ATOC: CAVENDISH WINS 4 OF 8, ALAPHILIPPE FINISHES 2ND GC!

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.

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish finished 3rd at the end of 173.1km Stage 4 on Wednesday, as an attack by Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team) with about a kilometer to go, and several corners to go in the final few hundred meters, meant the bunch arrival would be far from routine.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the stage, and Wouter Wippert (Drapac) was 2nd. The final 18 kilometers were also far from routine as Oss and Sagan led an acceleration at the same time the last rider of the five-man original breakaway was caught. The attack was inspired by crosswinds, but Etixx - Quick-Step, know in for their skills in those conditions, helped neutralize the attack. Etixx - Quick-Step then put six riders on the front with 6.6km to go in support of Cavendish, who won the first two stages and was wearing the Green Jersey. Giant-Alpecin and Tinkoff-Saxo were also trying to control the front, but the combination of Oss's late race attack and the nature of the parcours got in the way of a well organized group arrival. Still, Cavendish launched from more than 6 riders back and earned 3rd in the stage.

Julian Alaphilippe remains the Best Young Rider and is still 4th GC (+44"). Cavendish remains the leader of the Points Classification by a single point (40) over Sagan.

Cavendish had to launch his sprint from longer than usual on Thursday in a rain soaked 154km Stage 5. Despite having to close a small gap from behind, he still won his third stage out of five stages, this time in Santa Clarita. Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) was 2nd and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was 3rd. The original breakaway was down to Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team) inside the final 10 kilometers, but Etixx - Quick-Step was on the front and the peloton caught him with 3.2km to go in the stage after a long day of chasing in miserable conditions. Yves Lampaert was on the front and doing his best to set a fast tempo, while also tracking down Mark Renshaw guiding the Manx Missile. The Belgian rider and his two teammates rejoined right before the final kilometer, and then it was up to Renshaw to have to guide Cavendish for an extended leadout. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was on his wheel.

Waeytens launched his sprint at the front from long distance, but Cavendish still passed well before the line for the stage win.

Cavendish has now won 12 times in 2015, and earned the 26th road win for Etixx - Quick-Step this season.

Julian Alaphilippe moved up to 3rd GC, down 44 seconds going into the individual time trial tomorrow. He remains the Best Young Rider. Cavendish extended his lead in the Points Competition from a single point over Sagan to six points (55).

"The thing is, when you're going so fast there's the wind chill as well," Cavendish said. "It's one thing to be wet and to be cold when you're wet, but with the wind coming on you're freezing to the absolute bone. But it was good. All my teammates, thank you. It was hard to catch them back in the final but my team really looked after me. It was also nice to see so many people out here despite the weather. As for the sprint, I had Mark Renshaw at the end, and as always he was cool and calm, but we had to dig deep. It was a bit hectic in the last kilometer and Mark Renshaw was cooked, so we couldn't go as fast as we wanted in the end. It was a headwind finish, and I knew I didn't want to jump early. Waeytens went first and I timed it well enough to catch him before the line. I'm super happy to get the stage win for the team today."

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Julian Alaphilippe impressed again at 22-years-old, this time with a 3rd place finish in the 10.62km ITT of Amgen Tour of California in Santa Clarita on Friday. The French rider finished 19" down (50km/h) down on Peter Sagan's (Tinkoff-Saxo) winning time of 12 minutes and 31 seconds. Jos Van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) was 2nd.

Alaphilippe, in the white jersey for Best Young Rider, remains 3rd in the GC (+45") going into the crucial 128.7km Queen Stage on Saturday. Sagan moved into the race lead with his victory. The Stage 7 finish on Mt. Baldy (6.92km, 9% average gradient) will be likely be decisive for the GC. There will then be a 105.2km Stage 8 from L.A. Live to Pasadena/Rose Bowl, which strongly favors a bunch sprint finish with a 7-lap finishing circuit on Sunday. Mark Cavendish goes into tomorrow's stage still in the Green Jersey as leader of the points classification.

Etixx - Quick-Step has been on the podium every stage of Amgen Tour of California, including three victories by Cavendish, a 3rd place from the Manx Missile, and two 3rd places for Alaphilippe.

