Welcome to the final stage of the Tour of California, live on Cyclingnews. It should be a fast, exciting stage from Los Angeles to the Pasadena Rose Bowl, with the GC at stake by two small seconds.
We're live at LA Live in lovely Southern California, where the overall Tour of California will be decided on sprint bonuses. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) leads Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) by a thin two seconds.
Sagan, the quicker sprinter, will be up against it to get time bonuses or get away in the finale at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
It's perfect weather for a bike race, 70 and sunny as it always is in So Cal.
Riders have a very short neutral, only four blocks, before kicking out onto five laps of the LA Live circuit.
Although some might view LA as a flat city, the opening circuit has some elevation, and the closing Rose Bowl loop is even lumpier. It will be a fast, hard day in the saddle for the peloton.
And they're off! Immediately two riders attack.
It would behoove Etixx to let riders up the road to mop up the time bonuses and give Alaphilippe a chance for the overall, but the team didn't seem too concerned if Sagan beat them. After all, they won four stages so far and Cavendish could win a fifth today.
Daniel Oss (BMC) won't have any worries about mountains today, he's won the polka dot jersey as there are no more classified climbs.
It was Sky's Christian Knees and Matteo Trentin (Etixx) off the front but they're back in the field now.
The crowds are very sparse at LA Live. People in this town don't get up this early on a Sunday! Or, maybe they're all at the finish - it's impossible to do both today as the traffic means it would take longer than the race to get to the finish from the start.
Toms Skujins (Hincapie) launches an attack and is chased by a Tinkoff rider.
Today's stage has one intermediate time bonus after the race heads to the Rose Bowl circuit. They've got 34.8km of racing around in circles at LA Live, then a 25km stretch of open roads to Pasadena, then more circles at the Rose Bowl where they'll have 9 dizzying laps of a 5.1km loop.
Guillaume Boivin (Optum) crashed at the start - he would have been a candidate for a stage win here, let's hope he can get back on.
Yves Lampaert (Etixx) is off the front, the race having swept past Skujins. He has 10 seconds.
That's one way to protect the race lead. If Lampaert can stay away and take the three-second bonus at km. 59.7, he'd force Sagan to have to win the sprint to come even with Alaphilippe. It's a long way to go solo, though.
Matti Breschel (Tinkoff) had a mechanical but is back in the bunch now.
89km remaining from 96km
At the end of the first lap at LA Live, Lampaert is still in the lead.
82km remaining from 96km
Sorry that's the end of lap 2, they've got three more to go. We're sad to say Boivin has dropped out of the race.
Tinkoff-Saxo are controlling the bunch, letting Lampaert dangle by 20 seconds.
Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) and his teammate Haimar Zubeldia won't try to mix it up today to try and move up on GC.
Zoidl told Cyclingnews this morning: "I think the battle for 1st and 2nd it will be impossible. We have to be realistic. We are not sprinters and it is not possible. It doesn't make sense for us. We don't have any chances for the bonus."
Danny Pate is now chasing at the front of the field as Lampaert gains 30 seconds.
76km remaining from 96km
Breschel had to stop to get a new bike, so the Tinkoff train is waiting for him, leaving Sky to pull. Lampaert isn't much of a threat to the GC at 45 minutes down on his teammate!
Sorry, Pate is trying to get across to Lampaert. He's within 10 seconds of the leader, and then it's Trentin marking Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN - Qhubeka) and Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin) ahead of the field behind.
All of those riders have now caught on w/ Lampaert and will help protect Alaphilippe from any time bonuses.
Tinkoff is being forced to do all the work in the bunch, even though Alaphilippe is the race leader. They need to bring this group back before the finish if Sagan is going to have a chance at the time bonus.
The road to Pasadena will also give some room to accelerate without the turns getting in the way.
It's still a thin margin for the breakaway as they head in for one lap to go.
Stijn Devolder (Trek) gave Cyclingnews his prediction for the stage: "Bunch sprint, yeah its going to be fast because they going to fight for the time bonus. I think Sagan will do that job today."
