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Tour of California 2018: Stage 3


Good morning and welcome to the third stage of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California! Riders are about to get underway for the longest stage of the race, a 197km journey north to the Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey.

It's a bit overcast this morning and temperate at 16•C - but it will be typical sunny California weather later on in the stage.

King City is a first time host of the race - this small town in the middle of a productive agricultural area is known as the hometown of famous author John Steinbeck's father.

Riders will have 3.7km of neutral riding before they head out for a big lap east of King City.

Here's a reminder of the GC after the Gibraltar Road summit finish on stage 2:

1 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 7:16:13
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:25
3 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:31
4 Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:40
5 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates
6 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
7 Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:01:00
9 Edward Ravasi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:09
10 Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:11

With 197km on tap today, EF-Drapac's Logan Owen is expecting a real battle to be in the breakaway:

"If I’m on a good day, but I think it will be a day for the breakaway really.

196km remaining from 197km

Huffman is the best placed of the three on GC, but is a distant 14:34 from Bernal.

7km remaining from 197km

The riders head down to San Lucas then east on 198 to CA 25, where they make their way northeast to Bitterwater, where they'll have the first sprint of the day at km 64.

13km remaining from 197km

182km remaining from 197km

Again, none of these riders are a GC threat, but Companioni will be looking to unseat Bernal as KOM leader. There is a Cat. 3 climb on King City Rd at km. 66 today, and the East Carmel Grade (Cat. 2) after 143.5km.

178km remaining from 197km

177km remaining from 197km

174km remaining from 197km

There's a new group trying to get away from the clutches of the peloton - five riders including Companioni - who's determined to get that KOM jersey. If he gets it, he can keep it through stage 6.

Meanwhile, back in the peloton, Sky can probably count on Bora-Hansgrohe to control the breakaway.

167km remaining from 197km

Spoiler alert: If you haven't watched the Giro d'Italia stage yet, look away.

You can find the Giro d'Italia stage results and report, with a full photo gallery and video highlights here.

161km remaining from 197km

157km remaining from 197km


Evan Huffman, of course, won two stages of the Tour of California last year. But Carpenter also has a good relationship with the race. In addition to being in several breakaways, he wore the best young rider's jersey in 2015.

Bora-Hansgrohe are indeed taking control of the pace in the peloton, hoping to set up Sagan for the win.

We love to hear from the fans who get to interact with their favourite riders at the stage starts and finishes. It's the beauty of the sport!

141km remaining from 197km

Back to the Tour of California, the second stage was a big one for the overall - you can see the highlight reel from Monday's stage here.

137km remaining from 197km

The gap has fallen somewhat as the leaders approached the intermediate sprint - it's down to 4:45, a fairly reasonable gap for the peloton to close on this longest stage of the Tour of California.

133km remaining from 197km

131km remaining from 197km

From the profile, it looks like it's a descent back to King City, but it's so gentle that it's going to take a lot of effort for the trio out front to get down - it's no coasting affair. Luckily the usual easterly breeze is quite light today and they don't have to deal with much of a headwind.

Pat spoke to Rally DS Jonas Carney before the start - let's see how his predictions have panned out so far:

The peloton is heading down back toward King City, the Salinas Valley in the distance. The farms below grow strawberries, greens and vegetables. They were hit extremely hard by recent drought, despite modern resevoirs and irrigation, but have bounced back.

Steinbeck also wrote about the mountains on either side of the Salinas Valley - the Gabilan Mountains that the leaders are descending from "full of sun and loveliness, and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother".

The riders have left King City and headed out onto the route to Monterey, paralleling the Salinas River toward the airport in Metz before turning west to Greenfield for the second intermediate sprint, which comes 107.5km into the stage.

102km remaining from 197km

Oof this valley sure is tough on the trio up front - their gap is coming down fast now to 3:45 at the feedzone. But maybe the peloton are just really hungry and once they put their muzzles in the feed bags they'll slow down.

The Amgen Women's Race begins on Thursday - read our preview and let us know in the comments if you think this is progress for the women's peloton or not.

94km remaining from 197km

As the leaders turn onto Elm to head to the sprint, they encounter a stretch of quite rough pavement. Let's hope the peloton get over it safely.

Our reporter Pat Malach asked Axeon DS Jeff Louder if it was a mistake for the peloton to give this trio so much time. "The peloton has it under control, although I hope it’s a mistake," he said.

With that said, the gap is down to 3:50 now that Quick-Step Floors has decided to help with the chase.

Sprint 2: Greenfield

1. Ian Garrison (Axeon Hagens Berman)
2. Evan Huffman (Rally)
3. Robin Carpenter (Rally)

Now that the Quick-Step team have taken up the reins, they're clicking off about 10s per kilometer of the leaders' advantage. The gap will continue to fall steadily for now, but with a KOM at km 143.5, things will get trickier for both ends of the race.

89km remaining from 197km


82km remaining from 197km

As you can see from the view out of the media car, there are vineyards all along this stretch and a gentle gradient.

