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Rising American star claims Tour of California title in Santa Rosa

  • Peter Sagan, of Cannondale Pro Cycling, celebrates his Stage 8 victory in the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California, in Santa Rosa, on Sunday, May 19, 2013. ((Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat))

Tens of thousands of people lined downtown Santa Rosa streets Sunday to see the final sprint of the Amgen Tour of California and greet 111 riders with a cacophonous roar as the peloton whirred in just before noon.

Peter Sagan, 23, of Slovakia, who rides for Cannondale Pro Cycling, won the final stage, marking the second year in a row that he was first across the line on Third Street. Sagan took home the green jersey for the tour's best sprinter.

But it was rising American star Teejay van Garderen, 24, riding safely near the front of the pack, who won the overall eight-day title on behalf of the Santa Rosa-based BMC Racing Team.

It was the first stage-race win for the Montana native who finished fifth in last year's Tour de France.

“Everything just finally came together,” he said. I've known for years that I'm capable of a ride like this and for it to all come into place, it's really special.”

BMC also won the overall team title.

van Garderen covered the 749 miles in 29 hours, 41 minutes. He went to the front on the fifth day and did not relinquish the leader's yellow jersey the rest of the way.

Australian Michael Rogers was second overall, 1:47 behind and Columbian Janier Alexis Acevedo was third, 3:26 back.

The finish gave local cycling fans a chance to view some of the greatest riders in the world duking it out on the road.

“I'm just into the excitement of the finish line,” said Octavio Gutierrez of Santa Rosa. “You can almost feel the riders going by. It's kind of a thrill for me.”

The crowds were noticeably smaller than last year's. On Sunday, while spectators took their normal perches in trees and elevated locations, many fans were able to sprint between Fourth and Third streets for multiple vantage points of the race as riders completed two circuits of the downtown.

The rapid finish was a far cry from 2012, when Santa Rosa hosted the overall start of the tour. On that day, riders did two neutral laps around Courthouse Square before going on a course that took them to Windsor and back into Santa Rosa, then out to the coast before returning to Santa Rosa for a sprint finish.

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