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Tour of California 2016: Stage 7

Welcome back to the coverage of the Amgen Tour of California. We're in Santa Rosa for stage 7 of the men's race.

Start list  |  Stage details

Welcome back to the Tour of California coverage of stage 7 of the men's race already in progress.

We're picking up the race just after the first sprint of the day. We had some action at the first KOM.

Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), after losing time in the TT yesterday, went on the attack. He knows these roads very well.

He is 2:02 down on GC but in a group with 13 other riders making time on race leader Julian Alaphilippe. Currently 45 seconds. Etixx missed the move and is controlling the peloton.

Also in the move is Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), and teammate Michael Gogl, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha)
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Toms Skujins (Cannondale), Stetina's teammate Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Caleb Fairly (Giant-Alpecin), Mike Teunissen (LottoNl-Jumbo), Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman), Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel) and KOM leader Evan Huffman and teammate Danny Pate (Rally Cycling)

Stetina's move is well-timed, as they have a very challenging section of climbs and rollers - they're heading up a 13% grade - the King Ridge Summit. It's a category 1 climb and there is no rest after it.

According to the tracker, Stetina's group is now threatening Alaphilippe's jersey - 2:00 gap.

Let's look back at GC from the start of today:

1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 24:26:46
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:16
3 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:38
4 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:47
5 Neilson Powless (USA) Axeon Hagens Berman 0:01:08
6 Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:01:17
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
8 Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:24
9 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:01:45
10 Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Team Katusha 0:01:48

The leaders are over the cat 1 climb, the gap coming down a little bit to 1:35.

Evan Huffman won the KOM, securing the KOM jersey. Good work by the Rally rider.

KOM 2 - King's Ridge (Cat 1)

1. Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling)
2. Toms Skujins (Cannondale)
3. Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman)
4. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
5. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

There's a herd of cattle at the top of the climb that keep trying to meander into the road. It's very narrow, twisty and bumpy on the route today - which favors riders familiar with the roads.

This third KOM is a nasty steep one.

A view from the King's Ridge, courtesy Pat Malach - there's actual cell signal up there.

Alaphilippe is attacking from the field, closing down the gap on the climb - they'll have some undulating climbs all across the ridge until they drop down to the river valley.

Word is that Laurnes ten Dam crashed, but is back up and riding. Tough luck for the Giant-Alpecin rider.

We apologize for the confusion - the roads are so twisty it's hard for the moto refs to get all the numbers. We're unsure on Wyss (58) who was listed, but it might be Rob Squire (158) who we know is in there.

Evan Huffman took the third KOM, further extending his lead.

KOM 3: Kings Ridge (Cat. 3)
1. Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling)
2. Toms Skujins (Cannondale)
3. Danny Pate (Rally Cycling)

Petr Vakoc (Etixx - Quick-Step) and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) have reportedly attacked on a very rough, narrow descent, from the peloton as the gap narrows to 20 seconds.

72km remaining from 146km

Also more confusion in the breakaway - Stetina isn't on our list from the officials, but the guys are certainly racing like he's up the road. Teklehaimanot is the next rider on GC at 5:06.

The yellow jersey group is half a minute behind the leaders as we pass the halfway point of the stage.

The leaders are blasting down this tricky descent, they will soon start another long climb that starts fairly steep - the Hauser Bridge summit.

So all along we've been assuming that Stetina's presence in the breakaway was motivating the chase. That's wrong - he wasn't up there at all. He apparently attacked from the field, but never made it to the move.

What we do know is that these roads are bumpy, narrow, constantly up and down and very taxing. Luckily the rain has held off otherwise it would be highly unpleasant.

 

What we also know is that this area is insanely beautiful - right now the riders are stuck deep in the forest and can't see anything but trees, and they're going to stay that way for quite a while. There's no cell signal and spotty satellite phone access, so communication with the race is challenging.

The trip up toward Hauser Bridge summit has decimated the leading group. Of the 14 only half are still there, the yellow jersey group is at 20 seconds.

Oof - steep! The breakaway is on the worst part of the climb, but that's not actually the classified bit. They roll up to an iron bridge then have 2.5km of solid climbing.

We'd forgotten about Rohan Dennis and Petr Vakoc. Reportedly they made their way to the lead group, but things are breaking up and changing constantly.

The leaders are passing by the back side of the lovely Salt Point State Park. If you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, you need to camp there (if you like that sort of thing). Bring your bike and explore the beautiful, low-traffic roads and then hit the wineries in the afternoon.

