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Tour of California 2014: Stage 1


Welcome to Cyclingngews' live coverage of the Tour of California.

178km remaining from 198km

It was so windy heading out from Sacramento that it did not take long before a breakaway of six was let go up the road. They have more than four minutes as the peloton heads along the Sacramento River, 14 miles into the stage.

If you haven't already read our report from the Giro d'Italia, the peloton suffered in some dreadful conditions in Ireland. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) delivered the goods for the second stage in a row.

Our six riders are Tom Leezer (Belkin), Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare), Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk), Eric Young (Optum), Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell) - ignore what the race's Tour Tracker has posted.

Giant-Shimano is hoping to follow up on its already enormously successful weekend. While Marcel Kittel is at the Giro, having won the first two mass start stages, the team has John Degenkolb here in California and he's keen to get back to his winning ways after a post-Classics break.

The wind was hitting our riders from their left side as they worked their way north from Sacramento at the start, but they've been working their way northwest for the past few miles.  Now, having turned into a near tailwind, the breakaway is speeding along at over 30mph. They're flying!

160km remaining from 198km

157km remaining from 198km

I'd like to wish a warm welcome to the six readers in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, who are following our live coverage. No doubt they're waiting to hear that Peter Sagan has won the stage!

Over in downtown Sacramento, the women are underway with some very aggressive racing. Elle Anderson (Vanderkitten) was just brought back after a solo attack.

The course zig-zags its way through the county roads north of Sacramento before heading into Lincoln for the first sprint of the day, and the start of the uphill slog to Auburn, where they'll see sprint number 2. They're on Howsley Road, heading due east, with a cross-tailwind.

148km remaining from 198km

The wind also makes things difficult on a course like this, where the riders turn from tailwind to crosswind to head wind.

Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) is no big fan of the wind. Here's what the animated German had to say to Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini this morning:

"It is not only windy, it’s f***ing windy. Being the good tourist that I am, I rode my bike this morning over to the Tower Bridge and asked another tourist to take a picture of me with the Tower Bridge in the background. That bridge is super exposed to the windy, so it will be super windy today. There is a chance that the peloton could split up into a million pieces and it could be a bit of a pre-selection. Some people could really lose some time today. We want to have our sprinter and GC riders safe and sound at the finish line."

The men are in farm land, being dusted by the heavy equipment tilling the fields. There is no shelter from the wind here. They may want to hold their noses as they pass the Athens Road landfill... hopefully they're not downwind!

Mark Renshaw is asking for service in the main field, which is heading back into the wind now as they turn left. They're about 10km from the first sprint of the day.

138km remaining from 198km

The gap to the breakaway keeps yo-yo-ing up and down between 4:30 and 5:00, right now it's at 4:30 as the break makes its way to the sprint in Lincoln.

1km to the sprint in Lincoln for the breakaway, and the town has turned out in fairly impressive numbers to cheer them along.

The women's race in Sacramento is down to only a few laps to go - we'll let you know who wins. It seems Unitedhealthcare is trying to set up the sprint for Coryn Rivera, who won when the women's criterium was held here the last time in 2010.

In other women's racing, Marianne Vos won the overall at the inaugural Women's Tour of Britain. We've got the full results and photos here.

The first sprint went to Leezer ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart and Will Routley, who apparently is in the breakway - not Eric Young. Sorry about that.

To reiterate, our breakaway is Tom Leezer (Belkin), Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare), Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk), Will Routley (Optum), Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell Development Team), who have 4:30 on the field after the sprint.

Leezer has the points toward the sprint jersey now, but this race favors stage winners over mid-race sprinters. It's still a cash prize and a morale boost, however, even if he doesn't get the jersey.

The advantage for the breakaway seems to be crumbling a bit - they're down below four minutes as they begin the long, gradual climb to Auburn.

BMC Racing is here as defending champions, but without last year's winner Tejay van Garderen. instead, they are racing for Peter Stetina.

Taylor Phinney is one of the support riders, and told Cyclingnews that he's expecting a bunch sprint, "but you never know with the wind. I think today might not be as straightforward as everyone thinks. It’s super windy, especially in the beginning. It will be stressful."

Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) has won the women's circuit race in Sacramento. Unitedhealthcare delivered Rivera to the front perfectly, but it was just a bit too early. Small came past like a rocket.

