Déjà Vu at the 2016 AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA as Skujiņš Escapes in the Mountains for Second Year Running to Claim a Stage Win
After a long day in the breakaway as the peloton cruised from Lodi to South Lake Tahoe, Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s Toms Skujiņš (LAT) led a group of three out ahead of the leaders, up the mountains where elevations approached 8,600 feet at the apex, and over the finish line at Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Photo by Danny Heilprin
“It wasn’t easy to get in the break, of course, because people knew that the break might stick,” said Skujiņš. “I luckily managed to get in the right one.”
The speeds were high on the flattest part of today’s 131.7-mile course, the second longest of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California, as the peloton rolled out along Lodi’s vineyards and orchards, a reprieve before the rising altitudes approaching South Lake Tahoe, where crowds were 10 deep for long stretches.
A breakaway of 18 riders escaped at about 45 minutes into the race day and was holding a 3-minute advantage around today’s midway point. Cannondale’s Skujiņš attacked at Kirkwood summit, the first of three King of the Mountain (KOM) categorized climbs today. Now down to 16, the leaders had increased their lead to four minutes with 20 miles left to ride, and with the second KOM at Carson Pass in their sights.
BMC Racing Team picked up the pace between the two climbs, pulling the peloton to steadily close the gap, while 24 year-old Skujiņš, who claimed the mountainous San Jose stage and a three-day stint as race leader last year, launched a solo attack on the leaders at the front. He was soon joined by Rally Cycling’s Adam De Vos (CAN) and Team Sky’s Xabier Zandio (ESP), the oldest rider in the race at 39.
The three quickly built their lead to nearly one minute over the remaining breakaway riders. The peloton containing Etixx – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) wearing the Amgen Race Leader Jersey, and World Champion Peter Sagan (SVK) of Tinkoff was about three minutes back from the leaders with less than 10 miles to go.
With less than four miles left to ride, the chase group remained about 50 seconds back from the race leaders, splintering with various attacks and counters to pull it back together. The three leaders held strong on the final uphill mile to Heavenly Mountain Resort, all vying for the stage win, with Skujiņš ultimately coming to the line the clear winner of the day ahead of De Vos and then Zandio. In addition to the stage win, Skujiņš came away from today’s stage with the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
Riding in the main peloton today, Tinkoff's Peter Sagan (SVK) retains the Visit California Sprint Jersey. The SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey stays with Roseville, Calif. native, Neilson Powless (USA) of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team for the third consecutive day, and Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman (USA) retains the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey, which he’s worn since Stage 3.
The leader board remains mostly in tact after today, with Alaphilippe retaining the overall lead by 22 seconds over Trek – Segafredo’s Peter Stetina (USA), followed by George Bennett (NZL) of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo, who held onto third place overall despite a flat tire on the descent of the second KOM today, and BMC Racing Team’s Brent Bookwalter (USA) in fourth; Team Giant-Alpecin’s Laurens ten Dam (NED) moves up to fifth place.