SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif., May 13, 2019
Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First Pro Cycling,) overtook stage 1 winner and Tour leader Peter Sagan as he climbed 14,500 feet on the 133-mile ride from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe. It was the same roads where van Garderen lost it last year to the Colombian rider Egan Bernal.
Van Garderen leads the race by six seconds after battling it out with three other riders up the final climb including Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Kasper Asgreen (DEN), who rode in three breakaways, and ultimately surged ahead in the final meters to his first World Tour stage win (following a 2nd place finish in the Tour of Flanders this spring). Team Ineos’ Gianni Moscon (ITA), who heated up the hills in the latter part of the day, finished third for the stage.
“It would have been nice to get the stage victory – I gave it a few digs and sprinted hard in the end but came up second, but I was actually surprised to get the jersey…it’s always an honor to be in yellow in the home country,” said van Garderen, who placed second in last year’s Amgen Tour of California and holds the 2013 championship.
Stage 2 was the second longest day of the race at 133.3 miles, and the first day of climbing complete with 14,500 feet of elevation gain including the final upward slope to the finish at Heavenly Ski Resort. Snow covered hills could be seen surrounding the riders as they made their way up the mountain slopes.
With a little more than 50 miles to go, EF Education First took over at the front of the peloton on the longest uphill of the day and quickly reeled back an early breakaway. Its climber Lachlan Morton (AUS), the 2017 Amgen Tour of California Best Young Rider, made a solo jump out of the pack at just over 40 miles to go, followed by a peloton split that caused many GC contenders –including previous leader Sagan, fall to the secondary group.
A chase group of 14 – which contained BAHRAIN – MERIDA’s Rohan Dennis (AUS), who finished second in this race in 2014 and 2016, and Sacramento area cyclist Neilson Powless in his World Tour team debut year with Jumbo-Visma – caught Morton before the climb up Carson Pass and held the gap until the final miles.
As some of the lead group riders began to fall back on the slopes of Luther Pass, Jumbo-Visma’s 2017 race champion George Bennett (NZL) and EF Education First’s Sergio Higuita (COL) tried to bridge to the lead group. Dennis, the current World Time Trial Champion who also hold stage winds at all three Grand Tours, drove the pace to the Sprint line coming across second to pick up valuable seconds off his overall time in the form of bonus points. Asgreen and Astana Pro Team’s Davide Ballerini (ITA) who spent a full day on the front, led the chase group on the descent.
The final uphill miles blew apart the lead group with van Garderen and teammate Taylor Phinney (USA) making their way to the front group, as well as UAE Team Emirates 20-year-old first-time team leader Tadej Pogacar (SLO), who captured the TAG Heuer Best Young Rider Jersey today.
Astana attacked on the final climb followed by van Garderen who took the lead, with Moscon, Ballerini and Asgreen close behind. On the final uphill meters, van Garderen launched a final attack that put him in the overall race lead, with Asgreen countering past him to take the stage.
Today’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey went to Rally UHC Cycling’s Sacramento-area rider Evan Huffman, the race’s 2016 KOM winner who racked up two stage wins in 2017, who spent the day out front from the early breakaway and continued to push the pace of the lead group up the steep segments of the race later in the stage.