Team Katusha's Kristoff Takes Third Place Prize. World-class Cyclists Will Be Tested Tomorrow in Queen Stage from Thousand Oaks to Race’s First Summit Finish on Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County
SANTA CLARITA, CALIF. (May 16, 2016) – Stage 2 of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California presented by AEG seemed likely to end with a shootout featuring riders known for sprint finishes, but instead was claimed by Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s super domestique and breakaway specialist Ben King (Charlottesville, Virginia), a 2010 U.S. National Champion, just besting Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman (Elk Grove, Calif.) to move into the overall lead.
The peloton of 144 world-class riders took off from South Pasadena just after noon today for a 92.3-mile twisting, turning up- and downhill ride to Santa Clarita. But bearing down on the finish line, it came down to a battle of just two U.S. riders who had spent most of the day out ahead of the field.
“I knew Evan was a pretty quick sprinter. He smoked me in both of the King of the Mountain sprints, so I was hesitant to let it come down to a sprint,” said King. “I couldn’t drop him on the climb, so in the end we both fully committed to make the breakaway stick to the finish, and in the end, Evan let out the sprint, and I was able to come around him in the finish.”
After several attempts to get a breakaway going, finally a group of four that also contained Team Giant-Alpecin’s Sindre Skjoestad Lunke (NOR) and another U.S. rider Axeon Hagens Berman’s Will Barta (Boise, Idaho), the second youngest rider in the race at 20, made it clear from the field more than an hour into the race.
The breakaway group containing King, who is coming back from a broken fibula after a January fall, had racked up a 7.5-minute lead over peloton by mid-race. The peloton started reeling them back on the decent of the second of four KOMs in the Angeles National Forest, where speeds reached upwards of 50 mph. Lunke was the first to be absorbed by the field.
With about 15 miles to go, Barta suffered a flat tire but had the wherewithal to get back to the breakaway after a tire change. He fell back with about five minutes to go but remained in the chase group, which came in seconds behind today’s stage leaders, landing him the Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey as well as sixth place overall.
“We were rolling all day, then at the end, that incident happened [flat tire]; I just tried to stay calm and get back in a good amount of time,” said Barta. “The gap wasn’t huge then, so was just trying to do that with the least amount of work, but get back quickly.”
With 10 miles left to ride, Team KATUSHA led the chase to catch the four leaders, angling to position their star sprinter Alexander Kristoff (NOR), and bringing the gap down to less than two minutes. Race leader and World Champion Peter Sagan (SVK) of Tinkoff rode in the main chase group wearing the yellow jersey he earned yesterday in San Diego, as did Team Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb (GER) and Trek-Segafredo’s Santa Rosa-based rider Peter Stetina, both of whom are coming back from career-threatening injuries themselves.
However, the two remaining in the breakaway were able to hold their lead, which stood at 20 seconds on the chase group and one minute on the field with one mile left to ride. With the finish in sight, the Rally rider attacked first, only to be overtaken in the final meters. King, at age 27, is the first U.S. rider to win a stage at the Amgen Tour of California since BMC Racing Team’s Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.) took Stage 5 in 2014.
Still in the wings, Kristoff rode across the finish in third place for today’s stage. Huffman earned the Lexus King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey on the hilly route, a good warm-up for the cyclists who must face the infamous Gibraltar Road at the close of tomorrow’s stage.
Celebrating its 11th year, the Amgen Tour of California is the most esteemed stage race in the U.S. Amgen has been the title sponsor of the race since its first year.
“At Amgen, we are passionate about serving patients, and we have reached millions of people with our medicines over the past 36 years,” said Raymond C. Jordan, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Amgen. “We are grateful that our sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California has given us another platform to educate so many people, not just in California but nationwide, about important resources available through our Breakaway from Cancer program.”
Breakaway from Cancer®, created by Amgen in 2005, is a national initiative to raise awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention to survivorship. The Breakaway from Cancer® four nonprofit partner organizations – Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community, Patient Advocate Foundation and National Coalition for Survivorship – offer a broad range of services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals.
As part of today’s race activities, cancer survivor Jim Hodge, Pasadena, Calif. joined the official start activities and cancer survivor Nancy Eckels of Santa Clarita, Calif. had the honor of awarding Will Barta the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
For more information about Breakaway from Cancer, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.
Tues., May 17 – Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County (104.1 miles)
Start Time: 11:15 a.m. PDT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:45 p.m. PDT
Amgen Tour of California fans can catch the action daily with live coverage of the race on NBC Sports Network (live conclusion on NBC on May 22), follow along on the Microsoft Tour Tracker App for mobile and desktop, and connect with the race through all of their favorite social media platforms. Links are available at the Social drop-down menu at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com and fans can use #AMERICASGREATESTRACE to join the conversation.
About the Amgen Tour of California
The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race created and presented by AEG that challenges the world's top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of California's iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. Amgen Tour of California is listed on the international professional cycling calendar (2 HC, meaning "beyond category"), awarding important, world-ranking points to the top finishers. More information is available at amgentourofcalifornia.com.
This year, the men’s course will cover 782 miles over eight days through 12 host cities, including San Diego (first-time host), South Pasadena (first-time host), Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara County, Morro Bay (first-time host), Monterey County, Lodi, South Lake Tahoe (first-time host), Folsom, Santa Rosa and Sacramento. The Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race empowered with SRAM will run for the latter half of the men’s race (May 19-22) as the U.S. debut event on the inaugural UCI Women's WorldTour (WWT).
Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. This approach begins by using tools like advanced human genetics to unravel the complexities of disease and understand the fundamentals of human biology.
Amgen focuses on areas of high unmet medical need and leverages its expertise to strive for solutions that improve health outcomes and dramatically improve people's lives. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen has grown to be one of the world's leading independent biotechnology companies, has reached millions of patients around the world and is developing a pipeline of medicines with breakaway potential. For more information, visit http://www.amgen.com and follow us on www.twitter.com/amgen.
Founder and operators of the Amgen Tour of California and headquartered in Los Angeles, California, AEG is the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company. With offices on five continents, AEG operates in the following business segments: AEG Facilities, which owns, manages or consults with more than 120 preeminent arenas, stadiums, theaters, clubs and convention centers around the world including The O2 Arena, the Sprint Center and the Mercedes-Benz Arenas; AEG Live, which is dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performances, including producing and promoting global and regional concert tours, music and special events and world-renowned festivals; AEG Real Estate, which develops world-class venues, as well as major sports and entertainment districts like STAPLES Center and L.A. LIVE; AEG Sports, which is the world’s largest operator of sports franchises and high-profile sporting events; and AEG Global Partnerships, which oversees worldwide sales and servicing of sponsorships including naming rights, premium seating and other strategic partnerships. Through its worldwide network of venues, portfolio of powerful sports and music brands, AXS.com ticketing platform, AXS cable television channel and its integrated entertainment districts, AEG entertains more than 100 million guests annually. More information about AEG can be found at www.aegworldwide.com.
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Michael Roth, AEG
Josh Levitt, Canvas Blue