Rabobank had a mixed day at the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. The Dutch squad placed a rider in the main escape group of the day, but couldn't play a role in the eventual bunch sprint finish.
Maarten Tjallingii was part of a four-man break group which formed early in the stage and had a lead of up to nearly six minutes. He won the first intermediate sprint on the rolling course. The group was caught again with 10km-to-go, shortly before the riders entered the closing circuit course.
Without one of its top sprinters in California, “we needed a different tack,” said Rabobank Directeur Sportif Adri van Houwelingen. “We just needed to ride offensively.” Tjallingii did that well enough to win the jersey for most combative rider.
The team was a little nervous going into the race, not really knowing what to expect from the opposition. “You never know. There are many non-European teams, they just ride differently. But during the stage, everything went as usual,” Van Houwelingen said.
A large crash at the start of the final lap of the circuit course stopped most of the team, with only Thomas Leezer ahead of the incident. He finished 10th amongst the 14 who made it to the finish line together. Lars Boom's bike came into contact with other riders, but he did not go down.
The stage was successful from a commercial point of view as the Dutch bank has 155 affiliates in California. “The enthusiasm is great and we wanted to let ourselves be seen. The least that we could do is to be part of the escape group of the day,” Van Houwelingen said. “That worked out successfully."