BMC Racing Team Safely Home After Hectic Finish to Stage 417. May 2017, Santa Clarita, (USA) — Road Team
The breakaway upset the sprinters on AMGEN Tour of California stage 4 after holding off a high-speed chase from the peloton to contest the win as Brent Bookwalter crossed the line safely behind to maintain his position on the General Classification.
It was another busy start to the day with Floris Gerts part of an initial six-rider breakaway that formed after just 2km, of the day’s 159.5km course.
The group had a narrow 30-second advantage as they headed out of Santa Barbara and towards the first of four categorized climbs with Gerts eventually slipping back into the peloton after doing most of the early pace-making.
After a short descent, the breakaway began the second ascent of the day, also on Casitas Pass Road, and it took until the summit, after 31km of racing, for their advantage to finally tip over the one-minute mark.
The gap continued to rise from there before reaching nine minutes, the highest advantage of the race so far, after going over the top of the Dennison Grade Summit with around 80km remaining. This sparked a reaction from the peloton behind with the sprinters’ teams assembling at the front of the bunch.
Following the final climb up Balcom Canyon Road, which peaked at a gradient of 17%, the peloton had brought the breakaway to within four minutes as they began the steady grind to the finish, with the road rising slightly for most of the final 40km.
A strong tailwind saw both the breakaway and the peloton reach speeds of up to 50km/h on the approach to the finish line, and despite the peloton chasing hard, the five leaders were holding onto an advantage of just over two minutes with less than 15km to go.
A sense of urgency soon swept over the peloton with the main sprinters’ teams sending more riders up to the front to help with the workload. Entering Santa Clarita, with 5km to go, the breakaway was still sitting around 1’30” ahead of the rest of the field and the predicted bunch sprint looked in doubt.
The final frantic chase then began, and as they made the turn onto the home straight, the peloton had the breakaway within their sights. However, the five leaders had continued to push hard at the front of the race and in the end, they held onto a 13-second lead at the line with Evan Huffman taking the stage win from a sprint ahead of his Rally Cycling teammate Rob Britton and Lennard Hofstede (Team Sunweb).
With the speed of the chase behind, gaps formed in the peloton as Michael Schär kept Brent Bookwalter and Samuel Sánchez well positioned in the first group of 40 riders as they came across the line.
Attention now turns to tomorrow's queen stage with Bookwalter sixth on the General Classification, 48 seconds behind race leader, Rafal Majka (Bora - Hansgrohe).
Quotes from the Finish Line
"We gave most of the guys on the team the green light to try out for the breakaway as we thought it would be a good day, which in the end it was. Floris Gerts did a good job originally and then unfortunately he lost contact on the first climb. After that, it was about staying attentive and staying out of trouble. Tom Bohli, Martin Elmiger, and Michael Schär did a really good job keeping me out of trouble. Michi, especially in the last 20km, was a one-man team when it was getting hectic."
"In the final section, the road surface wasn't the best and riders were all over the pace, weaving around the road. But fortunately, Michi had me so well-positioned that I could stay out of trouble, see where I was going and not have any times gaps to the other GC guys on the line."
"I am excited for tomorrow. We have been looking at this stage for a while now and know that it could be decisive. I am excited to get out there and do my best and try to pay back the team for all the work they have done for me."
"Miles Scotson, Samuel Sánchez and I have all seen this stage before coming here, and it is pretty high altitude at the end. I think having this first-hand knowledge of the course will serve me well."
Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"We wanted to keep a look out for breakaway's today with some of our younger guys like Floris Gerts and Miles Scotson. Gerts got in there, but the pace was so high that the breakaway had to go full gas on the first climb. I think he just over committed and the first climb then took its toll."
"I was surprised that the breakaway made it, although it is always good to see it when it does happen. I thought that if they had had five minutes at 40km to go, and with the tailwind, that they could make it. It was a strong group up front, and I think the sprinters' teams maybe underestimated them a little bit and timed it wrong."
"We will definitely be looking at tomorrow with Brent Bookwalter and also Samuel Sánchez in mind. We're pretty far behind overall so we will see what we can do tomorrow. We have nothing to lose."
AMGEN Tour of California
Stage 4: Santa Barbara > Santa Clarita, 159.5km
Top 3: 1. Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) 2. Rob Britton (Rally Cycling) 3. Lennard Hofstede (Team Sunweb)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 21. Brent Bookwalter 26. Michael Schär 42. Samuel Sánchez
BMC Racing Team Flickr Gallery
See photos from the race.