Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan is still looking for his second stage win at this year's Tour of California, but took back the race's green points jersey after finishing third behind Deceuninck-QuickStep's Fabio Jakobsen and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) on stage 4 to Morro Bay on Wednesday.
Sagan won the opening stage of the race in Sacramento on Sunday, taking the race's first yellow leader's jersey, as well as the points jersey, before losing both on stage 2 to South Lake Tahoe the next day. It took the three-time road-race world champion's stage-win tally at the Tour of California to a record 17.
Wednesday's fourth stage was Sagan's next opportunity to win, but he was outmuscled in the bunch sprint by Jakobsen, who came off Sagan's wheel for the win, with Philipsen – who was first to open up and make a bid for victory – holding on to take second.
"It was another long stage – over 200km – which was decided, as expected, in a fast sprint," said Sagan, summing up the day on his team's website. "The guys, and in particular Oscar Gatto, put in a strong effort to control the breakaway and positioned me very well in the final kilometres.
"We were at the front when needed, and that was important today as we avoided the crashes. I missed just a bit of power in the final metres to take the stage, but still, I'm satisfied with getting the green jersey again," he said, having taken the jersey from stage 2 winner Kasper Asgreen.
Although his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Jakobsen won the stage, Asgreen lost both the green jersey and the leader's yellow jersey – even if he'd only unofficially been given it for about an hour after the stage. While overnight leader Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) crashed inside the last 10km and lost time, the race jury decided to give the American the same finish time as the front group, as a crash just outside 3km to go held van Garderen up, just before it looked as though he was about to rejoin the peloton.
"It was a very long stage – up and down all day – with rain intervals and a steady headwind from the ocean," said Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Jan Valach.
"The squad did a very good job in controlling the race, and Oscar Gatto's performance was remarkable, pulling in the front of the peloton alone during a good part of the stage. The final kilometres turned out to be chaotic as the strong pace and the tension led to crashes.
"However, we were well positioned, we avoided all the tricky parts, and Peter sprinted to win. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to repeat his victory from 2017, but still, he was a close third," said Valach, referring to the stage two years ago that also finished in Morro Bay.
"There were no changes in the GC, so we have to keep fighting," he said, with Max Schachmann the best-placed rider on the GC for Bora-Hansgrohe in fifth place, 22 seconds behind van Garderen.