A bit about our breakaway riders: Ian Garrison (Axeon) is the youngest of the three, only in his second year out of the juniors. He won a stage at the Tour de Beauce last year and was second in the U23 Gent-Wevelgem.

He was also the bronze medalist in the 2016 world championship time trial in the juniors.

Robin Carpenter raced five years with the Hincapie/Holowesko team before moving to Rally this year. He was one of the Holowesko team's brightest talents, taking out the win in the 2016 Tour of Alberta, stages at the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge.

He and teammate Huffman are fixtures in the breakaways in this race.

Huffman is also a past Tour of Alberta winner, taking last year's edition. He won the stage to Santa Clarita last year from a breakaway and then repeated that feat in Pasadena on the final stage.

67km remaining from 197km

The leaders will want to get to the Laureles Grade summit if Huffman is going to take the KOM jersey. Right now the peloton isn't interested in catching them. The gap is actually going out some to 2:55.

Huffman will of course need to take all of the next three mountain sprints to overtake Bernal. He has three points, and needs another 13.

The roads are quite undulating and rural, with trees blocking the wind on either side of the road, and a tall mountain towering to the peloton's left.

63km remaining from 197km

It's interesting to note that the Rally riders have custom painted Diamondback frames, with Huffman on a bubblegum pink one that is a "classic cruiser" theme, and Carpenter on one that is green and blue, a "hip hop theme". All of the bikes are being auctioned off to benefit the UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation this week.

You can actually win the very bikes that Carpenter, Huffman and their teammates are on - just go here to bid.

Back in the peloton, Alexander Kristoff is moving up as behind, the back of the bunch spreads out. With the gap right at 2 minutes, there is no need to rush into catching the leaders.

58km remaining from 197km

Riding up alongside Bernal we see Belgian champion Oliver Naesen. The AG2R rider was sensational in the Classics, if not a bit unlucky. He missed a major podium this spring, but scored third at the Eschborn-Frankfurt. You may see him going for the stage today.

Juraj Sagan's work is done - he's heading back to the team cars as the peloton grinds up this 4km-long climb

55km remaining from 197km

The max gradient of this climb is over 10 percent. Craddock lost 10 minutes yesterday on Gibraltar so the peloton is not concerned.

Up ahead, Carpenter has been distanced from the breakaway, leaving Garrison and Huffman up the road.

There's no fight from Garrison for the KOM, he's letting Huffman take the lead and get the points.

Craddock has had a rough couple of years, so it's good to see him getting out there again. He struggled with overtraining and had to take a few long breaks to get back to full strength. It's a vicious cycle that can hit riders - you start underperforming and think training harder is the answer, when you're really just digging a hole that's getting deeper and deeper.

53km remaining from 197km

That gives Huffman 8 points - and 25km before the next category 2 climb where there are five more points on offer.

This time over the top, there is a proper descent, although most of it is shallow enough that pedaling is required.

The situation as it stands after that climb:
Ian Garrison (Axeon Hagens Berman) and Evan Huffman (Rally)

The two leaders are speeding along in the dappled shade of the dense green-tinged canyon, still looking quite strong.

Carpenter is losing ground fairly steadily now, and in due course he will be joined by Craddock. The peloton is negotiating a series of tight twists and bends further back - the gap bouncing between 2:40 and 3:00 depending on how well the GPS signal is getting out of the canyon, we suspect.

46km remaining from 197km

45km remaining from 197km

The roads en route to the next KOM are by no means easy. The pace has come down and the effort level gone up in particular for Craddock, who is trying to get to the duo ahead.

43km remaining from 197km

41km remaining from 197km

That's too bad for Huffman - he got his chain stuck between his small ring and the frame, the mechanic freed it and got him going again, but that's not a good situation for the breakaway.

That mechanical cost Huffman 45 seconds, and he'll surely be caught by Craddock. But the peloton - just 2 minutes behind Garrison, are looming.

The points are 5-4-3-1 for the category 2 climbs in this race, so Garrison has 6 points, Huffman has 8 points. If Garrison can stay away for the next two climbs and take the 10 points, he will be in the KOM jersey tonight.

31km remaining from 197km

The last time the race came to Laguna Seca, the race came up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway. Mark Cavendish was in a breakaway of seven that had 3:25 with 35km to go but blamed the camera motorbikes for helping the peloton chase them down.

29km remaining from 197km

29km remaining from 197km

It's all Quick-Step all the time now in the chase, as Garrison continues to hold his lead and Huffman is caught. Still no sign of the peloton behind the Axeon rider.

We're hearing there's been a crash for Fernando Gaviria. He's at the back.

It was a nearly-crash - either Gaviria's legs or his gears locked up and he was saved by the very astute Iljo Keisse, who gave him enough of a push to keep from falling.

We've had an attack from the peloton - which hadn't yet caught Huffman. An EF-Drapac rider and a Katusha rider have leapt out of the bunch.

Cavendish has been dropped.

29km remaining from 197km

With that new blood in the attack, Garrison has been caught and now Huffman is in with a chance.

Oh but this hurts - 500m to go to the top.

Skujins in the lead on a brief respite, then Owen takes over.

