Tour of California: Pate escapes the bunch to claim first rider of the day honours

Rally Cycling's veteran laments missing out on a Shamu plushie but is otherwise happy with the day's effort

In a new feature the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Tour of California. Danny Pate is the first rider to be chosen and we will be selecting a rider after each stage..

Danny Pate made headlines in the US last year when he signed a two-year deal with US Continental team Rally Cycling after spending the previous eight seasons on the WorldTour, the past four with Team Sky.

The 37-year-old American's season got off to a rough start, however, when he got sick upon returning from the team's first European trip to La Méditerranéenne, where he finished outside the time limit on the third day.

Pate has slowly been recovering from the setback, and on Sunday he showed off his return to form by sneaking into the stage 1 breakaway at the Tour of California.

"The team's goal was to be aggressive and try to grab the first KOM of the race," Pate said after eventually getting caught and finishing 101st on the stage.

"I covered the first break and it stuck," he said. "I am little disappointed that I wasn't able to get the KOM or on the podium - especially after seeing that they were giving away stuffed killer whales."

Missed opportunities to win furry plushie toys aside, Pate's team would have relished the opportunity to have a rider on the podium during the first day, but when Oscar Clark (Holowsko-Citadel) won the stage's only KOM and Jelly Belly's Michael Sheehan won both intermediate sprints, the opportunity slipped away.

Nevertheless, Pate enjoyed his ride off the front, which started less than 10km into the 175km day. He joined Clark, Sheehan, Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), Joonas Henttala (Novo Nordisk), Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare) and Daniel Patten (Team WIGGINS) in the escape.

Pate helped power the seven-rider move until Rathe attacked the group with 27km remaining with the gap at 1:30. Clark and Patten were able to join Rathe, but Pate and the rest faded back into the bunch.

"Being in the break felt good," Pate said. "It was hard, but it was a good way to clear out the legs. I was sick earlier in the year and it took awhile to get better. Tour of the Gila was first race back, so I am still not on top form. The rest of the race the team looks to be aggressive and there are couple more opportunities for me - we will see."

As Pate's form improves throughout the week, there will definitely be more opportunities for him to escape the bunch and go all in for a stage win or a jersey. But for today he'll just have to be happy with the fact that he flew the team colours on TV for most of the stage and came oh-so close to owning a Shamu plush.

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