Santa Rosa, CA., May 19, 2013. By Jen Benepe
The boy from Colorado, Tejay van Garderen sealed his first major stage race win at the Amgen Tour of California, which ended today in Santa Rosa, CA after traveling over 750 across the state.
It was a triumph for the young 24-year-old who became a phenom in last year’s Tour de France when he came away with the best young rider award.
“It’s a big relief. It’s a weight off my shoulders. I got the monkey off my back and hopefully this gets the ball rolling, and I can start racking up a bit more [wins],” he told journalists.
But the win was also a triumph for American cycling, and pro cycling in general since the Lance Armstrong debacle that has left the sport crippled in so many ways, among them morally, and in terms of public respect for cycling, a fact that many pros may be taking to heart when they are out there pounding on the pedals.
With his five-week-old daughter Rylan there today to share his victory van Garderern said, “Maybe becoming a daddy was the difference [in taking the overall win].”
Another phenom that has shot his way onto the pro cycling scene in the past year, Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan outsprinted the field to win the race’s final stage.
It was a 80.7-mile course that took cyclists from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge for the only the second time in race history, to the overall finish in Santa Rosa.
It was also Sagan’s 10th career Amgen Tour of California stage win, now a record. “I’m very happy for the win today and I thank all my teammates because we did work hard from the start,” said Sagan who also dedicated his victory to Alex Shephard, an 11-year-old fan fighting brain cancer.
A sea of fans turned out for the BMC Racing Team’s homecoming, which included overall team honors in this year’s race. Team leader van Garderen was named the Best Young Rider in the 2011 Amgen Tour of California and placed fourth overall last year.
In the final five miles, where the racers completed two circuits in downtown Santa Rosa at speeds of up to 40 mph, teams jockeyed for position to lead out their sprinters for a dash to the finish line.
After challenges from Team Garmin-Sharp, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies and ORICA GreenEDGE, Cannondale regained control with .7 miles left in the race.
Earlier in today’s stage, a three-man breakaway escaped from the peloton around mile four and held their advantage until 10 miles to the finish, when Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team’s Thomas De Gendt (BEL), the third-place finisher in last year’s Giro d’Italia, fell back into the pack.
The remaining two riders, Bontrager Cycling Team’s Antoine Duchesne (Petaluma, Calif.) and Santa Rosa-based Bissell Pro Cycling’s Jason McCartney (Coralville, Iowa) kept their lead until just before the finishing circuits.