Race: Amgen Women's Race stage 1 (Women's WorldTour)
Date: May 17, 2018
Weather: Sunny, blue skies. 22-27°C
Winner's quote: "It's my first time in yellow. Period. It's a super-emotional day for me and a huge win for our team," said a teary eyed Kendall Ryan.
This was Ryan's first UCI Women's WorldTour victory and the first WorldTour-level win for the Team Tibco-SVB programme as well.
"It means a lot to even be on this kind of stage, and I can't believe that I've won a WorldTour race. It's something that's been at the top of my list to try to do for a while now, so I'm just really happy to pull it off. I'm speechless. It's blowing my mind right now."
Final kilometre: Chaos. That was the word riders used to describe the last kilometre of stage 1. As a peloton of 85 riders barrelled down toward the finish in Elk Grove, every team was scrambling to get their sprint trains in order. Handlebars touched, riders shouted, wheels were overlapping and a Twenty20 rider hit the deck. At the first sight of the white line, the sprinters were unleashed and a mad dash followed. Kendall Ryan (Team Tibco-SVB) went from afar. Four hundred metres were left in the race, but this was her moment. She committed early and made it stick.
Where the race was won: Stage 1 was won through patience. Fast, pancake flat and not too windy, the race course was destined for a sprint finish. While the pace was swift, there was a relatively gentle start to proceedings. There were small accelerations early in the race, and even the long two-woman breakaway of Lisa Morzenti (BePink) and Whitney Allison (Hagens Berman-Supermint) – who easily gobbled up the intermediate sprint points – never truly threatened the peloton enough to spark a reaction. The duo was caught shortly after the 10km-to-go mark, and the race would be decided in the sprint, in which patience and calmness paid off for Team Tibco-SVB.
"We were really patient all day, staying near the front, out of trouble and out of the wind," Ryan said. "I was just conserving energy for the finish. Our plan going in was not to waste any energy until 1.5km to go. Trains started to assemble and I told myself to just be patient.
"My team was drag-racing with Wiggle, and Nettie Edmondson was, like, 'Hey, Kendall, get out of the way! Don't get in my train!' And I was, like, 'Oh crap, don't knock me over!' All the trains blew up from there and then it was just the sprinters left in the scrum, fighting. I just kind of wiggled my way through and when I saw Emma White on my left, I thought, 'This is the moment,' and I went early. I got a slingshot off her wheel and I held it to the line."
The long breakaway: The stage's biggest development was a long two-person breakaway that formed when BePink's Lisa Morzenti attacked just before the feed-zone. Whitney Allison (Hagens Berman-Supermint) went with her, and the duo took off on an adventure together. The peloton was happy to let them dangle out in front, and their gap quickly grew to 1:10. As the intermediate sprint with its valuable bonus seconds approached, the peloton picked up the pace, but it was too late. The duo claimed the points with ease, and while Morzenti let herself get swallowed up by the peloton shortly afterwards, Allison powered on alone.
The 30-year-old held off the peloton until 10km to go, at which time race officials announced that she would be awarded the 'most courageous rider' jersey for her efforts.
"I noticed the moment when Lisa was going to attack, and I saw that as an opportunity," said Allison. "It so happened that it was the break that stuck, as the field decided to sit up, and so we got a big gap.
"The gap later came back down, and I could see the field, so I decided that I'd attack. And then I just kept going on my own because with the many different teams and riders here, I am kind of an unknown – at least to the entire European peloton – so I decided to make the most of any opportunity I got."
Unsung hero: While the playmaking of Allison and her Hagens Berman-Supermint team was rewarded with a celebratory jersey, and the attention that comes with it, it had been BePink's Morzenti who had initiated the attack. She also bested Allison in the intermediate sprint but, in the end, was left with nothing but a mid-pack finish.
Most aggressive team: Hagens Berman-Supermint came out to play in California, and started sending riders up the road as early as 10km into the race. First, it was Liza Rachetto. At 44 years of age, she may be the oldest rider in the peloton at the women's Tour of California, but she's shown that age is nothing but a number. When Rachetto was reeled in, teammate Starla Teddergreen took off taking Ingrid Drexel (Tibco-SVB) with her. The duo stayed away for 12km but it left to Supermint's Whitney Allison to claim the 'most courageous' jersey for her 50km out front in the wind.
Unluckiest rider: Chloe Dygert (Twenty20) was among the top American riders looking to make an impression on home soil this week. But the individual pursuit world champion was unlucky and got caught up in the end-of-race chaos, hitting the deck in the final kilometre. The rising star still finished, but further medical attention revealed that she was suffering from concussion, and as a result won't be on the start line in South Lake Tahoe for stage 2.
Expert says: "Kendall's win is not a surprise to me at all. She has amazing speed if you give her a clear shot at the line. We saw it a bunch last year in Canada. No one could stay with her. I think the team finally got behind her and put everyone all-in to get her into position for a big event like this. I'd put her up there with anyone in the world with that kind of team support and with the ability that she has. It's hard to win any race, let alone a WorldTour race, so although it may seem like a little bit of a surprise, it's really not going by her talents and ability."
– Jeff Pierce, retired pro cyclist and Tour de France stage winner, and Kendall Ryan's coach