Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2016 Tour of California's opening stage in San Diego.
During today's stage you can submit questions via Twitter for Katusha's Alexander Kristoff. The speedy Norwegian will answer the questions tonight and we'll post them right here tomorrow during stage 2. Tag all of the questions for Kristoff with #AskAlex.
Today’s opening stage of the 2016 Tour of California starts and finishes at Sea World in San Diego. Riders will cover 175 km with two intermediate sprints and the category one climb of Honey Springs Road, which comes exactly halfway through the day. From there, the peloton will traverse a generally downhill run to the finish that should provide plenty of opportunity for any dropped sprinters to catch back on and set up the first bunch gallop of the race.
Riders are underway for a brief neutral roll out.
Riders are approaching the race start, and the 2016 Tour of California is just about to get underway.
The peloton is done with the neutral and the race has started. Expect a barrage of early attacks as riders try and form the early breakaway.
We've got a small breakaway group that has formed with a 25 second gap. The riders are:
Daniel Patten (TEAM WIGGINS)
Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare)
Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
Joonas Henttala (Novo Nordisk)
Danny Pate (Rally Cycling)
Michael Sheehan (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
Oscar Clark (Holowesko-Citadel)
Ted Burns, our man in the race caravan, says the gap has balloon to 2:30 as the riders approach a several hills leading to Balboa Park, where large crowds await,
There's some confusion about what's happening on the road, with repots coming in that the breakaway has been caught. But our reporter says he just watched the seven escapees ride by and they are definitely still away.
This is definitely going to be the group of the day, as the gap has now gone up past five minutes.
Katusha is now on the front of the peloton leading the chase. The Russian squad will be hoping to set up sprinter Alexander Kristoff for today's stage win and the first yellow jersey of the race.
Of today's breakaway riders, Pate is obviously the most experienced. The 37-year-old has been racing professionally for more than a dozen years, spending the past four with Team Sky before returning to the States with US Continental team Rally Cycling. He'd doubtlessly like to win today's stage and take the first overall lead, and he's got the time trailing skills and savvy to make a late solo flier work. The peloton may want to keep that in mind as the gap continues to go out.
Reports say the gap is over six minutes. The peloton must not have much faith in the power of today's breakaway, or will they stop the bleeding now?
Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis) is another breakaway rider with WorldTour experience. The 25-year-old American rode for Garmin in 2012 and 2013 but was hampered by iliac artery endofibrosis, the same problem that plagued Joe Dombrowski for years. Rathe got surgery to correct the issue last year and has been steadily finding his old form.
We're 30 kilometres into the race and the gap is holding around six minutes. Dimension data has thrown a rider into the chase to help Katusha.
If you have any questions for Alexander Kristoff, post them on Twitter with the hashtag #AskAlex. We'll forward them along and have the answers for you tomorrow.
Cyclingnews photographer Jonathan Devich says a motorcycle police officer just went down in one of the roadbauts on the course, but he appears to be OK, thankfully.
The race is at the south end of San Diego Bay and can see the city across the water. This urban exit out of the city must be stressful on the peloton.
1 km to first sprint in Imperial Beach, where another big crowd awaits.
Results from the first intermediate sprint are in, and it looks like Jelly Belly put their superior numbers to work:
1. Michael Sheehan (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
2. Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare)
3. Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
128km remaining from 170km
The peloton is heading east now and getting hit by a crosswind. Will we see any echelons today?
Points for today's two intermediate sprint are 3, 2, 1 for the first three across the line. The next sprint comes when the peloton hits Navajo Road 140.5km into the stage.
Direct Energie sprinter Bryan Coquard suffered a flat tire but has made it back into the group.
Coquard is coming off an exceptional 4 Days of Dunkirk, where he won overall after taking the first three stages and finishing second on stages 4 and 5.
The gap has come down to 5:55, and Peter Sagan has dropped back to get a new front wheel.
Sagan has made the most of his appearances at the Tour of California, winning the overall last year and holding the record for most stage wins at 13.
The World Champion said this week that he doesn't really expect to contend for the overall this year, but he didn't expect it last year either. Read more of Sagan's pre-race comments here.