"With the change of the time trial course to a shorter distance in Santa Clarita, this suited me," Alaphilippe said. "I felt good at the start and wanted to do my best to defend my 3rd place in the GC. I have been taking it day-by-day, because I came here after some hard racing at the Ardennes Classics. I've had good legs so far, including today. I was super pleased with how I performed. Sagan was really strong today, so congratulations to him on the victory. I am really happy to be on the podium and to go into the queen stage having protected my overall placement. This is my first time at an eight-day stage race, and so far I did well at the time trial. We will see how I do on a key mountain stage tomorrow. I know that Mt. Baldy will not be easy, but we will see what can happen. We have a very motivated team here, as you can see with three victories of Mark Cavendish and my two podium placings. We also have the White Jersey and Green Jersey. I will do my best to honor my 3rd place in the GC on Saturday, and to also learn from the experience with the support of my teammates."

Alaphilippe had the ride of his career so far on Saturday, winning solo on Mt. Baldy at the end of Stage 7 and taking the race lead by 2" over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo). Sergio Henao (Team Sky) was 2nd, and Ian Boswell (Team Sky) was 3rd.

Team Sky did their best to shed riders from the peloton with each passing kilometer heading into the Mt. Baldy (6.92km, 9% average gradient) climb, setting a very high tempo in hopes of setting up Henao to go for the victory. At 13.7km to go the peloton was already down to about 25 riders. As the group headed around the first of 15 switchbacks of the steep climb, many riders immediately lost contact. By 5.9km to go just 12 riders remained in contention for the stage.

Henao was the first to accelerate in an elite group of several riders, including Alaphilippe, Sagan, Boswell, and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin). Only Alaphilippe could stick to his wheel. The duo then attacked each other continuously for several hundred meters. The winning move came with an acceleration of Alaphilippe with 4.1km to go. He gained a gap of 10" on Henao, and then added five more seconds to the gap going into the last couple kilometers. Boswell bridged to his teammate at about the final kilometer, but it was too late to catch Alaphilippe and he won solo by 23 seconds.

Alaphilippe also crossed 47" ahead of Sagan, which earned him the yellow jersey. The victory was just the 2nd of Alaphilippe's career, and the 27th on the road for Etixx - Quick-Step in 2015. Alaphilippe has been the revelation of the pro peloton in the past few weeks, having placed 2nd in both Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as placing 3rd in Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 and the 10.62km Stage 6 ITT on Friday.

"I am super happy with this win," Alaphilippe said. "Today was a short stage and we were going full gas since the beginning. In the final I was there with the best guys. Henao was attacking, stopping, attacking, stopping. He was relentless. At a certain moment at about 4 kilometers to go I decided to try to attack, and see if I could improve my classification. I went, and Henao didn't respond immediately. When I saw he didn't follow me I thought he was playing with me, and that he would arrive at any second and pass me. But I kept going and going anyway. The last two kilometers were the hardest of my life. I gave everything to go the distance, my legs felt like they were exploding. In my mind I was always thinking that Henao could come back. But I was doing my best to stay away. It wasn't until the final 200 meters when I finally understood I had won the stage. I enjoyed the moment, but I kept going 100 percent until the finish line. It was a great emotion for me because this is the second victory of my career. But, what makes me so happy is the way I won. I won a mountain stage in the Tour of California, the first stage race of eight days in my professional career. For me that is really special. I worked for Mark Cavendish on the flat stages and took my chances here when possible. I really rode with good legs this week after the Ardennes Classics. To have this performance with such momentum going into it is really great. Now I am in the leader's jersey. Of course tomorrow won't be easy to defend my position. There are intermediate time bonuses, and time bonuses at the finish line of the stage. It is clear Sagan is faster than me, so we will see tomorrow what will happen. I don't want to put pressure on myself for the GC. For the stage of tomorrow, I think we have to go with our original plan to try and win with Mark. He's won three stages already and is going really well. Then we will see if we can defend the yellow jersey. If not, it won't be the end of the world. We won four stages here so far out of seven. I had the best young rider jersey going into this stage, and Mark has the points jersey. So, we've already done plenty here and we are simply trying to add to what we've already accomplished. The 2015 Amgen Tour of California will be a race I never forget."

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."

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