It took three stages, but 'King of California' Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) ascended to his familiar place on the top step of the podium at the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday, winning the technical uphill sprint into Morro Bay and pushing his stage win total to 16.
Sagan narrowly missed out on the stage 1 win in Sacramento, finishing behind Marcel Kittel. The big Quick-Step sprinter faded over the final uphill acceleration on Tuesday, however, as Sagan flew out of the bunch to take the win handily, distancing runner-up Rick Zabel (Katusha-Alpecin) by three bike lengths.
"I was a little bit back, but a teammate helped keep me in good position for the last turn and for the final, so thank you for that," Sagan said. "I did not accelerate. I just kept up the speed because I was little bit out on front."
Sagan's powerful sprint was the final piece of the team's day-long effort to take the stage, first letting a breakaway go almost immediately and then having Juraj Sagan spend the day on the front keeping the move under control.
"Our tactic was maybe more to let the breakaway go, and after we will see with our rider in the front to pull," Sagan said. "At first it was just my brother and a guy from Quick-Step, Martin Velits. They were working together. And after for the final, we started to pull with other teams."
Tuesday's stage win capped a successful two days for Sagan's team after Rafal Majka won the day before and claimed the yellow jersey. Now Majka and Sagan are looking to add to the tally over the rest of the week and bring home the top prize when the race ends Saturday in Pasadena.
Not looking back
In the post-stage press conference, Sagan was asked if distance from the Classics season has given him new perspective on his early season campaign, in which he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but was second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Milan San Remo, then suffered a series of bad luck that doomed his efforts at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
The 27-year-old Slovakian said he had moved on and wasn't giving it much thought.
"It's already past," he said. "Every race is different. You need good luck, and this year it was not very good for me. Every year is different, a lot of stages in the front, a lot of races, and I think a lot of important races we still have to do this year, and I don't look back."