Back to the men's race, the leaders are stabilizing their gap thanks to the fact they have some trees sheltering them from the wind, and a slight descent.

The breakaway is holding steady, with the field chasing exactly one mile behind. They're climbing steadily now on their way to Auburn, one of my personal favorite California towns.

Once they get to Auburn they'll have the second sprint, followed by a fast descent out of town, then the first KOM sprint of this year's race on highway 49.

111km remaining from 198km

We have quite the international breakaway today - Leezer, the Dutch rider, is probably the most powerful of the six. Bolivar, a young Colombian climber, will be looking forward to that mountain sprint. Planet is French, Routley is Canadian, Cooke the sole American in the move, and Geoghegan Hart is British.

Hart is fresh out of the junior ranks, but he's no slouch - he was on the podium in the U23 Liège - Bastogne - Liège last month.

108km remaining from 198km

There are good crowds lining the roads of Auburn - this college town always turns out for the Tour of California. The sprint is a little uphill power climb, let's see who gets it.

Leezer powers away for the second sprint win in a row, while this time it was Geoghegan Hart who takes second, with Bolivar warming up his climbing legs in third.

Sprint 2 results:
1 Tom Leezer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
2 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Bissell Devo
3 Isaac Bolivar Hernandez (Col) UnitedHealthcare

Back in the field some big names are having mechanical issues. Taylor Phinney (BMC) returned after an issue, while Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) had to stop for service. He's back and riding in the field.

The breakaway has a twisty descent and 5km to the KOM.

Meanwhile, in the breakaway, youngster Geoghegan Hart has taken a little flyer. He's leading the break as they start to climb again.

Now is the time when the riders start to preen a bit - make sure those loose hairs aren't sticking up and they have no embarrassing smudges on their faces. TV time is about to start, and we should see some action from the field after this KOM.

The breakaway is all back together as they make their way up to the KOM.

100km remaining from 198km

The climb is a toughie - numerous switchbacks and steep grades. The gap is 4:30 as they reach the top.

We'll get you the results for that KOM in a minute, but first, why not check out how that women's circuit race unfolded? We have the full report here.

Routley and Cooke have attacked the breakaway and have a 40 second gap.

Unfortunately the rush of vehicles getting prepared to bring television coverage obscured our ability to see if the attack went before the KOM or after - but no worries, the two North Americans have been brought back, and the break is all together at 5:15 from the field.

A little bit about Charles Planet of Novo Nordisk: all of the riders on that team are Type 1 diabetics, that means they have to use insulin to metabolize sugars because their bodies cannot make their own. He's from Lorraine, France, and started racing at age 8 because his father also raced. He's a regional cyclo-cross and mountain bike champion, in addition to showing his talents here on the road.

94km remaining from 198km

The men up front are currently enjoying a nice descent, speeding along at 42mph (67kph). The wind isn't that much of an issue here, but as they head back into Sacramento it will be a cross-headwind.

90km remaining from 198km

Will Routley, now with Optum, spent an unremarkable year with Accent Jobs-Wanty last season following the demise of the Spidertech team. The former Canadian champion has shown fine form, taking seventh overall at the Tour of the Gila earlier this month. Coincidentally, Matt Cooke, also in the break, beat him out for sixth in that race.

Finally, in our breakaway bios, Isaac Bolivar is new to the UnitedHealthcare team this year, but he's already turned out impressive results, taking third overall at the Tour de Langkawi.

At long last we have the KOM results: 
1 Will Routley (Can) Optum
2 Matt Cooke (USA) Jamis - Hagens Berman
3 Isaac Bolivar Hernandez (Col) UnitedHealthcare
4 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Bissell Development
5 Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo Nordisk

77km remaining from 198km

Giant-Shimano has also sent a couple of guys to the front to help slowly bring back the breakaway. There's no sense of urgency yet as there are 75km left to race.

Peter Sagan might have the record for stage wins, but those two teams have brought some strong competition - Cavendish and Degenkolb. You can read more about the sprint contenders here.

And what about Team Sky? They have a California sponsor now in 21st Century Fox, so they've assembled a strong team to deliver Bradley Wiggins to the overall victory. On paper, it's his race to lose as no other rider in this field has won a Tour de France.

