The 10th year of the Amgen Tour of California rolled across the nation’s most populous state proving more and more why it’s our country’s premiere race. It had everything you wanted from the drama perspective, not just lead changes, but race dynamics as well.
This year’s race was so acclaimed, that it was celebrated with the first ever Amgen Tour of California Awards show. Hosted by me. At my place.
On this computer. Here are the results:
Rocky Sequence Award: Everyone knew Mt. Baldy was going to be challenging and stage 7 definitely lived up to the promise. Starting the final climb, a number of contenders were lined up waiting for the fireworks to happen. Ian Boswell(Sky) was leading the pack up the final climb when teammate Henao launched an attack right before the 5km mark. Then Alaphillipe jumped ahead, then Henao responded, then Alaphillipe leaped at 4km to not look back. Boswell bridged back to Henao, but couldn’t do much to close the gap. Behind, but still relevant, was Peter Sagan, doing perhaps the ride of his life, doing his best to keep himself in the yellow jersey. When you see all the riders gasp for air as they cross the finish line, you know they raced today.
Best new prognosticator: Me! After Sagan held on after Stage 3, I started chiming up that he had a shot at the GC. Read down to the last three paragraphs of my recap halfway into the race. I feel geniousy!
What If? Award(runner up): Moving the time trial from the high elevation of Big Bear to a shorter course in Santa Clarita because of weather conditions had a number of implications. How much would a 7,000 ft. fifteen mile all out effort had effected the riders on Mt. Baldy the next day? What happened to riders that targeted that time trial to make their move in the standings? It’s a great debate with no true answer.
Best new broadcaster: Has to go to Jens Voigt. By default. While he was shaky to start and there were trains of thought that derailed, he became more comfortable as the race went on. I think back to Christian Van de Velde’s initial struggles in his rookie season, but now blends in seamlessly with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Then again, Christian has the advantage of English being his first language. I expect Jensie to be a stalwart of these broadcasts for years to come.
Rodney Dangerfield Award: It sure took a long time for the press to give Julian Alaphillipe respect. He was seated no worse than 5th place for the entire race until he lunged into 2nd after the time trial. Still, the coverage on Mt. Baldy was centered around Heneo, Gesink and Kennaugh being the top contenders until Alaphilippe launched his attack on the final ascent.
F it. Let’s race. We knew the initial game plan for BMC was to let Peter Stetina race for the GC, but after his unfortunate crash at the Tour of Basque, the team didn’t have as much of a defined plan. So F it, let’s race! Daniel Oss followed up his strong showing in the spring classics by gaining got a lot of airtime during the Tour of California being in breakaways stages 2 through 4. Daniel Wyss put in a manly effort being the last guy from the breakaway caught in stage 5. Even newcomer Joey Rosskopf held 4th place after a strong time trial. While it was late to put the team together the way BMC would have wanted, at least they went for it.
High School A/V Award: NBC/NBCSN for their questionable coverage of the race, but that’s against their own standards. Being able to cover a live event is difficult, but we saw a number of riders trying to correct the motorcycle camera crew where to be. I’ve never ridden a pro race(shocking), but even my amateur eye thought a crash was imminent.
What If? Award(winner): You may think the late omission of Andrew Talansky might have had the biggest impact on the GC, but the real answer is not Peter Stetina, but sprinter Marcel Kittel! As great of a performance as Sagan put on, his narrow three second victory would not have been possible without the time bonuses. For sure, the presence of the Ivan Drago-esque wunderkid would have knocked Sagan down a position on at least a couple of races being enough of a difference to have kept Sagan back in second.
Use your Keith Olbermann voice, “Hellooo”: The focus of the race was going to be on the World Tour teams, but the biggest noise coming from off the grid was Wouter Wippert, of Drapac. Three podium finishes put him behind Sagan and Cavendish for most total for the event. I bet you didn’t know that. Share that at the water cooler today. Or not.
Eloy Tereul Award: In honor of the last year’s premature Tour of California celebrant, this award goes to Julian Alaphilippe, who began a team celebration after it was first announced that Sagan finished fourth on stage 8. About a minute later, the final result came through the speaker system, causing a wah-wah effect on team Etixx. Alaphilippe is actually a double winner of this award for his performance after taking over the yellow jersey after stage 7. He was immediately asked how he would deal with the time bonuses the next day to stay in yellow. His answer was a Clouseauesque, “Time bon-ese?”
Mission Impossible Award: It’s amazing in all those Tom Cruise movies that our star avoids danger by the most narrowest of margins. It has to be scripted, right? That’s how the end of stage 8 felt. Sagan could have taken the overall lead at the intermediate sprint, but was edged out by Cavendish in a photo finish to fall to 2nd. To top it off, Alaphillipe took third, placing Sagan only ONE SECOND behind. For the finish, the initial announcement was that Sagan finished fourth, out of the time bonuses. The drama heightened the crowd knew that race officials were mulling the final decision, waiting for the photo finish that showed Sagan winning by less than an inch! There was a great cheer from the fans, Sagan did a wheel and Tom jumped on a couch.
Kevin James Award: Normally goes to the actor who runs into a bunch of things, but is still a box office success, so this year’s award goes to Tom Skujins for his epic stage 3 win. Not only did he create an amazing gap away from the field, but he crashed in the process of gaining it. Twice! We know there’s a roll for him in Mall Cop 3.
What do I do with this History Degree Award: College is great, but sometimes you leave with a sheet of paper that makes your career choice more confusing than when you started school. That’s Peter Sagan. He’s gone under fire for not being a sprinter, but then again, look at his career stage wins. He gets knocked for not being a true classics rider for missing out year after year, but he’s normally in the mix. He wins time trials, but is not a time trial specialist. Now, he wins the general classification at a stage race. Okay. So, who is this guy supposed to be? Time to erase the chalkboard once more.