(photo: Eric Bruins)
Let me get right to the problem I had with this year’s Amgen Tour of California: it was too short.
I’m not referring to my earlier mention that the race went from eight stages to seven, but one week of action leaves you wanting more.
Once again, the racing was unpredictable which makes it hard to comprehend the race dynamics as a fan.
All this means is I have another 51 weeks left to suffer until the next Tour of California returns.
Onto the awards:
Good spirit award: It was great to have Marcel Kittel out for his inaugural TOC and he was rewarded with the first stage win of the race. With Sagan clinching the green jersey on the Baldy stage, the only glory left for Kittel was going for the win on the final day on national TV. In between though, Marcel went all out on the time trial and ended up finishing 11th. He didn’t have to empty the tank, but it was greatly appreciated.
Kittel heads and shoulders above the rest.
Racer of the week award: Race fans are happy to see Lachlan Morton’s return to the World Tour and the TOC was a proper stage to showcase his talent. Joining the stage 2 breakaway put him in early lead contention and kept good time on Baldy. He looked to have the white jersey (young rider) wrapped up going into the time trial, but a mechanical out of the gates forced him to switch to a road bike and later back to his TT bike which added and easy minute of extra time to his result. That left Lachlan in third place for the white going into the final stage and gave it his all to stick with with the breakaway resulting in just enough seconds to get the jersey back.
Photo of the week: If you wanted free cookies, then “retired” pro Phil Gaimon was on hand all week handing out treats as a scheme to get free airtime to promote his Gran Cookie Fondo. Since he still has many buddies in the race, we saw many of them take time to participate in the hijinks. The high point was seeing World Champ Peter Sagan not only pull his patented wheelie on Mt. Baldy, but he was also able to pull a cookie out of the tub at the same time.
Peter Sagan shows off two talents at once (photo by Jason King).
Misnomer of the week award: Goes to the word “breakaway”. It’s a rarity for even one to stick, but half of the Tour’s eligible stages were won by these pack of David’s. Stage 2 wasn’t that big on an anomaly due to the route, but Stage 4’s didn’t end in the predicted sprint finish with the peloton letting the break get a 9+ minute lead with the veteran Evan Huffman taking the win. On Stage 7, Huffman and Rally teammate Rob Britton were part of another five man group that had great teamwork to hold off an angry peloton. Once again, Huffman prevailed while probably gaining interest from teams to return to the World Tour.
The drought is over in California Award: It’s hard to believe that team Cannondale had gone two years without a World Tour stage win, but Andrew Talansky went all out to pull this victory off in the race’s most iconic stage Mt. Baldy. It was a classic battle between the top three leaders and Talansky that saw a countless number of moves that didn’t stick. Majka looked like he was going to be the winner when it looked like no one in the lead pack wanted to chase down him with 2km left. Everyone gutted their way back up and on the final switchbacks leaving Talansky and Majka giving it all to fight for inside position on the final corner. The “Pitbull” prevailed and now will be permanently entrenched in Tour of California folklore.
Everyone always empties the tank on Mt. Baldy.
Most pivotal stage award: The Modesto / Mt. Hamilton / San Jose always throws a wrench in the race’s dynamics. The quartet of Majka, Ian Boswell, Lachlan Morton and Bennett made a great strategic move to join a small breakaway move as the tricky descent makes it hard for a solid chase group to consistently gain time. By the time the other GC contenders tried throwing down the hammer, it was too late. A 35 second gap plus time bonuses was a pretty big set back for the other teams. At the same time….
Stage that needs to be changed: Also goes to Stage 2. The fact that Tom Skujins has crashed the last two times coming down Mt. Hamilton says something (even though he won once). Now that a fan died doing the same descent means this should be looked at. Let’s just end the stage and be done with it.
Let’s just end this stage at Mt. Hamilton please.
No respect award: Part of this falls on my shoulders as in my preview, I didn’t list George Bennett as a contender. It wasn’t that I didn’t think he had the skill, but I figured Team Lotto NL would be backing former winner Robert Gensik for the GC. When the move was made in Stage 2, having Gensik jump into the breakaway was a move to protect the team, little did we know it was going to stick. But why after that point the commentators didn’t give him much love on the Baldy and time trial stages was perplexing. Even with Majka the last rider out on the course, you would have thought the race was between him and Talansky.