It was raining at the start this morning so the riders mostly hid on the buses, but we did manage to catch a few:

Cannondale's Lawson Craddock expected the racing to be difficult today:

"I think with how the race has played out so far it's going to be a really aggressive day. If we can add to that it would be great. We came into the week aiming for the top step of the podium and just the fact of how the race has played out hasn't changed that at all. We're racing to win today, and I think that goes for almost every other team out there as well."

Peter Stetina - who is NOT in the breakaway - was £!*%$%* nervous this morning, he said.

While he's from Boulder, Colorado, he currently splits his time between Santa Rosa and Girona, Spain, so was feeling pressure to get a result here.

"The form is where it needs to be and the legs are where they need to be. I’ve done everything right and I’ve got my game plan, but the wind is picking up and still have to perform and there’s some pressure. So it’s just nerves."

So Sagan took out the KOM in Hauser Bridge Road - that's impressive. They're bumping along the ridgeline now and the lead group has split into 5 in front, 20 seconds to that chase of 12.

Skujins had a puncture and missed out on the front group.

They yellow jersey is back in the peloton.

KOM 4 (Cat. 2)
1. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
2. Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing)
3. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
4. Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel)

Sorry, the yellow jersey is in the chasing group of 12 with teammate Vakoc, if our information is correct.

The one rider who's missed out so far is best young rider Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman)

Before the stage he spoke to Cyclingnews;

"I'd like to maintain fifth place, move up if possible but just try and stay safe. The roads could be wet if it's raining, so staying at the front and staying safe is the main priority."

His teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart has bridged across to the move, and was expecting this kind of aggression today.

"Yeah, it's kind of the home race for BMC and Stetina as well. A lot of guys know this race and a lot of guys don't, so that always makes it interesting when they know what's coming.

"I've ridden around here before, and it's a little more European roads, twisty, bumpy and more narrow than conventional American roads. That may catch some of the guys who don't know this area out, because we've had all week what you expect in America. Today's a little bit different. I don't think people quite know that's coming, so that will be interesting."

Looks like Bennett is out to make up for the time he lost in the TT yesterday.

56km remaining from 146km

The leaders have crossed up and over the Searidge summit, the fifth KOM of the stage. But there's no rest - it's a plateau of sorts.

KOM 5 (Cat. 3) Seaview Summit
George Bennett (LottoNl-Jumbo)
Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel)
Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman)
John Hornbeck (Holowesko-Citadel)

John Hornbeck (Holowesko-Citadel) made an impressive bridge from the peloton up to the leading group - so now it's six up front ahead of the 12-man yellow jersey group.

It seems that the 12-man chase evaporated, and has been incorporated into what's left of the peloton, with Powless, Huffman and the like.

If you were worrying about Laurens ten Dam, who crashed earlier, he's made it back into the peloton. We just hope he didn't crash on his face like he did one year at the Tour de France - that was a gruesome sight! But he's indestructable and keeps riding through no matter what.

Correction, it's Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) in the move.

Now we have two riders who are fairly high up on GC in there - Bennett at 1:45, and Megias at 3:19.

The wind is picking up along the coast, as the riders head past the Fort Ross Vineyard Tasting room, they will enjoy the shelter from the trees for a little bit longer.

As they begin to make their way up the last of the climbing for a while, the trees vanish into open grassland, and they'll feel the ocean breeze coming from their right.

It's a gnarly descent with pitches of 18% - they'll be down it in a flash!

It's interesting to see Sagan going on the attack on a stage that might suit him if he were simply to sit back and conserve energy.

But, the stage is so difficult, it's as hard to be at the front as it is to be suffering in the peloton.  And safer, too, with just six riders in the group.

They're on the descent, opening up distance a bit - 1:25 to the yellow jersey group. Good news for Bennett.

They'll come around a switchback and get a sweeping view of the ocean just ahead, as they twist and turn their way down to Jenner.

41km remaining from 146km

They're approaching the quaint town of Jenner, mostly filled with paddling outfitters and antique shops. They'll be through it quickly and then follow the same route as the women - a flat jaunt along the coast followed by a sprint and Coleman Valley Road - a nasty category 2 climb.

The gap to the peloton has fallen back to 1:05 as both are on the coastal road now. The gap will begin to fall fast now, and the team cars have been pulled out of the gap.

66km remaining from 146km

The breakaway is rolling through well together, but behind Direct Energie is helping Etixx with the chase. They want to get a stage win with Bryan Coquard. It's perfect for him.