SmartStop's Travis McCabe predicted this before the start: "I think it is going to be Sagan and Cavendish. I think Sagan is going to take it. Alaphilippe has a hard race ahead of him. I see it as, and what the team sees it as too, is it is just going to come down to the time bonuses a small break will go up the road, Saxo will bring it up and it is going to be Cav and Sagan sprinting for the points. Maybe they will try to lead out Alaphilippe but that is a tall order to outsprint Sagan. I don't think Sagan is going to wait until the finish. It's going to make for a really exciting race today.
Normally on a stage like this, Etixx would be protecting Cavendish, waiting for the bunch sprint, but today Cavendish is in the domestique role taking care of Alaphilippe on these early laps, and his lead-out men are in the breakaway.
68km remaining from 96km
One lap to go of these circuits and 20" for the breakaway.
Drapac's Travis Meyer is hoping to finally get Dutch sprinter Wouter Wippert a win today.
"Obviously with Wouter Wippert we have a really good opportunity to win the stage. It's always going to be hard for him to beat Cav and Sagan but he's come pretty close a couple of times, so yeah that's definitely out plan.
"We've got a really good team here, we come here with the intent to win. Like we didn't come here just to make up numbers so with Graeme Brown and myself there is a bit of experience in the lead out. I think we've been doing a good job. It's hard to match Etixx in the final but I think we are really doing quite a good job."
Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) is chasing back after a flat. They've got one lap to go, then they'll be full flight to Pasadena.
The Rose Bowl has hosted the race on two other occasions, and Pasadena one more. The Rose Bowl was the site of George Hincapie's dramatic stage victory back in 2008. He was in the breakaway and in the finale reeled in Tom Zirbel and won the stage
In 2009, Italian Rinaldo Nocentini out-sprinted the remnants of the day's breakaway at the Rose Bowl to win the stage over Hayden Roulston and Pieter Weening.
The year Hincapie won, Michael Creed, now the SmartStop DS, was fourth and he's challenged his riders to better that result.
We won't see Zirbel in the move today, he's at the back already having trouble on a rise, Carson Miller (Jamis - Hagens Berman) is also losing touch.
At the end of a week of intense racing, a 105km stage is cruel. They're absolutely flat out and will be for around about 2:40.
The race is off of the start circuit and heading toward Pasadena. The breakaway are taking even turns, with South African champion Janse Van Rensburg on Pate's wheel.
UnitedHealthcare has put a man ahead of Tinkoff-Saxo to help control the break. They've been shut out of just about everything this week, and their GC man Jani Brajkovic wasn't quite able to keep up on Mt. Baldy yesterday. They'll want a go at a stage win or top three at least.
Tinkoff-Saxo are pulling so hard they've opened up a gap on Sagan. He has to be hurting big-time after his effort yesterday. He's already looking at his downtube where he'll be hallucinating an angry Oleg Tinkov face.
Sep Vanmarcke is needing a wheel change and will face a hard, hard chase back. The peloton is one long line as they scream over the LA River.
The longest stretch in between turns is only 1.9 miles, and the constant brake/acceleration/brake is really wearing on the riders. The breakaway is down to 15 seconds, but at the back gaps are forming all up and down the peloton.
60km remaining from 96km
The breakaway is down to just 10 seconds now with only 60km to go. The bonus sprint is coming at 45.5k to go.
59km to go and the peloton can see the breakaway - they've got a mile of straight road before the next turn. Tinkoff is reeeeeeeeling them in.
Matthew Busche (Trek) has a problem and had to stop for service.
Pate looks behind and sees the neon yellow train coming.
The peloton is being blessed by the priests of the Catholic church.
58km remaining from 96km
The breakaway are getting caught as they take a left onto Piedmont St. Zepunkte and one Etixx rider give up first, then the rest spread out and let new attacks form.
As soon as they are caught, a Sky rider attacks. The peloton, thinking they might have a second to catch their breath are wrong. Christian Knees says "SUFFER!!"
Knees is marked by a Tinkoff rider, Bennati perhaps. They aren't going anywhere.
The brief respite allowed Vanmarcke to make it back into the field.
