George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma has moved up to 8th overall in the Amgen Tour of California in stage 5 to Ventura.  His rise in the GC follows a controversial 24 hours of racing in which Tejay van Garderen lost the overall lead in a late stage 4 crash, only to be granted it back again.

Jakobsen continues wolf pack run of form, crash causes GC confusion

Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California from Raceway Laguna Seca to Morro Bay took in 212.5km of racing and despite being a lumpy stage in places it was a day expected to be all about the sprinters.  A group of five riders formed at the head of the race with Jonny Brown and Ian Garrison of Hagens Berman Axeon, Roy Goldstein of Israel Cycling Academy, Michael Hernandez of the USA National Team and Joonas Henttala of Novo Nordisk.

After forming an advantage that went out to 5.20mins, the peloton – led by Trek-Segafredo, BORA-Hansgrohe and Dimension Data – brought their lead back to a manageable 2.55mins with 105km remaining.  Tejay van Garderen of EF Education First, the overall leader, looked comfortable at this point in the day as steadily the gap trickled down in what – so far – looked like a textbook day on the bike.

George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma started the day in 10th place overall, 36 seconds back on van Garderen, and with around 90km to go he looked comfortable towards the back of a peloton talking to compatriot Hamish Schreurs of Israel Cycling Academy; as part of a bunch that looked very much in control at this point in the stage.

With just under 60km to go the break’s advantage sat at 2.05mins to the peloton and proceeded to drop to 1.25mins with 46km to go and with 30km to go that lead had dropped to 1.15mins and it continued to topple, with Deceuninck-Quick Step and BORA-Hansgrohe riders leading the chase ahead of Trek-Segafredo who appeared particularly interested in the goings on at the front of the race.

The breakaway group eventually broke up, with Michael Hernandez and Joonas Henttala attacking, before bringing brought back; only for Hernandez to finally attack again with the gap down to 10 seconds with 10km remaining.  The American was brought back with 8.5km to go, at the same time as Tejay van Garderen was brought down in a crash . . . . and the controversy started. Van Garderen was given the bike of Lachlan Morton to get going again, but he then suffered problems with his brakes that meant he misjudged a right hand bend on his way back to the peloton.

The team all dropped back to support Van Garderen, and benefited from the draft support offered by their team car, but he was unable to regain contact with the peloton with Deceuninck-Quick Step leading the way towards the finish.  With more than 3km to go Team Sunweb took over on the front of the race but another big crash took down a large number of riders and held Tejay van Garderen up even more in his pursuit of the peloton.

Sunweb led the race through 2km to go but it was Deceuninck-Quick Step who again commanded control of the front of the peloton as they approached 1km to go.  The blue train was well and truly in the driving seat heading towards the line but it was UAE Team Emirates’ Jasper Philipsen who struck for home with Peter Sagan well placed.  But Fabio Jakobsen just managed to edge the Belgian on the line to claim the wolf pack’s third consecutive stage win.

From here the confusion kicked in.  Van Garderen, and second placed Gianni Moscon of Team Ineos crossed the line with a 50+ second deficit to the peloton which on paper would have dropped them from 1st and 2nd overall.  But after more than an hour of deliberating the race commissaires decided to cancel out any time deficits suffered in the second crash; and therefore kept the overall lead with Tejay van Garderen.  

It meant that Kasper Asgreen – who would have moved into the overall lead didn’t – neither did George Bennett move up to 6th overall with a 29 second deficit to the new leader.  Instead there was no change in the overall standings, a matter that would proceed to be protested by multiple teams later on.

Bennett shows power, advances up GC

Stage 5 from Pismo Beach to Ventura took in 5 categorised climbs en route to the finish on a day that in theory was also expected to end in a sprint; despite a tough category 1 climb featuring in the stage.  After Kasper Asgreen pegged back 3 seconds on the GC at the first intermediate sprint the break of the day went up the road.  

In the move were BORA-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan, Davide Ballerini of Astana, Alex Hoehn of the USA National Team, Team Sunweb’s Cees Bol, Toms Skujins of Trek-Segafredo, the Jumbo-Visma duo of Neilson Powless and Lennard Hofstede, Leonardo Basso of Team Ineos, Tim Declercq of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jasper Philipsen of UAE Team Emirates, Brandon McNulty of Rally UHC Cycling and Michael Schär of CCC Team.

EF Education First were assuming responsibility on the front of the peloton with Bahrain Merida contributing to the chase effort.  The break’s advantage, with 61km to go, was sitting at 1.35mins to the peloton but as the kilometres ticked away the large group predictably started attacking one another.  Philipsen, McNulty and Powless briefly had a little gap before being brought back by the rest of the break as they headed over Casitas Pass Road.

Steadily the break’s advantage dissolved until with 17km to go Tim Declercq went on the attack, dropping the rest of the break who would gradually be swept up, as Team Ineos pushed the pace on the front of the peloton and Team USA came to the fore as well.  

The race was on not just for the finish line but for the final intermediate sprint bonus seconds that awaited at 5.5km to go.  The time bonuses proved extremely enticing as Declercq desperately tried to hold on at the front of the race.  With a combined effort from Team Ineos, Trek-Segafredo, Team Sunweb, Jumbo-Visma and EF Education First who all traded efforts on the front of the pack, Declercq was brought back just as his teammate Zdenek Stybar went on the attack.

Stybar quickly gained a lead of some 10 seconds over the rest of the peloton, with George Bennett very close to the head of affairs.  He was caught just before the line though as EF Education First’s Sergio Higuita and George Bennett went on the offensive.  Higuita just got the better of Bennett, still giving the Kiwi a 2 second time bonus.

Sensing an opportunity, though, Bennett continued his drive towards the finish, with just a handful of seconds back to the bunch.  Higuita wasn’t going to contribute to the chase effort, leaving Bennett to do the work; which the Kiwi was all too happy to do.  The result behind him was all carnage as the remnants of the peloton fractured in pursuit of the former Tour of California champion.

Bennett was completely committed in his descent towards the line but there were still a couple of kilometres of flat roads before the finish line; and the chase group just about managed to rally around to catch him before the final drag to the line.  BORA-Hansgrohe led the catch and another group also managed to catch back up as Bennett slotted into the newly formed front group of just under 30 riders.

As the finish line neared George Bennett made one last ditch effort to go lear, but he was quickly caught by the rest of the group; and from there it was all on for the sprint.  There was no control of the sprint as there had been previously and it was a very messy sprint for the line.  But Ivan Garcia Cortina thrived in the sprint, taking the win ahead of Max Richeze of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Higuita.  

The result meant that on the eve of the big stage to Mount Baldy Bennett climbed up to 8th overall, 34 seconds behind Tejay van Garderen.

Photo: Marion Wright/


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