Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) didn’t succeed in moving closer to the race lead as he’d hoped on the Amgen Tour of California’s third stage. The event’s best young rider will refocus his ambitions toward capturing a stage win and is promised full team support from his directeur sportif Mario Scirea.
“Sagan is very young and we are very happy with his performances so far,” Scirea told Cyclingnews. “We believe that he can win here. The team will continue to work for him to win a stage. We are not on vacation here.”
The Liquigas-Doimo squad lost its original go-to overall contender for the Tour, Vincenzo Nibali, after he was rescheduled to compete in the Giro d’Italia. Sagan, 20, is a proven winner having captured early season stage victories in Paris-Nice and Tour de Romandie.
Liquigas hoped Sagan would win stage three after placing second on California’s second stage and moving into the same place on general classification. “We really hope to win a stage today and that would have moved Peter into the overall,” Scirea said. “The stages coming up are going to be very hard. And riders like Levi Leipheimer are very strong. The time trial is also much too long for Sagan. From now on, we would really like to win a stage and we are going to take this stage race day by day.
“This stage was well suited to a rider like Levi and he showed that last year,” he added. “He was very strong today. But with five kilometres to go on the climb Sagan had his two team-mates Brian Vanborg and Francesco Bellotti to work for him in the small peloton.”
Three-time defending champion Levi Leiphiemer (RadioShack) used the day’s decisive climb over Bonny Doon Road to create a three-ride break that also included Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and eventual stage winner Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions).
Sagan relied on Vanborg and Bellotti to reduce the gap the breakaway on the descent into the finishing city of Santa Cruz. Sagan won the chase group sprint to the line for fourth place, but finished 17 seconds behind the race leaders leaving him in fourth place overall.
“I told them to work to support Sagan and pay attention to try to bring the gap down to the breakaway of three riders, just to try to keep him as close as possible to them,” Scirea said. “Vanborg flat tired with about three kilometres remaining. I don’t know if we would have been able to close more time, we won’t know that now.”