Three riders are now dangling at the front but it's not going anywhere. It's just an Etixx rider, Knees, Bennati and Oss.
The roads aren't very good in parts of LA, and the rough surface has been causing a few punctures today.
A Jamis rider is up front looking to get in a move as they head downhill.
54km remaining from 96km
They're just about to enter Pasadena, but will have another 10km to get to the Rose Bowl circuits.
There's an attack by an Etixx rider marked by a Cannondale and Tinkoff rider. Sagan himself closes the gap.
Sagan comes to the front as if to say, "are you kidding me? Didn't you see what I did yesterday??"
Alaphilippe is right on Sagan's wheel with Cavendish nearby.
An attack comes from Nathan Earle (Sky) and a Trek rirder has latched on - but they're not getting much of a gap.
It was Van Poppel who went with Earle. Oss is up front waiting for the counter, which comes from Hincapie, but they're just really pulling the peloton.
That attack from Earle has split the peloton in two. He's now going again with a Cannondale rider.
As they head across a long bridge, there's a UHC rider bridging to the duo ahead.
It was Ben King on Earle's wheel, but it's all back together.
Sagan is on everything. Alaphilippe is stuck like glue to Sagan. The peloton is swarming now as they take the hard left onto Arroyo.
They've got a long sweeping ramp and then head onto the Rose Bowl circuit with Etixx, Hincapie, Sky pushing the pace. Sagan is having to do the work himself to stay in contention for the upcoming sprint.
It's Lampaert again - he's making Tinkoff really work for it.
50km remaining from 96km
They're just approaching 50km to go and have 4.5km to the sprint. Lampaert is coming back.
They're on the finishing circuits now but came in on the opposite side from the finish, so have most of one loop to do before reaching the line for the bonus seconds.
Tinkoff are in control with Sagan second wheel, Alaphilippe behind him, and Cavendish lurking a few wheels back.
Hincapie are staying in the mix today, one rider is looking for a companion but decides to wait.
Best to wait until after the sprint because Daniele Bennati isn't letting anything go.
Another Etixx attack goes.
This one looks like it might be Vandenbergh.
Tinkoff is lacking Mørkøv, who is sitting at the back perhaps saving his legs for the finale.
Vandenbergh is caught and another Etixx rider goes. Looks like Lampaert again.
It looks like an Etixx interval workout today, but Tinkoff is keeping the pace steadily high.
A double attack from Etixx goes on the left but Sagan is on the wheel - Bennati pulls off and leaves the defense to another rider.
Cavendish pops out for a peek.
Alaphilippe is on Sagan's wheel as Cavendish starts teh sprint. Sagan gets on him.
The sprint is flat out and it looks like Sagan might have pipped Cavendish - he shook his head in disbelief.
It was very close but it seems Cavendish might have gotten it. Alaphilippe rolled in for third, but Sagan will bring one second back on the Frenchman.
Now that that's behind them, an Optum rider attacks.
Looks like Phil Gaimon on the attack.
Nope, it's Gaimon's doppelganger Jesse Anthony. He's got a handful of seconds over a small chase group, but isn't pulling away.
Anthony keeps pushing and now a Novo Nordisk rider comes to the front to bring a group across. A break is starting to form.
A Cannondale rider, looks like King, has a Smartstop rider on his wheel, and nine total have a very slight gap on the bunch.
Now it's 12 riders up front as Sagan heads mid-pack to rest his legs.
Sky, Tinkoff, Etix, UHC, MTN, Optum, Hincapie are all represented up front.
Smartstop, Novo Nordisk, too. Now the two Hincapie riders light it up from that group and get a gap.
These two Hincapie riders are getting a decent gap as the rest are caught.
40km remaining from 96km
Eight laps to go, the peloton are stretched across the road letting the two Hincapie riders go free.
Their team sponsor George Hincapie is a former stage winner here and will be hoping his team can duplicate his result.
Back in the field, Sergio Henao (Sky) had a scare when he dropped his chain, and had to get a new bike. He'll have to chase but it's not flat out.
It's Joe Lewis and Oscar Clark up the road. A BMC rider attacks to go across.
