Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) knew the wheel he needed to follow in the finale of stage 5 of the Tour of California. The world champion was rooted to the back of Fernando Gaviria’s wheel as they approached the line, but when the Colombian opened his sprint, Sagan didn't have the speed to overhaul him.
The Tour of California has been a happy hunting ground for Sagan over the years, with 16 stage wins, but he had to settle for third as Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) moved past him in the final few metres.
"It was another fast stage at the Tour of California, quite [a bit] hotter than the other days," Sagan said in a team press release. "The squad again worked hard to close the gap with the breakaway – they have been putting such an effort this week. In the final kilometres, my brother Juraj, Daniel Oss and Michael Kolar did a great job in keeping me safe and positioning me well in the front of the bunch.
"I had a good spot for the sprint and did my best but it wasn't possible to overtake Gaviria. Rafał [Majka] had a minor crash during the race but we are all happy it wasn't anything serious."
After Toms Skujins upset the sprinters on stage 3, the fast men were determined to ensure a bunch gallop. Mechanical problems hindered Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish in the final 10 kilometres, with the latter also getting caught up in a crash at three kilometres to go. Stage 1 winner Gaviria made it through unscathed and proved too much to match for Sagan.
Despite a lack of stage wins, with just one more sprint effort remaining on Saturday, directeur sportif Patxi Vila believes that Sagan is heading in the right direction.
"We started the day with the aim to get the best result possible and worked hard during the whole stage to reach that goal," said Vila. "The guys put in a strong effort in the front of the peloton, pulling to control the race and keep the breakaway close. As expected, it all came down to a fast bunch sprint at the finish and Peter got another podium place. We would have liked a victory but Gaviria was stronger.
"I think that Peter is on the right path to reach his peak form. This year, he started his preparation for the second half of the season a bit later, so he isn't exactly where he was at this period last year."
The Tour of California will continue with a stern test for the general classification riders to South Lake Tahoe before the finale in Sacramento at the weekend.