The 2016 Amgen Tour of California began in San Diego, California Sunday, May 15 and wrapped up nearly 800 miles later in Sacramento on Sunday, May 22. Along route from south to north, the riders climbed mountains, traveled the beautiful Hwy 1 along the California coastline and visited majestic Lake Tahoe.
In the end, a 23-year-old Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, took home the yellow jersey, something he’d had in his possession since winning the third stage of the race and taking over the race lead in Santa Barbara County.
A couple of days before the race began, a select group of riders met with the press at the San Diego Yacht Club. A beautiful setting, the San Diego Yacht Club dates back to 1886, when local boating enthusiasts formed the club, which has been located at its current location in Point Loma since 1924.
Pre-race press conferences typically include race official speeches, sponsor promotions, local celebrity cyclists and, of course, a handful of the cyclists riding the race.
It was an all-star lineup of cyclists including 2012 Tour de France winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff, Julian Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb, and Taylor Phinney. Chatting under the California sun, the riders answered questions and bantered amongst themselves in the relaxed southern California atmosphere.
A day off followed the press conference, then it was time for the race to begin its journey toward the north.
San Diego stage 1 circuit
The 108 mile Stage 1 began at Mission Bay, traveled through Balboa Park and various San Diego neighborhoods, moved to the nearby hills east of the city, then returned to a finish a couple of miles from the start, near Sea World.
Seven riders quickly pulled off the front of the peloton, maintaining about a four minute lead on the peloton for the majority of the day. We spent the day in a media car in the peloton, near the breakaway group of riders.
As with most breakaways, it fell apart near the end, with 2015 Amgen Tour of California winner, Peter Sagan of Tinkoff taking the stage 1 win.
I’m very happy to be here again, to catch a first victory here, in the first stage. Thank you to all my teammates. Today was a good day. I came here the first time in 2010…it was a very nice race, very good organization, very nice hotels, food. Also, the level of the race is very good, and it’s also very good for preparation because it’s good weather. Now it’s the Giro and Tour of California. And I prefer to come here to train and prepare. And also I like California for the fans, and I’ve won a lot of stages here, and I’m very happy always to return here.”
– Peter Sagan
Stage 2: South Pasadena to Santa Clarita
Day two began in South Pasadena near Rose Bowl Stadium, the site of the finish of the 2015 race. Located only six miles from downtown Los Angeles, South Pasadena is a picturesque community in San Gabriel Valley known for its tree-lined streets and historic homes.
Leaving South Pasadena, the riders spent the day covering 92 miles that included visits to Big Tujunga and Little Tujunga Canyon in Angeles National Forest, before ending in Santa Clarita, which has hosted the most stages in the history of the race.
Remember the above statement from stage one that most breakaways fall don’t make it to the finish? Yeah, well, sometimes they do.
Ben King (Cannondale) and Evan Huffman (Rally) survived the stage 2 breakaway with King taking the win in Santa Clarita. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took third along with the peloton 8 seconds later.
The win also placed King in the overall race lead, taking the yellow jersey from Peter Sagan heading into stage 3.
I knew Evan was a pretty quick sprinter. He smoked me in both of the King of the Mountain sprints, so I was hesitant to let it come down to a sprint, but I couldn’t drop him on the climb, so in the end we both fully committed to make the breakaway stick to the finish, and in the end, Evan let out the sprint, and I was able to come around him in the finish.”
– Ben King
South to Central California
Stage 3: Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County
Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) dominated on the Queen Stage of the Amgen Tour of California, taking the win on Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County and the overall race lead.
The goal at the start of the day was to be in a good position in the final kilometers and I was there thanks to the hard work of my teammates, who protected me throughout the day. I felt good, left it late to attack and from then on put in a strong effort. Now I’m in yellow, which is great, and I’m prepared to take things day by day.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step
The race finished for the first time on the legendary Gibraltar Road, with the final 12 kilometers ascending at an average 8% grade.
At 10 kilometers to go, the day’s break had dissolved and the peloton began to fracture. Neilson Powless (Axeon Cycling) pulled away from the main group, riding solo for several kilometers, until he was joined by Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly).
With three kilometers remaining in the race, Stetina attacked. Alaphilippe quickly bridged to Stetina from the main group, then continued on, passing him enroute to the finish and the stage 3 win.
Stetina finished the day in second place, as well as in the overall race, and now sits 19 seconds back.
George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) was third for the day, which moved him into third place in the general classification, 31 seconds behind Alaphilippe.
I’m happy with my performance today. I didn’t know how my condition would be because I was sick in the spring classics. I want to thank the boys for their help today and the team for the possibility to train in Colorado to build up again.”
