Bissell rider Paul Mach rode into the early lead of the King of the Mountain competition following the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. According to the US domestic pro, it will be a dream come true to start the stage two road race wearing the red jersey of best climber in his hometown of Davis.
"It's kind of like a dream in a dream," said Mach. "I wasn't guaranteed to do this race from the beginning, so just to start it was kind of a big goal of mine for the year. Now that I have a jersey and to get in a breakaway at the biggest race in America is kind of a big achievement for me. To start with a jersey in my hometown tomorrow is even better. It is unreal, still sinking in."
Bissell started the star-studded event with the realistic goal of making the early breakaway during the race's lengthy and mountainous routes. The first stage was predominantly downhill for 168km from Nevada City into Sacramento and Mach wound up in the early breakaway at the 10km mark. His companions included Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Chad Beyer (BMC) and Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis).
"I don't know if riding into the break was to get into a jersey but it was to ride aggressively, to make the race and try to get into a breakaway," explained Mach. "That was goal number one for us and it worked out."
Mach and De Maar separated themselves over the day's decisive climb on Old Auburn Forest Hill Road, the sole KOM ascent, located 75km into the stage. Mach attacked De Maar to take full points towards the KOM competition and the four riders regrouped at the top. They were caught by a field primed for the sprint near the finishing circuits after spending more than 150km off the front together.
"The KOM competition is far from over," Mach continued. "I consider myself a climber but it's a world-class field here and you just have to see what happens. We worked well together. It was inevitable that it was going to come back so we just tried to give it our best shot. Realistically, we didn't think it was going to happen."
The Bissell riders are quickly becoming recognised for sporting well-manicured mustaches and beards at the Amgen Tour of California this week. The men are hoping to raise awareness for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, whose mission is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children.
"We have a little inter-team competition; the official word is that there will be a vote [for the best mustache] on the website, on our facebook page, at the end of the Tour of California and there will be a prize giveaway," Mach said. "We are also doing to raise awareness for the Ronald McDonald House, which is an important sponsor of ours and we encourage you to check them out."