Huffman gets to the front and empties the last of the energy out of his searing quads.

Oh but Skujins goes to the front  and steals the points - it's not clear if Huffman took second but Garrison is dropped for good.

That was pretty heartless by Skujins, but at least he waited up for Huffman and Owen to join him. The new trio have 30 seconds on the bunch.

27km remaining from 197km

This is a proper descent and Huffman is not showing prowess. He's overcooked a bend and had to brake too hard. Garrison is getting back on to Huffman, but Owen and Skujins have flown the coop.

It's white knuckles on this descent, which is far more technical than most expected. Huffman is showing his nerves, and has lost contact completely.

It happens to the best of them - Skujins himself has had dramatic get-offs in this race. But Huffman has really lost the plot.

Skujins and Owen are just ahead of Garrison, but Huffman is long lost.

Maybe Huffman will be happy to auction off this bike after the race...

22km remaining from 197km

21km remaining from 197km

20km remaining from 197km

Quick-Step Floors is keeping it at status quo as the steadier pace has allowed some riders to catch back onto the peloton.

Caleb Ewan is there, as Mitchelton-Scott begin to come forward to help with the chase.

Mark Cavendish has made it back on, he's trying to loosen up his legs at the back, followed by Daniel Oss who is saving his energy for the finale.

I see the Swiss champion jersey of Silvan Dillier in this bunch. He's one to watch perhaps, the finale suits his characteristics.

13km remaining from 197km

Skujins is still up the road solo but Garrison and Owen have been caught by the bunch.

12km remaining from 197km

It's such a wide open grind on this highway - and a long stage.

The leaders are pressing on ahead - Garrison has found new energy to go for that jersey. Skujins gets on, but Owen is dropped. The UAE rider can't make it.

11km remaining from 197km

10km remaining from 197km

Bora's Poljanski sets a vicious tempo at the front as Skujins and Bennett have opened up a 25 second gap

10km remaining from 197km

The peloton is lined out single file behind Poljanski, far more suffering at the back than in the Sky train behind him.

Skujins is drilling it - he believes in his chances, and rightly so. He's done it before.

Sagan is tucked in the middle of the peloton, not at the pointy end. Mezgec is still in the mix.

Now, it's a fast low-tuck descent for Bennett and Skujins, who are emulating Sagan here trying to eke out every second they can. But it's clearly breezy and they've got some wobbles.

7km remaining from 197km

He gets a new bike rather than wheel as he has disc brakes, and the changes are slower.

Quick-Step Floors have other options for the sprint today - Richeze is fast, as is Hodeg. 

It almost looks as if there might have been a crash, the peloton looks smaller than it was. 

Sky are inexplicably leading the chase as the two leaders turn into the Laguna Seca complex. 

No luck for Gaviria - he's got some cars ahead but that climb won't help him one bit.

Skujins and Bennett are continuing to believe in their chances, but we have an attack from Tolhoek

Dillier is bringing the bunch back up to Tolhoek and his two companions, and they have the leaders in sight.

3km remaining from 197km

Dillier and Tolhoek are still at the front, meanwhile Sagan is tacked onto the back of the group but still on.

The two leaders head through the gates into the raceway complex

There's a surge from Sky from the back.

They're on the track! Bennett leads Skujins and the peloton can just see them.

It's a Lotto and Sky rider with a slight gap trying to chase.

Katusha reels them back, but they stall and let the duo hang on.

It's corkscrew time!

Skujins and Bennett are muscling up with a 100m gap to the chasers. Sagan has moved to second wheel, Bernal glued to him

Skujins has left Bennett behind.

Looking like Nicky Hayden a decade ago, Skujins tucks low and speeds down the descent.

A dust storm blows across the track.

Skujins has the lead at turn 11!

He can't believe it!

A third career stage win for the Latvian!

Bennett kicks himself because he lost faith. Ewan leads the bunch across.

It's Skujins' third win of his career in this race and done very much in the manner of his first victory in San Jose

1 Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 4:52:47
2 Sean Bennett (USA) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:03
3 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:08
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
6 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
7 Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
8 Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension Data
9 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
10 Will Barta (USA) Hagens Berman Axeon

General classification after stage 3

1 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 12:09:08
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:25
3 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:31
4 Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:40
5 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates
6 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
7 Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:01
9 Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo 0:01
10 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:01

Toms Skujins certainly earned his cookies with that effort. You have to wonder about Bennett, however. He seemed to give up on the corkscrew when the peloton got so close. 

Skujins last year had that horrible crash that was captured on video and played over and over again online and TV. But this time he's intact, victorious and overjoyed to stand atop the podium again.

Skujins says his first win in California was still the most special because he was an unknown and he also got the race lead that day.

In that hotly contested polka dot jersey competition, Skujins is second with 13 points, two behind Bernal and tied with Majka.

Ewan admits there was a lot of cat and mouse in the bunch that messed up the chase.

Garrison was given the most courageous rider award.

Thank you for following the Tour of California stage live with Cyclingnews! Tune in here again tomorrow for start-to-finish coverage of both the Giro d'Italia and Tour of California.

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