Gibraltar Road Sets the Stage for GC Battle on Stage 2 in California14. May 2018, Gibraltar Road, Santa Barbara County, California (USA) — Road Team
The first battle of the General Classification contenders came on AMGEN Tour of California stage 2 today with Tejay van Garderen moving up into the top ten overall after finishing eighth on the summit finish on Gibraltar Road.
After a flat opening section to the 157km course, the riders headed onto a series of four category three climbs before reaching the bottom of the 12km ascent to the finish line, which had an average gradient of 8%.
A three-rider breakaway, which went clear almost as soon as the race hit KM 0, was sitting 3’40” ahead of the peloton as the road began to rise towards the top of the day’s first KOM and the gap continued to grow heading into the second half of the stage.
It wasn’t until the leaders’ advantage was nudging towards the six-minute mark that the main bunch started to pick up the pace, and as a result of the chase heating up, the gap was quickly brought back down to inside 3’30” with 60km to go.
After sticking together in the first half of the peloton for much of the stage, BMC Racing Team soon moved up to the front as the bunch continued to chip away at the breakaway’s lead before just 35 seconds separated the two groups going over the top of the penultimate climb.
The race eventually came back together with 16km to go and after a fast run into the base of the final hors categorie ascent to the line, the gradient almost immediately began to take its toll with riders dropping off the back of the bunch.
Meanwhile, Patrick Bevin was setting a fierce tempo up front going past the 10km to go mark and as he swung off following a job well done, the group had been whittled down to around 20 riders with van Garderen and Brent Bookwalter still looking strong.
With just 5km to go, the main GC group, which was continuing to set an incredibly fast pace, split further with van Garderen holding onto his position in the first ten riders as Bookwalter dropped back into the second group.
There were still 12 riders in the main GC group heading into the final 2km of the day before Egan Bernal (Team Sky) made the first, and ultimately decisive, move that saw him go solo to take the stage win.
Van Garderen responded quickly to the explosive attack before digging deep as part of the first main chase group on the road and eventually crossing the line eighth, 50 seconds back, to move up into eighth overall on the General Classification.
Bookwalter also put in a determined effort in the closing kilometers of the stage to finish inside the top twenty.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Tejay van Garderen:
"The teamwork was great again today. The guys were really motivated about getting Brent and me up into a good position when we reached Gibraltar Road and also keeping us safe and out of trouble on the tricky run into the climb."
"When Team Sky came to the front with Stannard, we were initially going to help him but he was setting such an insane pace. We weren't bothered about bringing them back straight away, we could have just managed it and kept them at a safe distance before the climb. But, we decided that if he was going to set that kind of a pace, we would stay up behind him but that we didn't have to contribute to the work."
"There were around 10 to 15 guys together going into the closing kilometers of the climb and once again Team Sky was setting a hard pace and when Bernal went nobody could stay on his wheel. With the TT in a couple of days, I wanted to keep him close so I was setting a tempo and I think a lot of guys tried to take advantage of that, staying on my wheel and then jumping me at the end. However, that's to be expected when they knew I was motivated not to give too much time away."
"If I could have stayed with Bernal, it would have been the dream scenario. But in my mind, I thought that if I can keep him to within a minute, then I can probably pull him back in the TT given the course and style of rider he is and the style of rider I am. I think it is definitely possible to pull back a minute."
Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"When we moved up to the front, we never really brought up the pace too much because we were just going to start to work and help the other GC teams as Team Sky started to over-cook it, bringing the breakaway back really fast. For a moment, we sat up because it was too close and I don't think anyone expected to catch them before the climb. Team Sky, however, was clearly motivated to bring it back together beforehand to let their guys take over."
"We rode well as a team today and we knew we had a strong group, we just didn't know who would be stronger on the day for the final climb and it was nice to see Patrick Bevin up there with Tejay and Brent when the race really started to heat up."
"We knew that Bernal was a good climber and that we might be trying to manage our losses a little bit if the stage went that way so I think we can be happy with how the stage went. Tejay did what he had to do and I think we can look towards the time trial as we are confident we can gain some time back there. We are not down and out and we can stay focused on our ambitions."
"Tomorrow is a stage for the Classics style riders and it will be a really hard stage for everyone but I think for us, it won't necessarily be about going for the stage win but about staying out of trouble and keeping up at the front."
AMGEN Tour of California
Stage 2: Ventura > Gibraltar Road, Santa Barbara County, 157km
Top 3: 1. Egan Bernal (Team Sky) 2. Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) 3. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 8. Tejay van Garderen 18. Brent Bookwalter 25. Patrick Bevin
BMC Racing Team Flickr Gallery
See photos from the race.