The peloton is lined out behind Etixx and Direct Energie, crossing the bridge over the Russian River.

The leaders are on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful view - but they won't like this view: Peter Sagan attacking them.

63km remaining from 146km

Sagan can sense the peloton is chasing hard and he wants more out of his companions. Bennett is having to do the chase as he stands to benefit the most. Van Avermaet gets to sit on.

Neilands is struggling a bit at the back, and Van Avermaet isn't going to help him close the gap at all. Now it's Megias' turn to try to take the BMC rider out the back. It's backfired.

Van Avermaet jumps around and back to the chasing group, but Sagan has flown the coop.

Van Avermaet is playing games with the other four riders. He's outright refusing to work, if one rider opens a gap, he lets it get bigger then jumps around.

Squire is descending like a madman, and gets the admiration of Van Avermaet, who gets on his wheel and then finally takes a pull.

59km remaining from 146km

All this talk of rain has evaporated. It's lovely out there and green thanks to the rain earlier this month.

The leaders are hurtling along the coast highway, but Sagan is opening the gap to 20 seconds now.

At the very least, it looks like Sagan will take the sprint in Carmet Beach with 56km to go.

Sagan is in full TT mode, having not gotten enough with yesterday's 20.3k test - he's on a 60km individual time trial today - heading through the sprint to take 3 bonus seconds.

Looked like Megias and Van Avermaet took the rest of the sprint points.

Sagan is on Coleman Grade, climbing this nasty ascent out of the saddle. The rest of the chasers have just made the turn.

52km remaining from 146km

Sagan is on the 2.5km climb- it averages around 8 percent, but kicks up to 13%.

The women's race formed a star-studded group on this climb that eventually was caught on the approach to Santa Rosa, ending in a bunch sprint won by Marianne Vos.

Sagan is tearing up the script with this one.

Megias is being left behind from the chase.

Meanwhile Direct Energie continues to drive the peloton.

Bennett is being dropped from the chase with 1km to the KOM.

If Sagan could look behind him, he'd see a dizzying view of the ocean. But he's eyes fixed on the spot of tarmac in front of him. Pounding those pedals.

Rob Squre and Krists Neilands are the only chasers.

Sagan looks as if he's checking his front tyre for a puncture before setting off on the descent. It's OK.

51km remaining from 146km

Van Avermaet made his way back to the two young riders before the top. The peloton is reportedly back at two minutes now with Direct Energie setting the kind of tempo that Coquard can survive.

Samuel Sanchez attacks near the top of the climb.

An interesting move by BMC - do they believe that Sagan can pull this off and are sending Sanchez to help Van Avermaet chase him down?

At this moment, Bennett's gamble is not paying off. He's a minute ahead of the peloton.

Lawson Craddock attacks! He passes Bennett, who was soft-pedaling. But he found enough energy to jump on the American's wheel.

Craddock started the day 1:17 behind Alaphilippe.

This isn't the final stage, but it's probably the last stage for the GC men to make a difference, so they're trying their best to break Alaphilippe.

Direct Energie might be doing not only work for Coquard, but a little nationalism for their fellow Frenchman in yellow.

KOM 6 - Coleman Valley Rd (Cat 3)
1. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
2. Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel)
3. Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman)
4. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)

Sagan is out of sight, but not out of mind. The riders have radios and they know he's on the attack, but probably think it's bonkers.

He's 1:37 on the next group, however. That attack of Craddock is sparking a chase, they only have 15 seconds on the field.

45km remaining from 146km

The situation with 45k to go:

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

Chase 1 at 1:40

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman)
Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel)

Chase 2 at 1:45

Lawson Craddock (Cannondale) and George Bennett (LottoNl-Jumbo)

Peloton at 2:00

It looks very close to having just Sagan off the front, as the peloton starts to close in on the riders in no man's land.

Sagan has been awarded the most courageous jersey , so will end the race in blue tomorrow

Oops - someone seemed to go off-road on the descent.

We had another correction to the gaps, the trio chasing Sagan are closer than they appeared -1:15. So less threatened by the peloton but not exactly making up time on Sagan.

42km remaining from 146km

Sagan labors up one of the many irritating rollers on the way to Occidental. He's looking more pained than he previously did.

Thank you time board, Craddock and Bennett have joined up with the first chase, so corrections again!

41km remaining from 146km

Bennett might have made this group but it's costing him. He is pedaling squares.

