Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step took the stage, while Tejay van Garderen of EF Education took over the race lead at the Amgen Tour of California.  George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma took 10th place across the line to sit 10th overall, 36 seconds behind van Garderen.

After the pancake flat stage 1 around Sacramento, stage 2 from Racho Cordova to South Lake Taho was the polar opposite.  The stage ground its way up for much of the first 150km before levelling out and then kicking up for the finale.  Davide Ballerini of Astana infiltrated the day’s breakaway along with Rally UHC’s Evan Huffman, Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo, Luke Rowe of Team Ineos, Pawel Bernas of CCC Team, Michael Storer of Team Sunweb and the USA National Team’s Michael Hernandez.

Together the break’s lead topped out at around three minutes but the pedigree of the climbers behind meant that with 104km to go the gap was down to beneath a minute and there was a feel in the breakaway that their end was nigh.  Bahrain Merida and Jumbo-Visma were two of the most prominent teams on the front at this point although the peloton could hardly be accused of over-excursion at this point; with the bunch appearing more desperate not to catch the break too early in spite of the break’s serious lack of intensity.

With the time gap stable at 55 seconds Hagens Berman Axeon’s Edward Anderson attacked and with 100km remaining he succeeded in joining the leaders.  Their lead stretched out again to 1.25mins and continued to grow from there.  Back in the field misfortune fell on Danny van Poppel – teammate of George Bennett – who took a tumble after his bike got into a tangle with another bike belonging to the CCC Team.

BORA-Hansgrohe became a bit more of a constant presence on the front of the race with Peter Sagan successfully navigating the climbs thus far.  The same could not be said for Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data who would battle his way home after being dropped back the main field and would finally arrive home 36 minutes after the first riders alongside devoted lieutenant Bernhard Eisel.

EF Education First had a very strong game plan that came into effect with almost 80km to go.  The pink train surged to the front of the peloton with Trek-Segafredo on their wheels.  George Bennett and Jumbo-Visma were well positioned at about third or fourth team back in the peloton as the roads continued to wind upwards.  EF Education First’s move spelt the end of the breakaway’s day out in front and after the race had been brought back together Lachlan Morton went on the attack in the company of Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step.  It was Morton who was visibly stronger at this point, however, and unafraid to go on the offensive.

Morton’s attack forced a group of 14 riders to go up the road in pursuit of the lone leader.  In the group were Rohan Dennis of Bahrain-Merida, Felix Grosschartner of BORA-Hansgrohe and Lawson Craddock of EF Education First amongst others, while David de la Cruz of Team Ineos and Neilson Powless of Jumbo-Visma were also present.  Interestingly absent though was Bennett, who seemed content to sit in the main field for now with a little under 50km to go.  

Out of the breakaway group – that caught Morton – an attack went up the road in the form of Israel Cycling Academy’s Alexander Cataford.  He took the points at the top of Carson Pass; the last KOM climb of the day and continued on as the rest of the break caught up to him.  Behind the break the bunch zapped into life with Tejay van Garderen and George Bennett in a group that found themselves 45 seconds adrift with a little over 30km to go.

Bennett found himself isolated and reacted in kind, by going straight onto the offensive to try and bridge the gap.  He took Sergio Higuita of EF Education First with him and as the two of them began to make the crossing to the leaders Bennett’s teammate Neilson Powless sat up to support the Kiwi over to the leaders.  However, as Bennett came across an injection of pace was put into the chase group that he’d escaped from.  As the gap to the breakaway group dropped to 20 seconds with 28km to go Bennett, Powless and Higuita were caught by the rest of the chase group.

The breakaway continued work together though, and the break’s advantage was really consolidated on the long descents towards the finish.  Asgreen was particularly strong, taking off from the breakaway group along with Davide Ballerini of Astana; with the two of them holding a handful of seconds over the breakaway group which again saw Bennett’s teammate Powless in but not Bennett.  Instead it was Bennett again who was on the attack from the next group back, trying to get across to the group up ahead; who in turn were in pursuit of the two leaders.  

The attacks continued to fly from the breakaway group as Asgreen and Ballerini were caught.  Ballerini was persistent in his attacks but with 10km to go the breakaway group was together.  Tejay van Garderen of EF Education First was there and so too was Gianni Moscon of Team Ineos.  The firepower was proving too much for the group behind them who were being pulled along by Neilson Powless who’d again dropped back.

With 3km to go the ten riders in front looked in control of the race.  Van Garderen stood to gain plenty as a former champion of the race wanting to do it all again.  Astana took over on the front with 1.7km to go with a tight right-hander launching Ballerini up the road.  He had a gap too, with the rest of the group sitting up and looking at one another.  Eventually Van Garderen went off in pursuit and brought Moscon with him; nullifying the attack with just over 1km to go.

Van Garderen went on the attack himself with 1.1km to go, dragging Moscon, Asgreen and UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar.  The quartet pressed on with the American dominating the group along ith Moscon.  It was the Italian who was forced to lead towards the sprint for the line but Van Garderen launched for home with Asgreen coming around him and powering on towards the finish line.  The Dane dug deep and crossed the line victorious with Van Garderen gaining six seconds in time bonuses and taking the overall lead.

In the big group that trailed home the fragmented breakaway George Bennett sprinted to 10th place, dropping to 10th overall, 36 seconds behind the new race leader.  Down the road Hamish Schreurs of Israel Cycling Academy finished in a small group containing Diego Rosa of Team Ineos and Simon Geschke of CCC Team.

Stage results:

RankLast NameFirst NameCountryTeamResult
1ASGREENKasperDEN       DECEUNINCK  –  QUICK – STEP 6:17:11
2VAN GARDERENTejayUSA       EF EDUCATION FIRST+00
3MOSCONGianniITA       TEAM INEOS+04
4POGAČARTadejSLO       UAE TEAM EMIRATES+10
5SCHACHMANNMaximilianGER       BORA – HANSGROHE+16
6GREGAARD WILSLYJonasDEN       ASTANA PRO TEAM+27
7BRITTONRobertCAN       RALLY UHC CYCLING+27
8HIGUITA GARCIASergio AndresCOL       EF EDUCATION FIRST+31
9URANRigobertoCOL       EF EDUCATION FIRST+31
10BENNETTGeorgeNZL       TEAM JUMBO – VISMA+31
OTHER




66SCHREURSHamishNZL       ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY+15:13

General classification after stage 2:

RankLast NameFirst NameCountryTeamResult
1VAN GARDERENTejayUSA       EF EDUCATION FIRST9:31:19
2MOSCONGianniITA       TEAM INEOS+06
3ASGREENKasperDEN       DECEUNINCK  –  QUICK – STEP +07
4POGAČARTadejSLO       UAE TEAM EMIRATES+16
5SCHACHMANNMaximilianGER       BORA – HANSGROHE+22
6BRITTONRobertCAN       RALLY UHC CYCLING+33
7GREGAARD WILSLYJonasDEN       ASTANA PRO TEAM+33
8DE LA CRUZ MELGAREJODavidESP       TEAM INEOS+34
9GROSSSCHARTNERFelixAUT       BORA – HANSGROHE+35
10BENNETTGeorgeNZL       TEAM JUMBO – VISMA+36
OTHER




66SCHREURSHamishNZL       ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY+16:14

Photo: @cauldphoto

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