Gerts in the Breakaway as Drucker Finishes Fifth on Stage 1 in California14. May 2017, Sacramento (USA) — Road Team
AMGEN Tour of California stage 1 was a sprinter’s delight with 167.5km of flat racing that saw Floris Gerts ride as part of the day’s breakaway before Jempy Drucker took fifth place in the bunch sprint behind Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).
The flag had barely dropped before the day’s successful four-rider breakaway, which included BMC Racing Team’s Gerts, went clear and began to extend an advantage out on the road.
The group’s advantage rose to over 2’30” after 30km of racing before bouncing around 2 minutes for the majority of the stage as the sprinters’ teams kept control at the front of the peloton.
A fast pace was being set by both the breakaway and the peloton, which was lined up in single file behind them, with the race covering 88km over then opening two hours of racing. But this was a warm-up for what was to come, as the race was heading towards three 3.5km, six corner finishing circuits around the heart of Sacramento.
With Gerts out in front, the pressure was off the remaining BMC Racing Team riders behind who maintained a comfortable position near the front of the bunch. The chase then began to heat up as riders reached the southernmost point of the course and turned to start the return trip to the center of the state capital.
Strong crosswinds hit the race inside 70km to go with the peloton strung out along the road and quickly cutting the lead of the Gerts breakaway in half. However, once regrouped, the pace of the bunch slowed slightly, allowing the gap to grow again to 1’25” inside the final 50km.
The gap began to fall once again after Gerts took the bonus seconds in the day’s first intermediate sprint with around 45km to go before eventually, the peloton was holding the breakaway at around 30 seconds.
Ben Wolfe (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis) tried his luck 10km later, attacking off the front of the breakaway to ride solo before the group came back together as they reached the outskirts of Sacramento with 18km remaining.
With a bunch sprint up for grabs, teams quickly began to battle for position in the peloton, and the inevitable increase in speed saw Gerts and his early breakaway companions reeled in after the first crossing of the finish line.
Over the technical finishing circuits, positioning was crucial as riders turned the last left-hand corner at full speed before the final sprint was launched by Marcel Kittel’s Quick-Step Floors team.
Drucker was able to maintain a strong position up at the front of the bunch and used his speed to jump from wheel to wheel before crossing the line in fifth place behind the eventual winner and new race leader, Kittel.
After taking bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint, Gerts crossed the line safely with the main bunch and headed onto the podium to receive the leader’s jersey of the Best Young Rider Classification, designed by Tag Heuer ambassador, Alec Monopoly.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“It was a good day. It was pretty hectic at the end but we knew it would be like that. This circuit is pretty tricky with the turns, but that suits me so, it was easier for me to place myself against all the big sprint trains. I managed to be there at the finish, and I was definitely the fastest guy without a huge sprint train. This race is an opportunity to go up against some of the best sprinters in the world so I can take confidence from the fact that I was up there with them on the line. I have really worked for this and done some specific work for sprints, so it is nice that it has paid off. It's always different during a race but I feel good, and I have the confidence of the team, and they all did a good job today.”
"Before the start of today's stage, we had this jersey as a goal with ASSOS and TAG Heuer both new partners for BMC Racing Team this year. So, I am happy that I could start my first AMGEN Tour of California with a strong performance and that I could succeed in taking this jersey for the team."
Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
“The race was pretty good for us today. We had Floris Gerts in the breakaway although we had hoped that there would be more riders in there. But, with ASSOS and TAG Heuer partners of the race, we thought it would be good to go for the Best Young Rider jersey. Of course, our first priority was looking after Samuel Sánchez and Brent Bookwalter to protect our GC ambitions.”
“Then we had Jempy Drucker, who has been good here before, lined up for the sprint. With the names Jempy was racing against and some of those he beat, we can see that he is in good form and his sprint was good, and he wasn’t far off on the line. Overall, I think we achieved everything we wanted to, and we were able to save a little bit of energy along the way.”
AMGEN Tour of California
Stage 1: Sacramento > Sacramento, 167.5km
Top 3: 1. Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) 2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 3. Elia Viviani (Team Sky)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 5. Jempy Drucker 19. Brent Bookwalter 28. Samuel Sánchez