Well we might have seen the trio going backwards - we just don't know. The time gaps are difficult to get from the race caravan.

Craddock is the most motivated of this group, he goes to the front on an incline and takes a big pull.

Why dont' we just halve the difference - 1:25 to the chase now as Katusha come to the fore in the peloton.

Could it be that Alexander Kristoff has survived all of those climbs and made this group? It seems so if Katusha is driving the pace. They've got little to show for the week's efforts and need to get a stage win.

Van Avermaet has taken up his familiar position at the back of the chase. He's under no obligation to work, as they want at the very last Bookwalter or Dennis to get time on Alaphilippe. But if the Belgian could take the stage win, more the better.

38km remaining from 146km

Taylor Shelden (Jelly Belly) crashed, but he's OK - he checks his bike and gets underway again.

Sagan is holding onto that 1:30 lead on the chasing five, and out of the saddle on one last little climb. He's past Occidental and onto wider roads.

Craddock is still pushing the pace behind.

It seems the polka dot jersey hash lost contact with the peloton. But he only needs to finish inside the time limit to keep the mountains classification. He's sealed the overall if he finishes tomorrow.

Sagan is over the top and on his favorite territory - downilling! He's tucked onto the top tube in that super aero position.

35km remaining from 146km

The peloton are matching his pace exactly, keeping the gap at two minutes, while the chasers are just not able to make a difference.

When they get on the flat roads, the final 30k of the race will be a different story.

33km remaining from 146km

The field is single file and surely they have whittled the gap down, but still the timer insists it's 1:55 to Sagan.

Sagan is still taking advantage of the descent to keep his lead.

The chasers are going to be caught soon.

The timer says the chasers still have 25 seconds on the field, but aren't making any ground on Sagan, who is sitting on the top tube again.

Oh dear, the peloton is in sight of the chasers.

29km remaining from 146km

Bennett looks back and he sees the Katusha train, and they all sit up. Bennett gives Craddock a pat on the back for trying.

Direct Energie now come forward to help the chase - they're single file along the open road. Skujins is having to chase back. A number of riders were either caught out or are making their way back as the race regroups.

27km remaining from 146km

BMC has three, as does Etixx, and Trek-Segafredo are all taking a back seat to the sprinter's teams now.

The gap has come down to 1:40 for Sagan as the road gets wider and wider as they head back into civilization.

Sagan is still looking strong and there's a good chance he can hold on to at least enter Santa Rosa alone. But does he realize there are three finishing laps?

24km remaining from 146km

The peloton's efforts are starting to pay off - 1:10 with the 25k to go sign behind them.

23km remaining from 146km

The Tinkoff car comes alongside Sagan and he looks back, realizing his effort is futile. He's definitely pulled the plug...

Direct Energie and Katusha are still pulling flat out, of course they have no idea their quarry has given up.

The cars have been pulled out of the gap. The catch is imminent.

Sagan continues to ride, but now the pressure is off in the bunch. I guess they're reading Cyclingnews and know that Sagan sat up for a moment.

The race is on a fairly rapid schedule - averaging around 40kph today, which is brisk considering the difficult climbing on course.

20km remaining from 146km

Sagan, for some inexplicable reason, is back in his aero tuck time trialing with 20k to go.

The peloton makes the turn onto W 3rd Street and they can see Sagan up ahead. He takes a last gel.

18km remaining from 146km

Finally, finally, Sagan is caught. I suppose he had a 40k time trial effort on his training schedule today.

The peloton breathes a sigh of relief as the race goes back to the script that it had before Sagan played 52-card pickup with it.

Katusha brings the race into Santa Rosa proper. They'l enter the circuit with 15k to go and then do three laps and change.

The pace might look easy, but it's 30mph, single file for most of the pack with Katusha, Direct Energie and Etixx well represented up front. UHC, Jelly Belly, Holowesko are bringing up the rear.

15km remaining from 146km

Alaphilippe is staying up front and out of trouble as they head onto the circuit.

There are 8 turns on the circuit, making it about 30 turns in the last 15km. Important to stay near the front.

The riders have to watch out for the cat-eyes, also known as Bott's Dots. They're named after Dr. Elbert Dysart Botts, a California Department of Transportation, if all you California cyclists would like to curse the memory of someone. 

Katusha are still leading but the peloton behind are showing signs of a slightly slower pace.

12km remaining from 146km

The peloton comes through for three laps to go, or 12k. Sagan moved up in the corners. Even after that effort we fully expect to see him contest for the stage win.

