Deceuninck-Quick Step continued their epic form through 2019 with back-to-back wins at the Amgen Tour of California. The heavy-climbing day saw Remi Cavagna solo to the win after spending 75km out in front solo. Ben King took second place for Dimension Data and Simon Geschke of CCC Team claimed third.
208km in length, the roads from Stockton to Morgan Hill would provide a stern test for all-comers in stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California. Six climbs featured en route to the finish, with the most severe being the climb of Mount Hamilton. After some aggressive racing in the early crosswinds of the day two riders formed the move that would define the day’s racing. Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-Quick Step and the USA National Team’s Alex Hoehn took off and were given the peloton’s blessing to build a lead that sat at 10.30mins at the halfway point.
Between the break and the bunch Pavel Bernas of CCC Team made an effort to come across but it would be Hoehn and Cavagna who would stick as the lone leaders of the day for much of the stage. Back in the main field George Bennett and his Jumbo-Visma teammates held a strong position at the head of the peloton, keeping a watchful eye on the goings on at the head of the race along with EF Education First’s overall race leader Tejay van Garderen.
It was Hoehn who led over the initial climbs and he did enough to secure the KOM jersey with four stages remaining. While Bernas closed to within 6.40mins with 81km to go, Nigel Ellsay of Rally UHC took a tumble on one of the route’s cattle grids, taking some time to get back on his bike and continue on.
EF Education were the dominant force on the front of the peloton, although there remained nothing forceful about their chase efforts, with the gap still sitting at 9.35mins with 77km to go. It was with 75km to go, though, that the dynamic of the race changed slightly as Cavagna dropped teammate Hoehn and went off up the climb of Mount Hamilton. With so far still to travel it was surprising that Cavagna had chosen this point to go; but he was off, quickly establishing a 10 second advantage over Hoehn, with Bernas 6.10mins back and the peloton still at 9.35mins.
What followed was a long time trial effort from Cagna as he endured a long, long day in the saddle on his own in pursuit of victory. He crested the summit of Mount Hamilton with 8.35mins in hand over the peloton and 55 seconds to Hoehn. The 23 year old’s efforts were nearly completely unravelled, however, on the descent’s tricky and technical turns where he misjudged a couple of sharp turns.
Cavagna managed to stay upright though and with 50km to go he had a minute’s lead over Hoehn and 7.15mins over the peloton. EF Education First continued to lead the peloton as behind them Team Ineos moved forward. But there was no appearance of the peloton showing any interest in pegging bak the lone leaders and with 25km to go Cavagna’s lead sat at 8 minutes and then grew upwards toward 8.45mins once again.
Back in the pack the action wasn’t over yet with Ben King of Dimension Data and Simon Geschke of CCC Team attacking and going in pursuit of Hoehn and whatever time gains they could make. With 14km to go the duo were 1.40mins behind Hoehn, but still 8 minutes behind Cavagna who was unfazed by all that was going on behind him. With 6km to go Cavagna was basically sauntering away to the stage win, while King and Geschke were doing well to hold off the peloton who appeared much more interested in these two escapees than in catching Hoehn or Cavagna.
With 3.4km to go Hoehn was caught by King and Geschke. The American was at full stretch trying to keep going with his two captors, but after more than 160km out in front of the peloton Hoehn was exhausted; and he was quickly seeing them distance him and he was acutely aware of the upcoming peloton who would doubtless sweep him up and then out of the bunch.
With 1.4km to go Cavagna was a comfortable 7.35mins ahead of the chase duo and 8.20mins ahead of the peloton. Not content to sit up, Cavagna continued to race on until the final few hundred metres where he began to enjoy celebrating with the roar of the crowd around him. Exhausted but happy, Cavagna punched the air as he crossed the line; having taken just his second win of his professional career to date.
Back down the road King and Geschke partnered together well to gain over 1.20mins over the peloton. They contested the sprint for second with King able to dispose of his companion. Meanwhile back down the road George Bennett was heavily in the action in the run in to the sprint; getting well positioned, but in the end finishing simply in the main field with none of the GC contenders absent. The GC group was led home by Kasper Asgreen of Deceuinck-Quick Step.
Hamish Schreurs of Israel Cycling Academy came home in a small group 7.54mins behind Cavagna.