When a trade team sponsor ponies up the cash to also sponsor a race's classification jersey, and then comes up with a one-off design by an avant garde graffiti artist, you can be sure riders from the team are going to put in an extra effort to take it.
That was the case for BMC Racing's Floris Gerts Sunday during stage 1 at the Tour of California. Tag Hauer, a BMC sponsor, also sponsors the race's best young rider jersey, which was designed by Los Angeles artist Alec Monopoly.
Gerts, 25, made sure he was in the day's breakaway, taking enough intermediate time bonuses to place him at the top of the heap of young riders.
"Before the start we had this jersey as a goal, because it's made by Assos, which is another new sponsor for our team this year. I'm happy to succeed in taking this jersey for tomorrow."
Gerts joined BMC from the Rabobank Development Team in 2016 and took his first pro win that season at the Volta Limburg in his home country of the Netherlands. His best result so far this season is 12th overall at the Dubai Tour.
Despite his success in taking the jersey and fulfilling one of the team's ambitions on the first day, Gerts said he's not targeting the final jersey at the end of the week.
"In the first place, I'm here to help and protect our leaders for the GC and sometimes for the sprint," he said. "Sometimes some smaller opportunities for me can appear like today and last year, and it's nice to go for a jersey like this. Tomorrow is a really hard stage. It's really climby and today I was already a big effort. So I'm not really with this jersey on my mind for the rest of the week."
Los Angeles artist Alec Monopoly designed the Tour of California best young rider jersey for 2017 (TDW Sports)
Peter Sagan second in Sacramento
The 'King of California' Peter Sagan was dethroned in Sacramento with the world champion pipped at the post by Marcel Kittel in the sprint finish. Sagan holds the record at the Tour of California with 15 stage wins since his 2010 debut at the race and also won the overall in 2015. In his first stage race since March's Tirreno-Adriatico, Sagan proved his class but paid for the lack of recent race days as he explained.
"It's good to be racing in California. As expected, today's opening stage finished in a bunch sprint in Sacramento and I gave it my all," Sagan said. "Having been thirteen days since my last race and after an intensive high altitude training session, it wasn't easy to kick into race mode. I am satisfied with my condition, I had good sensations and I feel I'm on the right path for the rest of the race."
Directeur sportif Patxi Vila was more optimistic with the result and performance of his riders, explaining he believes the stage wins will come.
"It was a good first stage for us – the boys did a good job. They put Peter in the best possible position and, as usual, he positioned himself very well in the leading group," Vila said. "He was beaten by Kittel who, today, was stronger. However, after the high-altitude training camp and the break from racing, I think we have to be happy with the result. I also feel quite confident about the coming days. Rafał Majka and Maciej Bodnar are feeling very well, as well as the other guys, and this is important. Our goal today was to be on the stage podium, so we achieved that with the second place and I think we should be happy with the way things started here in California."
Stage 2 of the Tour of California takes the peloton from Modesto to San Jose with the hill profile suggesting it will be too hard to the sprinters such as Sagan.
Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and Alexander Kristoff chat on the stage1 start line (Getty Images Sport)
Viviani stretches his legs for third place
Elia Viviani may have been looked over for Sky's Giro d'Italia team but the Italian has been given his 'best lead out train' to date at the Tour of California. The fast man has won in the US before but came into the now WorldTour event aiming for win number two of the season.
The circuit finish in Sacramento was suited to a fast finish which saw Viviani direct his Sky teammates to the front of the peloton with full dedication.
"We did a perfect job during the stage, conserving energy and being in position when it split in the cross-winds. Then on the finishing circuits we made sure we were always at the front. Pete, Lopez, Tao and Boz did a great job just before the proper lead-out," he said.
"On the final lap Owain (Doull), Danny (van Poppel) and Dibbo (Jon Dibben) put me in the perfect position coming out of the last corner, on Kittel's wheel."
Despite the commitment from his teammates, Viviani explained that he lost concentration as the Quick-Step Floors and Katusha-Alpecin trains came by, leaving third place as the best possible result on offer. An offer he didn't refuse.
"At 600m to go the Quick-Step train lost a lot of speed, and at that point Katusha came up with Kristoff. So there was a bit of confusion, and when I understood it was time to start the sprint, Kittel and Sagan had already gone. I sprinted for third which was the best I could do in this situation," he added.
"We have a really strong lead-out and the guys put me in the perfect position, so I am really confident for the next sprint."
Elia Viviani tries to close the gap inside the final 25m of the stage (Getty Images Sport)
Stage 2 Video Highlights
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