Making the breakaway today must not have been a high priority for the WorldTour teams. Today's makeup includes five Continental riders from Jelly Belly, Holowesko-Citadel, Team WIGGINS and Rally. The other two riders are from Pro Continental teams Novo Nordisk and UnitedHealthcare.
Sagan has made it back to the bunch after getting a new tire.
The breakaway, meanwhile, is benefiting from a tailwind as the race heads out of San Diego and into a more rural landscape.
It looks like the peloton believes they've let out enough leash for the breakaway, as the gap has come down to 5:15 60.5km into the stage.
The race is passing Lower Otay Reservoir.
Riders will be getting ready for lunch soon, with the feed zone approaching at 76.5km. Soon after, the peloton will start the climb up Honey Springs Road, a 9.5km ascent that averages 5.5 percent gradient.
Etixx-QuickStep's Martin Velits is the next rider to suffer a flat. But he's got a wheel change and is chasing back on.
The gap is holding just above five minutes as the race reaches the feed zone. It's lunchtime for the riders, but also time to start climbing.
If you missed today's action at the Giro d'Italia, Primoz Roglic (Team LottoNl-Jumbo) took a surprise win in the stage 9 time trial after a heavy rain shower hampered the chances of the overall contenders.
Roglic won by 10 seconds over Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) and 17 seconds over Vegard Stake Laengen, also of IAM Cycling. Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) was fourth, 28 seconds down.
As the peloton makes its way up Honey Springs Road, it's interesting to note that 2013 Vuelta a Espana champion and 2011 Tour of California winner Chris Horner, who lives part of the year in San Diego, holds the Strava record on the climb at 25:59.
Horner rides for Lupus Racing this year, but the US Continental team did not get an invitation to the race.
Cyclingnews reporter Ted Burns says the Honey Springs climb is a beautiful two-lane road with massive Boulders in the hillsides along the route. The climb really kicks up at 81km.
The breakaway is 5km from the first KOM, and the gap is down below five minutes now at 4:25. Katusha is still leading the chase back in the field.
Pate would obviously like to come away from today with a jersey, and he's got a good turn of speed for the KOM sprint, but so does Holowesko's Oscar Clark. This should be a good one.
US rider Kiel Reijnen is returning tot he US this week after his first European campaign with his new team, Trek-Segfredo.
This is the fifth Tour of California Reijnen, who signed with the WorldTour team after three years on the Pro Continental level with UnitedHealthcare.
Reijnen likens the Tour of California to a family reunion where he is surrounded by by old friends and the familiar amenities of American life. He returns to the US peloton with a different kind of fitness and bigger goals.
You can read more about Reijnen and watch a video interview here.
In other Tour of California rider news, Gant-Alpecin's Caleb Fairly has decided to retire after this week's race.
Fairly, who is expecting the birth of his first child later this year, came to the decision after discussing with his family.
“The past 10 years spent racing bikes has been an incredible journey,” Fairly said. “I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to race my bike at the highest level of the sport. I will end this chapter of my time in cycling far richer for the incredible people I’ve gotten to know and work with. A huge thank-you to all my teammates and every staff member who joined me along the way. You are the ones who made this journey so amazing."
Results from the day's only KOM are in, and it's Clark, Rathe and Pate, in that order. Looks like Oscar Clark will be wearing the race's first mountain leader's jersey tonight.
Mark Cavendish apparently was dropped on the category 1 climb but has regained contact with the main field.
Cyclingnews spoke with Giant-Alpecin's Laurens ten Dam this morning at the start. The Dutch rider sai he expects a spent today.
"It will be fast in the final. The climb is too far from the finish, it's just to get the legs going today."
Asked about his role in setting up the sprint, Ten Dam just laughed.
"No, we have a lot of other big powerhouses with us, I just follow the train."
Katusha continues to power the chase, holding the escapees around 4:30 as they approach 100km ridden.
We're getting word the gap is down to 3:45. The chase is on in earnest now, and the breakaway riders will start feeling the pressure with another 70km to ride.
the gap continues to come down and is 2:55 now.
Direct Energie's Antoine Duchesne told Cyclingnews before the start that he also exects a sprint finish today. He'll be riding for Bryan Coquard.
"I think it's going to be a sprint day, we came here for that. We are a good team around Bryan, so our main goal is to go get those sprints, but we have a good team around the GC, too, with our two good climbers. But today all of our eggs are with Bryan."
