The end of 193.7km Amgen Tour of California Stage 2, from Nevada City to Lodi, came down to a bike throw between sprint favorites Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in a headwind finish on Monday. The victory was hard earned after a long day for Etixx - Quick-Step. The team spent much of the stage on front controlling the race for the British rider in the yellow jersey. Cavendish won by about a quarter of a wheel, winning for a second straight day. Wouter Wippert (Drapac Professional Cycling) was 3rd.
The race came back together with 4.4km to go in anticipation of a predicted bunch sprint finish, thanks to the relentless chasing of riders like Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Yves Lampaert. An original breakaway of four riders was down to three just before it was caught. Matteo Trentin, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mark Renshaw were then left to guide the Manx Missile into optimal position for the sprint. The long day of chasing for Etixx - Quick-Step meant longer efforts for the final few leadout men. Alaphilippe took an extended pull starting at about 2km to go. Mark Renshaw then brought Cavendish behind the two remaining riders of Tinkoff-Saxo, and was able to protect his teammate from the wind going inside the final kilometer by sitting on the wheel of a Tinkoff-Saxo rider. Sagan stayed on the wheel of Cavendish before some aggression from other sprinters in the final few hundred meters .
Despite the chaos, Cavendish still went on to win the stage and now leads Amgen Tour of California by 8 seconds over Sagan, and 11" over Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Racing Team).
Cavendish sealed the 25th road win for Etixx - Quick-Step in the 2015 season.
There is a possibility of a GC shakeup after Stage 3, which is a 169.8km up-and-down race that includes Mt. Hamilton, in San Jose on Tuesday. Mt. Hamilton is steep and the descent is also technical. There is a short, but steep uphill finish with gradients of more than 10 percent.
"It was a bit nervous," Cavendish said. "Etixx - Quick-Step was the team that rode on the front most of the day again. Tinkoff-Saxo put one rider in front to help with the chase, but this still meant we were really short in riders at the end. There was only four of us at the end with Matteo Trentin, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mark Renshaw in front of me. We were the only guys in the last laps who hadn't been riding. Against teams with eight fresh riders, instead of four, it was always going to be hard. Going into the last corner Sagan made sure he was ahead of me, but I was happy to be on his wheel. It was a headwind finish. I took a quick glance and I saw a Drapac rider come up. I tried to go around but was a bit closed. I didn't give up and I went again. I saw on the left Sagan had the slipstream of the Drapac rider, and into the headwind that was a massive advantage. I knew he'd get the slingshot. So I knew it would be hard against a strong guy like Sagan. At the line I wasnt sure if I got it. But I'm happy I could get the win after the hard work of Etixx - Quick-Step today. Tomorrow is a mountain stage, so it will be a different story for the stage and likely also the GC. But we won two stages in a row here at Amgen Tour of California in stages that we came here to win. We defended the yellow jersey as we wanted today. We'll do our best tomorrow and see if there are other chances for victories in the next days."
Read more at http://www.etixx-quickstep.com/en/