Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare) and Andrei Krasilnikau (Holowesko-Citadel) spent about three hours of quality time together pedalling around Long Beach on the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday.
The pair knew that their liaison at the front of the peloton would eventually dissolve, but veteran American Putt from UnitedHealthcare and the two-time national road champion from Belarus nevertheless enjoyed the oceanfront scenery and worked well together. Once they were reeled in, the expected mass sprint was won by Quick-Step Floors' fast-rising star from Colombia, Fernando Gaviria.
The breakaway riders built more than a two-and-a-half-minute margin as multiple laps of the 11.5-kilometre circuits were ticked off. With a few laps to go, the advantage was narrowed to around 90 seconds, and then fell steadily as the final lap approached.
"Once I saw that the field wasn't giving us much over two minutes, we knew that it was just a matter of time until they brought us back," said Putt of his stint at the front of the race.
Putt, riding in his fourth season with UnitedHealthcare, won a stage of the Tour du Maroc last year, and a stage at the Tour of Alberta in 2016. He's competing in the Tour of California for the sixth straight year, having placed 31st overall in his 2013 debut, followed by 88th, 107th, 97th and then 98th place last year.
"First move of the day at kilometre zero," said Putt, describing the origins of the day's adventure. "It was just me and a rider from Holowesko-Citadel [Krasilnikau], and the plan was just to get myself into the break and try to take some of the sprint points. And it was to give the guys in the bunch a free ride for the day, so it was a long day."
The two riders rode steadily, and Putt won both bonus sprints after four and eight circuits.
The leaders were eventually absorbed as the race approached the final lap. Putt's efforts gave him six bonus seconds, which puts him third in the general classification, trailing race leader Gaviria by four seconds.
Putt was also awarded the blue jersey for 'most courageous rider' for his efforts, which he'll wear on Monday's second stage from Ventura to Gibraltar Road.