The Deceuninck-QuickStep squad wins so often and with so many riders that they call themselves the Wolfpack. They struck again in stage three of the Amgen Tour of California.
Yesterday on the killer climbing day to the Heavenly ski resort, it was the young Kasper Asgreen who beat out the veteran Tejay van Garderen and and Italian bad boy Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos).
Today it was Deceuninck-QuickStep Rémi Cavagna who put on a show, going on the attack for 75 kilometers and winning solo by over a margin of over 7 minutes. The Frenchman is only 23 — which begs the question — where does team manager Patrick Lefevere find all these talents?
“It was really hard on the climb, and on the downhill I was a little bit scared because it was really tricky, but I tried not to take too many risks, and I did it,” said Cavagna.
Cavagna rode away with an even younger kid, 21 year old Alex Hoehn of the USA National Team. Cavagna eventually dropped Hoehn and the American eventually hit the wall. He was caught by the duo of Ben King (Dimension Data) and Simon Geschke (CCC Team) who broke free from the peloton at 22k and caught the dying Hoehn 3.5 kilometers from the finish. When they passed him, King didn’t even waste a moment’s glance at Hoehn. It’s a cruel sport, bike racing.
Still, it was a huge win for Hoehn, who took over the kind of mountains classification that he will keep for a few days until the race hits the Queen stage, the brutal haul up Mount Baldy. This was a massive, life-altering performance for a young guy trying to get to the next level in the sport.
The descending skills of Cavagna and Hoehn were a study in contrasts. The French used every bit of the road but seemed to constantly jerk the bike left and right, tempting fate. Although he had a lead over over eight minutes for almost 50 miles, he still took risks on the descent. Meanwhile, Hoehn played it safer, sticking closer to the middle of the road. He was smooth but nowhere near as fast.
On the closing descents, Cavagna almost lost control twice, skidding his wheels and then going off the payment into the dirt, yet still had the skill to keep his bike upright. This is the power and optimism of youth, as he continued to pour on the speed even after that near escape from disaster.
Once upon a time in the Tour of California, it was the big teams and the experienced riders who dictated events. It was Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and Lane Armstrong who decided what would happen in the race — and what would not. It was Continental teams to the back and don’t bother trying to move forward. Well, the dinosaurs and the dopers are gone and this edition is wide open and exciting.
Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the leg snapping stage up to Heavenly, I happened to overhear Hoehn talking to a support staff member as he headed to the team bus. It was something to the effect that he was having trouble sustaining his peak power. Well, he seemed to do a pretty good job today.
In fact, as I waited a hundred meters past the finish line today, I happened to be standing next to a USA National Team soigneur. She said that Alex had told her he needed to take it easy today because he had to recover from yesterday.
Apparently, he felt just fine.