I wasn't really that calm to be honest because it was really chaotic out there," Cavendish said. "When Mark Renshaw is stressing a bit you know it's really stressful. But I know with my teammates I don't really have to think too much even with chaos, so it means I can focus on saving my energy for the sprint. In this situation we maybe didn't go exactly how we wanted to inside the last kilometer. Mark Renshaw had to go a bit far from behind. But we knew when Sagan lost the wheel he was in the wind a bit. I knew he'd get in on my wheel and when I jumped I could get a gap. I didn't go too early, I didn't go too late. Mark set me up perfectly at about 200 meters to go and I'm super happy to win here in Sacramento. It also says a lot about Mark Renshaw because he went down hard in that crash. There was a massive pothole and when you're in the middle of the peloton you don't see it. I was riding next to him and he just disappeared due to the fall. So I was a bit worried. But fortunately he made it back and did a great job in the end, even if he's a bit sore. As for tomorrow's stage, I'd really like to see if we can go for another win with me in the yellow jersey. Then we will take it day-by-day in the next stages. We've got a strong team here structured around the sprints, and we'll see what results we can get when the chances are there after this victory today."
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