– George Bennett
Stage 4: Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) picked up another win at stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey County. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was second and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data).
“I’m feeling pretty good after that stage. It would have better if we could have won a stage already but in the end it was a good day for us and I’m pretty happy with my form after coming back from my crash in Flanders. I think Brent and Rohan had a really good day in GC and everything went pretty well.
For me, on the uphill sections I tried to follow as if you know there is a good finish for you, you can always hang on longer. So, I tried to get over the climbs and the team did a really good job today keeping the pace pretty high. In the end, there was a little bit of gambling about how the finish would go. I’ve beaten [Peter] Sagan a few times already but this time he won so next time I will have to try and beat him again.”
– Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team
Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) retained the overall lead, now 22 seconds in front of Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and 37 seconds ahead of George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo).
Stage 5: Lodi to Lake Tahoe
Toms Skujins (Cannondale) survived the breakaway to win stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. Adam De Vos (Rally) was second and Xabier Zandio (Team Sky) was third.
To get into the break, you have to try at least a couple of times. I knew that the altitude was going to make people suffer, and I knew that even if it wasn’t the steepest hills that the race would be blown to bits. It was a good day for the breakaway. I was really happy I could get into the move, and of course, I was happy to take out the win.”
– Toms Skujins
No change in the top of General Classification, with Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) holding on to the overall race lead by 22 seconds over Peter Stetina (Trek Segfredo) heading into the stage 6 time trial in Folsom.
Stage 6: Folsom Individual Time Trial
Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) won the stage 6 time trial in Folsom with a time of 24 minutes 16 seconds, but Julian Alaphilippe remains in yellow. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) was second at the ITT and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) was third.
I was fairly confident as I crossed the line that I had set the quickest time for the rest of the race. I was in a fair bit of pain, the main thing I remember was that I had that taste of metallic in my mouth for the last four or five kilometers from the lactate so it was good to get a drink and wash that out.
The wind was definitely getting stronger and stronger throughout the day which actually played into our favor a little bit with Alaphilippe because he is a smaller rider and would have been blown around a little bit more. In the end it didn’t make too much of a difference with the stage win, that was my goal for the day as well as trying to take time out. So, it was still a good day, even if we didn’t get the yellow jersey.”
– Rohan Dennis
The ride moved Dennis into second place in the overall standings, now 16 seconds behind Alaphilippe with two stages remaining. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) is in third 38 seconds back.
Of course I’m really happy, and a small surprise for me to stay in yellow today, because the time trial is not really my specialty.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step
Stage 7: Santa Rosa to Sacramento
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team) took the stage 7 victory in Santa Rosa, edging out Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky).
We had to chase hard and still in the end Peter Sagan was right there with me even though he had been out there by himself all that time. Unbelievable. I was happy to be able to hold him off. I think if he had saved some energy from earlier he would have beaten me. I had wanted to see how I felt after the climbs before I put my team to work, but once we came across the last one I could tell I was OK. I was tired, but I knew everyone else was also tired. The guys all did such a good job. It’s always good to finish it off with a win and it shows I am going the right way for the Tour de France.”
– Alexander Kristoff, Katusha Team
Julian Alaphlippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) held on to his overall lead, which should send him to the race win at stage 8 in Sacramento.
Reflecting on the 2016 race, Alaphilippe recognized the importance of his time trial performance in his overall success, while pointing to his stage 3 victory on Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara county as the highlight:
Victory is always something special. Yesterday was a good performance for me because I’m really not a specialist and I never train with my TT (time trial) bike….I know for only 20k’s (kilometers), I can do something good.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step
Stage 8: Sacramento
Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) became the youngest winner of the Amgen Tour of California, winning the 2016 race in Sacramento at the age of 23.
It was stressful today, because everyone wanted to stay at the front and fought for a better position. Usually, I’m not nervous, but today things were different, as the victory was closer and closer. Thankfully, I had a powerful team around me, which was always in charge, and as soon as Tom Boonen hit the front with me safely tucked behind him, it was like being on a holiday. Now, we’ll celebrate the win, but once we will return home, I’ll be back on my bike, training and looking to further improve.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) picked up the final stage win of the race, edging out Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team) for the win in a sprint finish.
Its been a tough week, Nathan was third the other day, but we really wanted to get this stage win. It was a windy day, so we had to take on the race. The guys rode out of their skins, Jacques rode the whole day on the front, and then everyone was just really going for it. We had to use our whole lead-out to catch the break, so in the end it was a bit a case of free styling. I was on Sagan’s wheel and know this finish really well. I’ve won here before and knew that, if was in the right position I should win here.”
– Mark Cavendish, Dimension Data