Photo from the official Amgen Tour of California website
Young Peter Sagan has won the first two stages of the Amgen Tour of California, but not without his share of trials and tribulations. A stage winner in last year's ToC, Sagan rode smart yesterday in the first stage, sticking toward the front of the peloton as much as he could, waiting for his chance to sprint for the final win. In the last miles of the race, he drew toward the front. Then disaster struck six miles from the finish line: A flat tire forced him to the side of the road, and someone from a team car jumped out and switched out his tire in under 20 seconds--which was just enough time for the entire peloton and all the team cars to roll past him. Frantically he pedaled, jumping in and out of the spaces between cars until, just moments before they all reached the line, he joined the peloton, somehow wove himself through all the traffic and sprinted across the line in first. Dang. Give that boy a beer--and you can, because he's over the legal drinking age--but at 22, just barely.
In today's stage, Sagan used yesterday's tactic of staying safe in the peloton. But in a bike race of this magnitude, no one is safe, and as Phil Liggett will say, you never know what you're going to find when you roll around a corner. Today, what Peter Sagan found was a pile up. A number of riders went down, and he found himself on the pavement, a bit shaken and appearing to favor his left arm. He sat on the ground for precious seconds, checking his collar bones for fractures and stretching out his arms and back. Finally, he was up and back on the bike. Credit his valiant team members from Liquigas Cannondale for keeping him rolling through the remainder of the race, then setting the pace so high in the last miles that no one could break away to sprint for the finish. They brought Peter home nicely, and he won Stage 2.
On another note: I cannot express how thrilled I was to hear Phil Liggett say today that George Hincapie is set to ride in the Tour de France in July. If all goes well, Hincapie will set a record as the first man to ride in 17 Tours de France. Oh my Buddha, George, that's awesome. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Just don't crash out in the ToC. Oh no, now I've jinxed you!
Last year's ToC winner, Chris Horner, is looking strong and confident. He is biding his time, of course, not trying to win stages right now, just keeping his overall time with that of the peloton. Soon, very soon, I think we'll see some action from Horner. Can't wait!