We're happy to report that Taylor Shelden made it back in and is at the back of the bunch, as did Skujins.

10km remaining from 146km

The peloton pass under the highway, snaking around downtown with 10k to go.

The race is reporting that the grupetto is so far back they won't get onto the circuit before the leaders finish.

Surely they won't time cut the entire grupetto?

In that grupetto is the KOM leader Evan Huffman. Ride faster so you don't get cut!

8km remaining from 146km

The peloton is stil led by Katusha coming in for two laps to go. No sign of any argy-bargy yet.

The circuit is flat, fast and wide open, but that last turn taken at sprint speed is a bit different than what they've seen so far. Don't take the inside line!

A LottoJumbo rider has attacked, is that George Bennett again? Did he not have enough today?

We're not sure who it was, but he's caught anyhow.

Etixx nailed that back, but in the chase he got a gap with a Katusha rider.

The neon of Tinkoff is visible about 10 riders back, will they organize for Sagan? Or maybe Oscar Gatto will have a go.

Kristoff is up there, sixth wheel as they look around, watching for competing trains.

BMC are forming for Van Avermaet perhaps. Direct Energie seems to have fallen apart.

Coquard is perfectly comfortable freelancing wheels, however.

Skujins is up with the Cannondale team after hanging at the back.

4km remaining from 146km

Sagan is just hanging out behind Cannondale, about 12th wheel, drinking from his bidon. Casual, like.

Axeon-Hagens Berman come forward for Logan Owen. Trek also are there for Stuyven.

Katusha seem unaccustomed to the criterium-like finale. They've lost control.

3km remaining from 146km

Katusha are starting to re-form but there's much more competition at the front. It's not strung out like before. Crash radar going off.

The poles in the inside of the turns are protected by hay bales just in case. A Sky rider elbows Sagan out of the way. What?

2km remaining from 146km

Sagan gave that guy a big push. Now it's finally lined out as Katusha pushes the pace.

1km remaining from 146km

One mile to go and Katusha are there, the Sky rider was pushed back but Degenkolb is there with Sagan!

BMC are up with one rider towing Van Avermaet.

Inside the 1k kite. Axeon takes the lead.

Kristoff going over the top in the turn, Sagan follows. 

Lots of bumping in the back of Katusha's train. It's opening up at 800m!

Katusha has the pace and Kristoff goes.

Sagan tries to come past him - what an effort after the long breakaway!

But he can't get him, the Norwegian gets it! Kristoff, Sagan and the Sky rider is Moscon in third.

A LottoNl-Jumbo rider slotted in for fourth.

Alaphilippe will do a big exaggerated PHEW sign of relief after that stage. Well done by the Etixx rider to survive a very taxing day.

Tomorrow's stage is little more than a procession for the sprinters.

We have to wonder if Sagan would have beaten Kristoff had he not been hammering himself into the ground for half the stage.

Coquard's freelancing didn't work out as he came through for fifth. 

Sagan made that so close! Unreal.It' was Van Poppel and Teunissen before Coquard, not Moscon. Stuyven, McCabe, Degenkolb, Roosen and Guerriero.

Nice to see Dutch cyclocrosser Mike Teunissen (Lotto) up there in the sprint.

Sagan has sealed the green jersey - they should just put his name on the back of it at the start of the race as a challenge for anyone to try and take it.

Stage 7 results:

1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
3 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
4 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
5 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
6 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7 Travis McCabe (USA) Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team
8 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
9 Timo Roosen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10 Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Axeon Hagens Berman

Alaphilippe will go into the final stage with a 16 second lead over Stetina. Although time bonuses could equal that, it's highly unlikely.

Alaphilippe is familiar with coming into final stages with narrow leads - he was three seconds ahead last year and lost it in the final sprint to Sagan's time bonus.

This year, that won't happen. Sagan is 20+ minutes behind.

Now that Levi Leipheimer has helped present the third placed rider on the podium, they bring out Sagan to a huge round of applause for the world champion. Kristoff also gets a warm welcome for the podium.

Leipheimer is back out for the winner - he's a big supporter of the race in Santa Rosa.

GC after stage 7

1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 28:46:38
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 00:00:16
3 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 00:00:38
4 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 00:00:47
5 Neilson Powless (USA) Axeon Hagens Berman 00:01:08
6 Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 00:01:17
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
8 Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:01:24
9 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:01:45
10 Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Team Katusha 00:01:48

Thanks for reading. Check back tomorrow for complete coverage of the final stage.

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