In the entire history of the Tour of California there’s never been this kind of shocker.
First, a breakaway of six riders went all the way to the line despite not one or two but three powerful WorldTour teams with start sprinters all chasing.
Despite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) all pushing their turbo squads to chase, they never caught the break.
That’s men like four-time Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen and reigning Roubaix champion Nikki Terpstra failing to shut down a break. That’s an entire Cannondale squad dedicated to Sagan incapable of bringing.
Second, of those six guys in the break sprinting for the biggest win in their careers, it was a skinny climber who won. Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) who’d already won the day’s three KOM sprints won in Cambria.
On a day mapped out and talked up as a sure-fire sprint battle, the guy wearing the King of the mountains jersey won the sprint.
“When we came out of those last two KOMs, the tailwind was much stronger than anyone was expecting,” Routley said. “And you know, I’ve been in breaks a few times when that happens, and those are the days when you think, ‘holy smokes, this breakaway might make it to the line.’”
Working with clever efficiently, Routley, Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team), Kevin De Mesmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk), Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare), Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), De Masmaeker, and Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) all fooled the peloton. Then Routley played his tactics to perfection.
“I came here with the goal to win a stage, that’s what I’ve wanted to do every time I’ve come to the Tour of California,” he said. “This time, I felt like I was prepared and ready. I wasn’t expecting today to be the day!”
It was a rare miscalculation and the Master of the Breakaway Jens Voigt told us after the stage that the sprinter squads were “feeling way too secure and sure of themselves. They though this is easy.”
Cavendish didn’t sound too bitter — after all, he had beaten Degenkold in Sacramento on stage one — but he didn’t sound thrilled either, tweeting “Well, the breakaway succeeded today. But I’m proud @opqscyclingteam tried to chase them instead of leading out with the whole team for 7th.
Cavendish, Sagan and Degenkolb all lost today while a Canadian climber on a low budget US Continental team blew them away. Next thing you know Routley will challenge Marcel Kittel in a grand tour sprint.