Peter Sagan wins opening stage of Tour of California

0 Comments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Peter Sagan has had trouble finding his way to the front at the finish this season.

Turns out he just needed to get back to the Tour of California.

The three-time road cycling world champion, and the winningest rider in race history, freelanced his way to the front of the opening stage Sunday and then held off fast-finishing Travis McCabe of the USA Cycling team to earn his 17th career win in North America’s biggest stage race.

Sagan had only one victory this season, a meager amount of success for arguably the world’s most versatile rider. Some thought he was still feeling the lingering effects of a crash at last year’s Tour de France, though the affable Slovakian sprinter insisted all along that he was close to form.

McCabe nearly caught him at the finish line in downtown Sacramento in what would have been a monumental upset. Max Walscheid rounded out the podium Sunday for Team Sunweb, which set a frantic pace over the final couple of miles to set up the sprint finish.

“I felt great. I was closing in on him,” McCabe said. “I had to come from two or three wheels back of Peter, and I knew this stage has a slightly false-flat, so I waited until I needed to go.

“Losing to a world champion,” McCabe added, “is not a bad thing.”

The only truly flat stage during the seven-day race transpired just about as everyone expected, with early breakaways slowly reeled in by a peloton intent on setting up a sprint finish.

The 89-mile stage rolled off under sunny conditions and out of the state capitol, then returned to Sacramento for a series of criterium-style laps. The last breakaway riders were caught with about 10 miles to go, setting up an intense and spectator-friendly finish in downtown Sacramento.

Sagan began freelancing his way toward the front, using rival teams rather than his own Bora-Hansgrohe team to deliver him to the front. He began to move up behind a series of Team Ineos riders as speeds hit 40 mph, then swung off in sight of the finish line and had enough to hold on.

Sagan punched the air with his right fist, then celebrated with his signature wheelie – a move that has become so common at the Tour of California, even if it had been rare so far this season.

Now the question becomes how long Sagan can defend the leader’s jersey.

The second stage Monday takes riders 122 miles from the start in Rancho Cordova to the popular skiing destination of South Lake Tahoe. The crucial climbing stages come later in the week, but riders will still navigate nearly 15,000 feet of ascent in what could shake up the general classification.

It could also be another chance for McCabe, who insisted he’s not a pure sprinter.

“I was looking more at stage 3 and stage 4, so coming here and getting second place – and it’s Mother’s Day and it’s actually my birthday,” he said. “I got some cake at the team presentation this morning. I think that gave me a little extra in the legs today.”

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

Getty Images
5 Comments

L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

CYCLING-AUS-ROAD-WORLD
Getty Images
9 Comments

WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.