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Peter Sagan takes two from two in California
May 15th, 12. Peter Sagan (Liquigas Cannondale) made it two from two by winning the second stage of the Tour of California today to consolidate his overall lead.
Sagan's skill was evident in the final sprint when he expertly negotiated the final corner to maintain momentum and launch himself forward ahead of Heinrich Haussler (Garmin Barracuda) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) for the win.
Kiwi Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) repeated Josh Atkins' (Bontrager Livestrong) breakaway performance to earn himself the 'Most Courageous Rider' title for the day.
The final 20km section of the 188km stage from San Francisco to Santa Cruz County was a tactical teams game after the majority of the race was dominated by the breakaway.
Vennell was involved in the major break with Alexandre Geniez (Team Argos- Shimano), Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez (Colombia-Coldeportes), Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale) and Michael Creed (Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies).
The break managed to slip free 30km in to the race establish a 10min margin.
The Empire Grade 16km climb after 121km caused fragmentation in the break, with Geniez the strongest staying solo out the front. Vennell and White floated in no man's land, with the rest of their breakaway companions back in the peloton.
With 50km to go, Garmin Barracuda put the pressure on down the descent and cracked the peloton. A group of nearly 30 riders, including Sagan and multiple Liquigas teammates, Haussler and David Zabriskie (Garmin Barracuda), Michael Matthews and Robert Gessink (RaboBank) and George Hincapie (BMC Racing), wrangled themselves away from the rest of the field. With them were two young Kiwis - George Bennett (RadioShack Nissan Trek) and Atkins, wearing the Best Young Rider's jersey.
The group advanced on the lone leader quickly, catching him with 3km left to climb on the second King of the Mountain climb, Bear Creek.
With most of the big players now in the lead group, Sagan's Liquigas Cannondale team were on the front of the race for the final 15km. For the second day, Sagan was involved in an incident at the 11th hour - a puncture yesterday, a crash today. Sagan remained calm while his bike was checked before working hard to regain the lead group in time to join his teammates at the front of the peloton.
Rory Sutherland (United Health Care) launched an attack with 2.5km left to race, and quickly established a 100m lead, but a thundering peloton engulfed him with 1km to go - yet again, Atkins was amongst the action helping his teammate set up for the sprint!
Sagan's win is his fifth stage victory at the Tour of California, an impressive resume for the 22 year old. He leads the GC 8sec ahead of Haussler with Howard in third.
Atkins' successful day kept him in the Top 10 overall on GC and 2nd in the Best Young Rider classification. Patrick Bevin, the second Bissell Pro Cycling Kiwi, had a day to forget today and was disappointed to finish outside the time cut.
Kiwi stories from today's Tour of California
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