An Optum rider is trying to get across to Manuel Senni (BMC). It's Anthony again.
Joe Lewis has dropped back to Oss and Anthony, then went straight back to the field. Clark is continuing. 10" to the field for him.
The race situation now for GC is Sagan 1" behind Alaphilippe.
Our mistake, Lewis and Clark (No expedition jokes here) are still in the move with Anthony and Senni.
Henao has gotten back in the field.
We think... the tie break is normally decided on the fractions of seconds in the TT, and Sagan is really less than a second behind Alaphilippe after taking that time bonus.
He only needs one second at the finish - if they finish Cavendish-Sagan-Alaphilippe as they did in the intermediate sprint, then Sagan wins the overall.
It would behoove Etixx to let this break of four stay to the line!
Tinkoff-Saxo are getting help from the teams who have not had success here yet: Jelly Belly, UnitedHealthcare - they want to bring it back for a sprint for Fred Rodriguez and John Murphy, respectively.
32km remaining from 96km
Still only 32km to go, and the quartet have only managed to pull out 20 seconds. They'll need a whole lot more than that to stay clear.
Six laps to go, and Drapac have put a man on the front of the field
The pace is much easier in the field - thankfully. They averaged 28mph so far.
A Jelly Belly rider pulls up next to Lachlan Morton, who wears the most aggressive jersey, and checks on him. He's good. Chilling at the back.
Up front in the peloton it's UHC, Drapac, Jamis and Tinkoff just ticking off the kilometers, 25" now for the four leaders.
@alexdecordoba Sun, 17th May 2015 18:59:32
Riders who were dropped on the way to Pasadena are being lapped - seems SmartStop's Travis McCabe and Martijn Verschoor (Novo Nordisk) were among them.
30" now for the four leaders who are continuing to work well together.
24km remaining from 96km
Just over 24km left in the Tour of California and the peloton have let the break get 30 seconds, but Tinkoff are amassing near the front to bring that down soon.
Up in the breakaway, it's Australian Joe who is taking the pull, not to be confused with American Joe, his teammate.
There used to be two Ben Kings in the peloton, both on the same team. One American, one Australian. Fortunately for the cycling world, the Australian decided to make our lives easier and leave the sport in 2013.
20km remaining from 96km
Just four laps to go now and the breakaway check back to the peloton's status - they've got 25 seconds still.
We're seeing an MTN-Qhubeka rider hear the front, perhaps it's Teklehaimanot - they'll want to mix it up in the sprint today.
Unfortunately for the other teams, Sagan is determined and is going to go full on for that final sprint. That means Cavendish will need to go even harder.
With those two locking horns, nobody else stands a chance.
Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) is rolling through just keeping the gap steady, taking turns with the Drapac rider.
17km remaining from 96km
Senni decides the break isn't working hard enough and attacks!
Senni is marked by Clarke, with Anthony trying to get across. He makes it but it takes Lewis a little longer.
Lewis isn't going to make it back on.
That effort is now costing Senni, because Anthony pushes the pace and Clark is struggling to stay on.
This is not going to help the breakaway at all. Anthony is trying to duplicate the effort of his teammate Tom Zirbel, who went solo back in 2008 for a long while before finally being reeled in on this same circuit in 2008.
15km remaining from 96km
Three laps to go - Anthony is now caught by Clarke and Senni, just.
Back in the field, the lead-out trains are beginning to form and the peloton getting organized into matching colors.
Somewhere, someone must have done some sort of mathematical modeling of a peloton in the final 10km of a bunch sprint stage.
Anthony attacks again.
Clark is pulling Senni back across. They've got 25 seconds still but look like they are working much, much harder to keep the gap steady than the peloton.
Looks like Jonny Clarke pulling off rather casually, letting the Drapac rider pull through.
13km remaining from 96km
Anthony was caught but Clark just kept on pushing, leaving the other two behind.
Now it's time for Jesus Hernandez to wobble off the front and let a Jamis rider pull through.
12km remaining from 96km
Senni and Anthony are about to be caught.
The pace is picking up now and UnitedHealthcare have two men on the front.
