With his win Wednesday at the Amgen Tour of California's stage 4 sprint into Santa Barbara, Garmin Sharp's Tyler Farrar became only the second US rider to win a bunch gallop in the race's eight years. George Hincapie won a field sprint in 2006, ironically along the same coastal stretch in Santa Barbara.
"This is a really important race for us," Farrar said. "We're an American team, and for our sponsors and our riders this is a really big deal. It was my big goal for the last month in training, so I'm happy it worked out."
Farrar has a mixed history with the California race. During his first attempt in 2008, he placed third on the prologue and earned the leader's jersey by picking up time bonuses in the intermediate sprints. He wore yellow for one day but then crashed out of the race. He competed in the race in 2009 and then sat out 2010, 2011, and 2012.
During that time Cannondale's Peter Sagan has made the race his own. The 23-year-old Slovakian won five of eight stages last year and added his ninth career California win Tuesday in Santa Clarita. But Wednesday's finish in Santa Barbara was a decidedly American affair with Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Ken Hanson following Farrar across the line for second.
"Over the past years the sprints have been dominated by foreigners," Hanson said. "It's good to see two Americans take the top two spots on the podium."
Aside from adding his name to the list of US bunch-sprint winners, Farrar finally exorcised a demon by beating Sagan at his own game. Although he finished third in Santa Clarita behind Sagan and Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge), Farrar was confident he could pull off a win this week.
"I think if I ride a little smarter sprint," Farrar said after Tuesday's stage, "I think I have the speed to beat him."
Sagan finished fifth Wednesday, coming in behind the Farrar, Hanson, Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Vacansoleil's Kris Boeckmans.