Another Pro Continental team will be hunting today's stage win, as UnitedHealthcare hopes to set up John Murphy.
"Unitedhealthcare team is super motivated for today's sprint. Stage 1 we've been looking at for a long time, and I hope to deliver. There are not too many sprint opportunities and today looks like one of the main ones."
Don't forget to submit your questions on Twitter for Alexander Kristoff. Tag them #AskAlex, and we'll get you an answer during tomorrow's stage.
Katusha obviously has a lot of confidence in Kristoff's chances today. The Russian team is still hammering on the front, with Cavendish's Dimension data team lined up behind them. The gap is currently at two minutes.
@TheRaceRadio Sun, 15th May 2016 21:33:24
2014 Tour of California winner Bradley Wiggins is at the race this year with Team WIGGINS. Rider Owain Doull spoke with Cyclingnews' Ted Burns this morning about what he expects today.
"It's fairly flat, so we'll try to get somebody in the break. I think then I'll probably have a crack at the finish and see what happens."
Jelly Belly managed to put two riders in the breakaway today, and Cyclingnews spoke with the team's Chris Putt this morning about what he expects today.
"Good crowds, pretty happy with how the temperature weather turned out. Being in SoCal in May, it can always be really hot. The fact that it's a little bit cooler makes it easier on everyone. I think it should come down to a sprint with so many [WorldTour] teams here and the sprinters they brought as well, but anything can happen out there on the road."
Cyclingnews also spoke this morning with 2015 Tour of Utah stage winner and recent U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege champ Logan Owen, who said he expects the opening stage to be one of the easier days this week.
"It's gonna be semi-hard, one of the easier ones of the week, I'm hoping we can mix it up in the finish today. I'm not much of a big field sprinter so we are just going to ride the wheels. I think out team is better for the harder, hillier days that will come into a group sprint, where myself, Ruben Guerreiro and a couple of the other guys can really mix it up."
@AmgenTOC Sun, 15th May 2016 21:54:00
45km remaining from 170km
The race is approaching the second and final intermediate sprint of the day, which riders will see with 34.5km to go. The gap is holding at 2:30.
@sweide Sun, 15th May 2016 21:55:30
After finishing fourth in today's stage 9 time trial at the Giro d'Italia, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) decided to abandon the race. Read more about Cancellara's decision here.
Katusha and Dimension Data are still taking control of the chase, but Etixx-QuickStep have moved up several riders to add to the horsepower.
Dimension Data's Matthew Brammeier is taking a pull on the front now. The last time the Irish rider raced n the US he was involved in a frightening crashed where he slammed broadside into a team car while descending off a climb at the Tour of Utah. It's good to see him back in the States and riding well.
@teamnovonordisk Sun, 15th May 2016 22:10:42
The breakaway just crossed the second intermediate sprint, where Sheehan won again to secure the points jersey and earn six seconds in time bonuses.
Rathe has attacked the breakaway. Clark and Patten are have bridged to form a lead group of three. Pate, Sheehan, Eaton and Henttala have fallen back to the bunch.
@felixmattis Sun, 15th May 2016 22:35:16
The three leaders have passed 20km to go. It's looking like the field sprint could be a done deal.
Rathe, Patten and Clark have a lead of just 25 seconds with 10km to go. The sprinters' teams will be getting itchy as the breakaway is now in sight.
The breakaway is done, and with 2km to go Tinkoff has come to the front for Sagan
Tinkoff are on the left hand side of the road, with Katusha brining up the left. 1k to go.
Sagan take the sprint!! His 14th stage win at the Tour of California.
Today's top 10:
Stage 1 Brief Results
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 4:20:41
2 Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
4 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
5 Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Team Novo Nordisk
6 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7 Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Axeon Hagens Berman
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step
9 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
10 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team
Dylan Groenewegen is on the podium now with his prize, a Shamu plushie!.
That's it for today's stage. What a finish by Sagan.
Tomorrow will see the riders tackle148.5km from South Pasadena to Santa Clarita. The stage offers plenty of climbing opportunities, with four categorised climbs, including a single cat 1 climb and three cat 2s. Another generally downhill run into Santa Clarita could favour the sprinters who can make it over the climbs, or it may see the first successful breakaway of the week.
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