72km remaining from 198km

Hey, you 18 people following the live coverage from Dublin, I know you're in the press room at the Giro d'Italia, get back to work!

The California scenery just never fails to astound - it's a lovely day as usual, 70s and sunny, and the peloton is enjoying the lush green farm land.

The sprinters' teams are taking their time with the breakaway, right now it's just a cat playing with the mouse before it brings its jaws down on the little rodent's neck. The breakaway feel the fear, but they know the catch is inevitable.

67km remaining from 198km

The sprint in Sacramento is very fast and flat, with only the three laps and the turns involved to challenge the riders. Being in position in that last turn is key, and that takes a strong team. Tom Boonen won here in 2008, but will be working for Mark Cavendish, along with Renshaw, to give the team a win.

Juan Jose Haedo, now with Jamis-Hagens Berman, won the stage in Sacramento in 2007 when he was with CSC, so he knows where he has to be in the finale.

Cavendish has also enjoyed success in Sacramento - he won while racing for Team High Road in 2010, beating Haedo to the line.

The last time Tour of California finished a stage in Sacramento, Peter Sagan lost out in the sprint to Sky's Ben Swift. He is certainly a rider who learns from his mistakes and he will want to both take revenge and confirm himself as the sprint king of the Tour of California today.

61km remaining from 198km

Now we see the NetApp riders putting their men up front as the race heads into a stiff cross-headwind and Sky puts the entire field in the gutter.

BMC have a man up front now, and the wind is making the threat of one team blowing the field apart very real.

That ugly shape of the echelon forming is visible from the back of the field - a split has formed at front with most of Sky up there and the field chasing at 10 seconds.

Giant-Shimano, OPQS, Sky, Cannondale, BMC, Netapp, Trek and Bissell are all represented up front, and all working hard to make this split stick. 

Axel Merckx's boys have definitely been paying attention to their mentor, they were right there when the hammer dropped. Wiggins, Phinney, are both rotating through, as is Greg Van Avermaet.

The first peloton has brought the gap to the breakaway plummeting to just one minute, and the cars are being pulled out of the gap. Cavendish is in this front group with Boonen, too.

Wiggins is rotating through, getting his legs warmed up for tomorrow's time trial? Or trying to separate himself from the climbers already? Back in the second peloton Belkin are chasing but not getting much help.

54km remaining from 198km

Ouch! The echelon in the second peloton is not getting organized. Riders are blowing up all over the place, struggling to find a draft.

Up front, just about every rider in this 30-40 man group is rotating through, with OPQS and Trek now doing the driving.

It's fallen to UnitedHealthcare to chase from that second group, and they are not making up much ground.

50km remaining from 198km

There were a number of Cannondale riders in the second group, but we have not seen whether or not Sagan made the split. He's certainly not showing his face at the pointy end if he did. Back in the second group, only UHC, Belkin and Optum are pushing.

The leading peloton is working like a machine, even Geoghegan Hart, who spent the entire day in the breakaway, is rotating through. The road is about to make a turn into a block headwind, though and this won't help the lead group.

We have 18 riders in this group now, it seems some sat up to go back to the field or blew up. Tom Boonen is putting everything into keeping this group away.

The peloton behind is just 40 seconds back, and on this arrow-straight, mildly undulating strip of asphalt through the green fields they can see the group ahead. 

Danny van Poppel (Trek) flatted out of this move, so Trek might pull their riders back from the rotation.

Sir Bradley Wiggins is back at the head of affairs, pushing the move.

We have confirmation that Sagan is not amongst those 18 riders up front, but no concern to him. He's banking on the closing circuits providing a chance for the gap to disappear.

The front peloton has 30 seconds. Up front is Taylor Phinney and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Matthew Busche, Markel Irizar and, Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing), Bradley Wiggins and Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Matthew Goss (Orica GreenEdge), Laurens Ten Dam and Moreno Hofland (Belkin), Koen De Kort (Team Giant-Shimano), Zakkari Dempster and Andreas Schillinger (Team NetApp-Endura).

So Goss is in there, but without a team to help him in the sprint. He's not contributing to the work, understandably. Trek lost its sprinter, but is still pushing to give Matthew Busche and advantage for GC.

