Bookwalter Sprints to Ninth After Fast Finale to AMGEN Tour of California Stage 315. May 2018, Laguna Seca Recreation Area, California (USA) — Road Team
With four of five categorized climbs coming in the final 60km of stage 3, the longest of the race, it was a punchy finish to the day with Brent Bookwalter sprinting to a top ten result in a reduced main bunch alongside Tejay van Garderen who maintained his position on the General Classification.
Three riders went clear early into the 197km stage and initially, the peloton kept them just 20 seconds up the road before finally sitting up and allowing the gap to go out to over five minutes after 30km of racing.
It didn’t take long for the peloton to regain control and by the time the breakaway reached the top of the first KOM, their lead had settled at 4’30”, where it continued to jump around before the chase started to heat up slightly going past the 100km to go mark.
On the descent of the East Carmel Valley Road Summit, with a little over 50km to go, the main bunch was hovering around two minutes behind the two remaining leaders as Lawson Craddock (EF Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) went on the attack to try and bridge the gap.
However, with the pace picking up behind, Craddock was pulled back 20km later as Ian Garrison (Hagens Berman Axeon) and Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) came back together in front and were joined by Logan Owen (EF Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) and Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo).
At one point, the gap was just 35 seconds but Garrison, Owen and Skujiņš were able to extend this back out to one minute before it fell dramatically again with Skujiņš, the last man standing from the trio, being joined by Sean Bennett (Hagens Berman Axeon) going into the final 10km.
An intense pace saw the main bunch shrink significantly in the closing kilometers of the day but despite the determined effort behind, the leading duo was still holding onto a narrow advantage at the summit of the final climb, the 1.1km Laguna Seca Summit which had an average gradient of 10.3%.
In the end, the pair were able to hold on to battle for the stage win with Skujiņš dropping down onto the finishing straight with enough of an advantage to take the day's honors ahead of Bennett while behind, Bookwalter and van Garderen were racing in what remained of the peloton.
In the sprint for the minor places, Bookwalter crossed the line ninth with van Garderen finishing safely alongside the rest of the General Classification contenders to remain eighth overall, one minute behind Egan Bernal (Team Sky) heading into tomorrow’s 34.7km time trial.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
"In the final, there were some very tricky roads which were both technically and physically demanding especially by American standards. Most of the week, we are racing on at least two-lane wide, sweeping, gradually graded roads and today we were on roads that the AMGEN Tour of California has never done before. They were kind of out in the middle of nowhere to the point where no one really knew too much about them. It kept it exciting and there was certainly an element of the unknown however that being said in pro-cycling these days there aren't too many secrets as far as terrain with all the digital recon you can do. We were definitely prepared and even more so because Jackson, our DS, had been gone out to see them before. The guys did a good job, especially Joey, at keeping us up front and out of trouble during that really technical section."
"I was feeling as you good as you can feel when you are going deep into the end of an almost 200km stage and those climbs were short enough that there were still some good sprinters there. There were definitely some real hard efforts to stay in that group and to stay towards the front. It was really windy so it got quite tactical in terms of fighting for position and timing your move up. Everyone got maybe one or two chances to push up the side and go to the front and if you did it at the wrong moment, then you were out of position. I would say I did an okay job but it definitely wasn't perfect. I wanted to do a good sprint and I was close enough to be in the mix with those guys. I am obviously not as fast as guys like Calen [Ewan] but I was happy to show that I was there and it was good to feel the fight and fire in the closing moments of a race going forward."
Tejay van Garderen:
"Today felt more like a typical European race with the narrow roads and steep climbs. I felt good during the stage, and I’m really motivated for tomorrow. Anything is still possible in this race."
Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"I was actually a little bit nervous with how difficult the final 40km were. The roads were really unfamiliar with a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs and they were also a little rough. What I was worried about was having a crash or a mechanical in that section so, the fact that we got through there and both Tejay himself and the team looked super good. All our guys did an amazing job watching out for him."
"The plan was that if it came back together for the final, Brent was going to try and go for the sprint which we saw him do in the main bunch. He did what he could in the end, even though there were some strong sprinters still in the group so, I think we can be happy with that and a top ten finish on the stage. Plus we can be happy that Tejay stayed up there and out of trouble and can go into the time trial confident."
"I think it will be difficult to bring back a minute but it's possible and Tejay should definitely be able to pull back a substantial amount of time. We are going into tomorrow with an all or nothing attitude and we will try to win the stage itself first of all but there are some really good other time trialists here and on our team also. I think it Tejay can be up there on the stage, I think he will really move up the GC also and that's what we will go for."
AMGEN Tour of California
Stage 3: King City > Laguna Seca Recreation Area, 197km
Top 3: 1. Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) 2. Sean Bennett (Hagens Berman Axeon) 3. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 9. Brent Bookwalter 23. Tejay van Garderen 36. Michael Schär
BMC Racing Team Flickr Gallery
See photos from the race.