Just 10 seconds separates Clark from the peloton and it's going to be a bunch gallop. So far no sign of Etixx, they're back in the field keeping an eye on Sagan.
Of course just as we type that an Etixx rider attacks. It looks like Van Keirsbulck.
10km remaining from 96km
The Etixx rider catches Clark at the line with two laps to go.
Cannondale-Garmin are now at the front.
Two laps to go, and we're in for an all-Etixx attack fest/interval workout. The rest of the field are in for suffering.
The Etixx attack didn't stick, the pace is just too fast. They're at a 29mph average and way ahead of schedule.
The peloton is spread across the road, swarming like bees, while a futile attack from Cannondale with Hincapie in the move - try to get an advantage.
Four riders have nipped off the front - one Cannondale, one Hincapie, one Axeon and one Drapac methinks.
Scratch Drapac, it's Lasse Norman Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin), Dion Smith (Hincapie) and an Optum and Axeon rider, but they're caught.
UnitedHealthcare go back to the front, as do MTN, but another attack goes from Optum, Hincapie and UHC. This time MTN is chasing.
MTN are amassed at the front and reeled in the escapees, the Optum rider decides to take a big pull as they head in for one lap to go!!
Where is Sagan? Lotto is in there, but the race leader and challenger Sagan are tucked back 15 wheels.
MTN are washed away by Trek and BMC sweep around the outside.
4km remaining from 96km
There is nobody in control, Jelly Belly takes the lead for Fred Rodriguez.
Giant takes one side for Waeytens, with Trek on the other. Sagan and Alaphilippe are the eye of the hurricane.
Tinkoff have formed a wall behind Trek and MTN, and it's now getting more organized with 3.7km to go
BMC are sneaking in, as are Drapac, but there's movement on the left.
2km remaining from 96km
It's Greg Daniel who has a five second lead. Don't underestimate this one...
The week has worn on him, and he's about to be caught.
This stage is all about absolute power, not watts/kg - the strong men are on the front drilling it.
Trek have massed on the front.
Cav has Alaphilippe on his wheel, Sagan is further up.
Bennati is back up front.
One of the best sprinters in the world is now lead out man for Sagan. Trek goes on the left!
Sagan is going, Cavendish is coming.
Cavendish gets the speed and he's going!
Cavendish gets the stage win, but where is Sagan? A Drapac rider is in there.
Wippert is second again - and Farrar pushes into third! It looks like he JUST pipped Sagan.
We'll have to wait for the photo finish on this one, but it looked like Sagan missed it.
Sagan and Alaphilppe are both celebrating. Who wins the overall? Not sure yet.
Sagan seems to think he's won it, he's wheelie-ing all the way to the podium
Alaphilippe consoles his team, they've won the stage - five of them this week, and are second overall.
Wow, the bike throw was so close - Sagan threw it just in time and got the third-placed time bonus to win the overall!
Who would have thought that with a climb like Mt. Baldy that the race would be decided by 4mm? That's about how much Sagan got Farrar by.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx - Quick-Step 2:14:55
2 Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac 0:00:00
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:00
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:00:00
5 Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:00
6 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Jamis - Hagens Berman 0:00:00
7 Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:00
8 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk 0:00:00
9 Logan Owen (USA) Axeon Cycling Team 0:00:00
10 Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Team Novo Nordisk 0:00:00
Final general classification
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 28:13:12
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:03
3 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 0:00:37
4 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:14
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:15
6 Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) TrekRacing 0:01:16
7 Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky 0:01:23
8 Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) TrekRacing 0:01:24
9 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:44
10 Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 0:02:10
Top three on the stage: Cavendish, Wippert, Sagan
Top three overall: Sagan, Alaphillippe, Henao
Points jersey: Cavendish
Mountains jersey: Oss
Young rider: Alaphilippe
BMC goes away as the best team this week.
Congratulations to both Tinkoff and Etixx for an amazing week of racing. Hopefully Oleg Tinkov thinks that Sagan earned at least part of his salary with that performance!
Thanks for reading this week, don't forget we've got the rest of the Giro d'Italia with live coverage daily and many, many news items.
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