Crash - a Garmin rider went down in the field, and a Trek rider had to do a front-wheelie to avoid crashing over him.

The Garmin rider is Rohan Dennis, #13 proving unlucky for him. Or lucky, because he's chasing back on and appears unhurt.

24km remaining from 198km

22km remaining from 198km

Taylor Phinney is not ready to let the idea of a stage win go, and has escaped with Tom Boonen.

There's another split at the front of the bunch behind, the headwind is still causing grief for these riders, messing with the script for the bunch sprint.

A UnitedHealthcare rider sprinted across to Boonen and Phinney as they were just seconds ahead, but now a Bissell rider welds the entire move back together.

Now it's Sagan's turn to light things up - he pushes the pace at the front but then sees he's not opening gaps.

Aggressive racing! A UHC rider goes after a move sparked by BMC, but is now solo, being chased by a Garmin rider.

This is a very atpyical Tour of California stage. A Cannondale rider, Ted King, bridges with another UHC rider. Four at the front with 19.3km to go.

Or wait, that's Ben King from Garmin-Sharp, with Velits and Haga coming across.

It's Ted King (CAN), Ben King (Garmin), Jonny Clarke and Danny Summerhill (UHC) now with Martin Velits and Chad Haga, being joined by four more.

Two BMC riders have come across, one of them is Phinney who goes to the front to push the pace. Could that be Van Avermaet with him?

It's all back together now with 10 miels to go. There's a massive reorganisation in the peloton. Van Avermaet now goes with a Bissell rider.

It's almost as if the entire peloton is conspiring to keep Sagan from winning this stage. So many attacks!

Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly) and Kiel Reijnen (UHC) go, with Gregory Daniel (BIssell) joining him.

13km remaining from 198km

OPQS is putting in an ominous organisation at the front, just keeping Cavendish in position. The final circuits come at 9.7km to go, and are 3.2km each.

12km remaining from 198km

The peloton is lined out, single file behind. OPQS loses Mark Renshaw to a flat tire. Bad news for Cavendish.

It's a rear flat for Renshaw. He'll get a quick change but won't see the front again, we fear.

10km remaining from 198km

Jamis-Hagens Berman leads the peloton behind for Haedo, but now Reijnen attacks with Rathe getting on his wheel.

Reijnen is soloing away from Rathe - this UHC rider is a very good time trialist and a dogged attacker.

Reijnen has the advantage of taking all of these corners alone. No slouch in criteriums, he's moving fast.

7km remaining from 198km

Team Sky is also near the front keeping Wiggins safe, but still, there is no urgency back there. Reijnen is flat out, foaming at the mouth he is going so hard.

6km remaining from 198km

Reijnen is bent over his bars, hands draped over the tops, time trialing between the turns, getting into the drops for the turn.

The bunch is now lined out behind Cannondale, one Belkin rider on their train. Reijnen's lead is falling fast.

4km remaining from 198km

Reijnen's time is over, and Jamis-Hagens Berman is getting in on the action up front.

It's all flat-out sprinter speed from here for the next 3km.

Like a shark, the tip of the Giant-Shimano fin is just sticking up from the surface of the peloton. Degenkolb stealthy behind the bright green.

The Gent-Wevelgem winner is a hard man to beat in a sprint like this, but does he still have the speed he had a month ago?

Cavendish has the OPQS riders up at the front now with 1km to go.

Giant-Shimano now has control with Boonen trying to overtake them.

Goss is coming up on the right, but there goes Degenkolb!

Cavendish tries to come up on is right.

The line comes fast and it's so close!

Did Cavendish just miss out? Sagan didn't even get third, he was passed by a Belkin rider.

This is a photo finish folks - Cavendish may have it on the bike throw.

Neither rider can tell if he won.

It looks like Cavendish has it - the team were watching the replay on their cell phones, and there are hugs all around.

It was speedster Moreno Hofland (Belkin) in third over Sagan, with Danny van Poppel (Trek) in fifth.

Top 10:
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano
3 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
5 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
6 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale
7 Eric Young (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
8 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica Greenedge
9 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
10 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team

Nice riding by Optum's Eric Young to get the top Continental rider's spot.

Heartbreaking loss for Degenkolb, but what a sprint. Sagan just did not have the pure speed to win, but Cavendish sure did. 

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