Thursday, March 30, 2017

Longest Ride of the 8-day Stage Race on Tap Tomorrow with 133.6-mile Route from Morro Bay to Monterey County’s Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway

Julian Alaphilippe Wins St3 AToC16Photo by Oran Kelly/Eibhir

The leader jersey changed hands for the third time in three days at the 2016 Amgen Tour of California, with Etixx – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) clutching the Queen Stage victory with a determined push up the final steeply sloped meters of Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County. The 23 year-old French rider who won last year’s Mount Baldy stage and placed second overall, just three seconds from top finisher Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), has clearly found California climbs to his liking.

“Today was really hard, everyone waiting the last climb for the big fight, so I was a little bit nervous we arrived here [at the final climb]”, said Alaphilippe. “I wanted to wait until the last moment because I don’t know my condition after the break, so I’m really, really happy to win today.”

Soon after the peloton of 144 took off from Thousand Oaks, home to title sponsor Amgen, a breakaway group of seven emerged. Nearly four hours and 95 miles later, that group dwindled to two Americans still out front on the approach to Gibraltar: Axeon Hagens Berman’s 21 year-old Greg Daniel (Denver, Colo.) and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Tanner Putt (Boulder, Colo.). Daniel attacked for a solo stint heading into the infamous 7.5-mile climb up Gibraltar Road, earning the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey today.

The chase group was pulled up the mountain by Cannondale Pro Cycling Team in support of Lawson Craddock (USA), with BMC Racing Team for Brent Bookwalter (USA) and Alaphilippe also within the pack of 20+ riders.

Two miles into the climb, the youngest rider in the peloton, Axeon Hagens Berman’s Neilson Powless (age 19) from Roseville, Calif. took the lead, creating a gap that grew to 15 and then 30 seconds with less than three miles to ride.

“On the final climb I felt really good. I was in the top three riders getting into the climb. After maybe 2K [kilometers] on the climb I looked back and noticed that there was a really large gap,” said Powless. “I just decided to keep it steady and see how long I could go, and it turned out to be a really successful ride, and gave me a lot of confidence just to know that I can climb like that, because in the past I haven’t seen myself as a top, top climber. So, yeah, I have a lot of confidence going into the next couple days.”

Strong climbers Lachlan Morton (AUS) of San Diego-based Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Peter Stetina (USA) of Trek – Segafredo made a move to catch Powless with 2.7 miles left. Stetina, who is coming back from a severe leg injury, soon escaped to a solo lead and hung on through the 10 percent average grade of the final mile until Alaphilippe attacked in the last quarter-mile, overtaking Stetina and also the Amgen Race Leader Jersey with his win today. Stetina, who resides in two of this year’s Host Cities – Santa Rosa and Lake Tahoe – finished the stage in second place, followed by George Bennett (NZL) of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo in third and Santa Rosa-based BMC Racing Team’s Brent Bookwalter (USA) in fourth. After his tremendous effort, Powless ended the day in fifth place.

Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman (Elk Grove, Calif.), who took second place on Stage 2 yesterday, joined the breakaway to gather KOM points on the first three categorized climbs of the day to retain the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey.

A crash at the bottom of Gibraltar Road today took Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh (GBR), a favorite for today’s stage, out of the race with a suspected broken collarbone.

Quotes - Stage 3


Peter Stetina, Trek – Segafredo – (when asked about his crash and what this means to
him) – “It’s been a long spring, and I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs, and
wondering if I could even continue as a pro cyclist. I really earmarked this race, and
especially this stage as when I really needed to be back, and it’s just a testament to
mental fortitude, and really believing in yourself.”


Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (when asked about the
California climbs and difficulty of today’s ride) – “I really like to be here. Today was really
hard, everyone waiting the last climb for the big fight, so I was a little bit nervous when
we arrived here [final climb]. I wanted to wait until the last moment because I don’t know
my condition after the break, so I’m really, really happy to win today.”

Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (when asked about having
motivation when losing the race by seconds last year) – “It was a big motivation....It’s
just different for me this year, because I did a break after Classics season, so I’m not
really in the fight for the GC (General Classification). So I take it a little bit day after day,
and today was something good for me, but I was surprised to win like this. I’m really
happy.”

Neilson Powless, Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team – (when asked about the final
climb and what he’ll take away from today) – “On the final climb I felt really good. I was
in the top three riders getting into the climb. After maybe 2K [kilometers] on the climb I
looked back and noticed that there was a really large gap...so I just decided to keep it
steady and see how long I could go, and it turned out to be a really successful ride, and
gave me a lot of confidence just to know that I can climb like that, because in the past I
haven’t seen myself as a top, top climber. So, yeah, I have a lot of confidence going into
the next couple days.”

Gregory Daniel, Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team – (when asked about taking big
risks and jumping out to the front) – “It’s a risk that I think a lot of us are willing to take
just being aggressive and showing the Axeon colors, and today I thought it could be a
good day for a breakaway just have a little head start on this climb. I was really ecstatic
with how the team rode today.

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