George Bennett has finished fourth in the Amgen Tour of California, with Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates taking his first World Tour stage race win.
The course for the final stage of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California took the riders 141km from Santa Clarita to Pasadena. The stage provided plenty of opportunity for the GC contenders to go for one last hurrah in a bid to move up the standings. George Bennett was up for the fight to get onto the podium.
Maximilian Schachmann of BORA-Hansgrohe, Diego Rosa of Team Ineos, Alex Hoehn of the USA National Team, Michael Storer of Team Sunweb, Lawson Craddock of EF Education First, the Jumbo-Visma duo of Neilson Powless and Lennard Hofstede, Davide Ballerini of Astana, Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Rui Oliveira of UAE Team Emirates and Peter Stetina of Trek-Segafredo formed the break of the day, with all of the major GC contenders’ teams represented in the move.
While the break had a lead of 2.25mins with around 65km to go, however, the real race was behind them as the likes of George Bennett of Jumbo Visma and EF Education First went on the attack to try and wrestle back the overall lead of Tadej Pogačar. EF Education First put in a big attack on the slopes of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road with Bennett then going on the offensive with Sergio Higuita. To Bennett’s annoyance though, the rest of the EF Education First team bridged across, bringing the yellow jersey with them.
The intensity from the chase group with George Bennett and co was such that with 43km to go the chase group caught the breakaway group, giving UAE Team Emirates, EF Education First and Jumbo-Visma numbers in the leading group that in turn was 50 seconds ahead of the peloton with only a long descent to the finish line – including – one last intermediate sprint to come.
On the descent a move of three riders went up the road courtesy of Hofstede, Schachmann and Ballerini. Three became four with Remi Cavagna briefly joining them before dropping back to the big group. Behind them Team Ineos took up the chase in a group containing Kasper Asgreen, but with 19km to go the three leaders remained out in front but were now joined by both Cavagna and Asgreen who attacked across the gap in a bid to snatch the overall lead from Tadej Pogačar.
Asgreen took maximum points and bonus time at the final intermediate sprint of the Tour of California and if they could hold their advantage it would give the Dane the overall win. Through the finish line for the first time the group had 20 seconds in hand over the peloton that now was united in pursuit of the break. All the chase groups had been united and it was Bahrain Merida, UAE Team Emirates and Katusha-Alpecin showing interest at the front of the race.
The second time through the finish line Cavagna and Ballerini were the last men standing as the rest of the break sat up and allowed themselves to be caught by the bunch. The leading duo lasted until 8km to go before they too were swept up. With just under 6km to go CCC Team moved to the front of the race, putting in a big turn of pace as Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bahrain Merida joined them. It was CCC who led the way through the bell for one lap to go as George Bennett could be seen moving forward in the peloton.
Deceuninck-Quick Step pushed the pace to 2km to go with Trek-Segafredo moving forward to support John Degenkolb. It was quickly becoming a messy sprint with about half a dozen teams all getting in on the action. With 1km to go Astana put in a big turn of pace to stretch the field out but in the end it was Dimension Data who led the sprint out for Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, but in the middle of the road Cees Bol of Team Sunweb came from nowhere to pass van Rensburg and take the stage win ahead of Peter Sagan, Jasper Philipsen of UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Merida’s Phil Bauhaus.
George Bennett and most of the GC contenders conceded 5 seconds in the mad dash to the line, but it didn’t change the overall standings; with the Kiwi finishing fourth overall, 29 seconds behind Tadej Pogačar, with Sergio Higuita second overall and Kasper Asgreen third.