18 May, 2016

2016 Amgen Tour of California

Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.

On Sunday, 15 May 2016, the Amgen Tour of California kicked off with a 175km long stage around San Diego. From there on, the race will head north leaving only the opening stage as a chance for victory to the fast guys before the race will conclude on Sunday, May 22 in Sacramento.

The first real test for the overall will be stage 3 with an uphill finish at Santa Barbara County, which covers the Gibraltar road climb for the first time. The stage 6, time trial in Folsom will be another challenge for anyone who has General Classification (GC) ambitions, as will the stage to Lake Tahoe the day before.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will be prepared for all race situations and has travelled with a well-rounded team to California. Mark Cavendish will spearhead the line-up of our African team and will be eying success on the flat run-ins. With Bernhard Eisel, Mark Renshaw, Matt Brammeier and Tyler Farrar he will have a strong support around him. Nathan Haas, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Jaques Janse van Rensburg will be our trump cards for an active and offensive racing on the hilly stages.

“After my crash at Paris-Nice earlier this year I recovered well and felt my shape getting better during the Ardennes classics. I had some good and structured training in Italy and South Africa, so it’d be nice to get a good result in the GC here at the Tour of California. The profile of the race looks promising and should suit me. I hope it’s going to be a good week.,” said South African rider Jacques Janse van Rensburg.


Stage 1:

The 2016 Amgen Tour of California started in the very South of the US sunshine state. The 170.5-kilometer-long course around San Diego featured one category one climb. Regardless of that it was set to be a stage for the sprinters. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rode strong but had to leave the win to Peter Sagan of Tinkoff in the end.

After only a couple of kilometers into the race, seven riders managed to jump away. They built up a maximum lead of over 4 minutes. Out of this group Oscar Clark of Team Holowesko-Citadel crossed the summit of Honey Springs road first, taking over the lead in the King of the Mountain classification.

Our African Team’s goal was to ride for Mark Cavendish, who won nine stages in California so far and was looking to extend his colourful palmarès. Having no rider in the breakaway the team tried to control the gap together with Katusha. Matt Brammeier was the first Team Dimension Data rider who showed himself at the front of the peloton.

The break fell apart on the way back to San Diego with two riders fighting to stay away. They were eventually caught inside the final five kilometers, when the race hit the coastline. In the crosswinds towards the finish line in Mission Beach, San Diego, teams tried to protect their leaders as good as possible. Our African outfit was still to be seen at the front of the action. However, inside the last 500 meters Cavendish got boxed in. In the end the win went to the reigning World Champion. Wouter Wippert of Cannondale and Dylan Groenewegen of Team Lotto NL-Jumbo had to settle for 2nd and 3rd.


Stage 2:

Stage 2 of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California was a first test for the overall contenders, as it was a stage where one couldn’t win, but lose the race. With four categorized climbs on the menu it was also one for escapees and Ben King of Cannondale managed to take advantage of that.

The US-rider was one of two survivors of an early breakaway and took the win from Evan Huffmann of Team Rally in Santa Clarita. Nathan Haas was Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s best placed rider on the day. He crossed the line in 8th place, less than 10 seconds behind the winner.

The stage started in the outskirts of Pasadena with the first climb placed not too far from the start. After a few kilometers of fast racing it was a group of 4 riders that managed to go clear. King was certainly the best known among them. The group built up a lead of over 5 minutes which was only to come down over the last two climbs.

Our African team focussed on keeping Jacques Janse van Rensburg out of trouble. The South African rode strong and stayed the whole race over near the front of the peloton. He was accompanied by Haas and Daniel Teklehaimanot.

Over the last two climbs the gap began to come down rapidly. However, King and Huffmann managed to survive. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) lead the peloton home only 8 seconds later. After keeping Janse van Rensburg out of trouble, Haas earned the team the first top10 finish at this year’s edition of Amgen Tour of California.

King did not only take home the stage win, but also took over the overall lead from Peter Sagan. Tomorrow’s stage will be a tough one with a summit finish on Gibraltar road. At the end of the day, the GC will be rewritten.

“A stage like today is always something where it’s hard to make a call. We have the fastest man in the world with Mark Cavendish here, but it all depends on how the race is ridden in the end. Today, unfortunately, he didn’t have the legs to get over all of the climbs. But he gave me the opportunity to show myself in the finish. After dealing with injury for a few weeks it’s nice for me to see that I’m in a good shape now. It’s all good momentum for the future. I hope we can get a big result here,” said rider Nathan Haas.


Stage 3:

Stage 3 of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California was another tough and contested one on the sunshine state’s stunning backroads. It was also one for the GC contenders, with a summit finish up on Gibraltar road. At the end French Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quickstep timed his effort perfectly to get the better of Peter Stetina and George Bennett Lotto NL-Jumbo. Jacques Janse van Rensburg was Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s best place finisher.

The stage got off to a fast start with two KOM’s just a few kilometers from the start in Thousand Oaks. Eventually, 7 riders managed to get away. Among them was the current leader in this classification, Evan Huffmann of Team Rally. He retained his lead, but was dropped when the stage reached its conclusion. The break had managed to defend a gap of around 3.30 minutes for most of the stage. However, with 20 kilometers to go the break was down to 4 riders. They would later get caught on the gruelling climb up Gibraltar road.

This 12-kilometer-long new addition to the Amgen Tour of California offered an average gradient of 8 percent. And these proved to be decisive. The group of favourites also saw Janse van Rensburg, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Nathan Haas being in the mix for a good part of the climb. With the finale looming 3 riders had gone clear. Stetina was one of them and seemed to be the winner of the day. Jacques Janse van Rensburg crossed the line 2:38 minutes later in 22nd place, Teklehaimanot came home in 24th position.

“The race nearly went as we had planned it. There was an early breakaway and Cannondale controlled the gap for their race leader Ben King. It was our goal to keep me up there for the final and I was feeling really well all day. The team helped me getting in a good position for the last climb. I went into Gibraltar road near the front, but then somehow lost the legs. I’m a bit disappointed at the moment that I couldn’t end up with a really good result today after all the work the team put in for me. But that’s how it goes sometimes. Tomorrow’s another day,” said van Rensburg.

Kyle Deeley

Kyle Deeley

Editorial Assistant |