Young rider overcomes flat tire to win Tour of California's first stage

  • Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale won, Sunday May 13, 2012, the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Peter Sagan is too poised to let a few obstacles keep him from a stage win. Or maybe he's just too young and clueless.

Sagan, a mere pup at 22, overcame a blown tire, a near-wipeout and a determined contingent of Rabobank riders to capture Stage 1 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, proving right out of the gate that he is a force to be reckoned with in this eight-day stage race that began Sunday in downtown Santa Rosa.

Or maybe he had established that already. It was the fourth Tour of California stage win for young Slovakian wunderkind, who rides for the Italian team Liquigas-Cannondale. Sagan also has won two sprint titles and one Best Young Rider jersey in the event, and he finished eighth overall in 2010.

Tour Of California Prep


"I think Peter's sprint, it's a gift I haven't seen in a long time," said Team Exergy rider Fred Rodriguez. "There's nothing he can't do. It's impressive."

Heinrich Haussler of Garmin-Barracuda crossed second in a crowded sprint, followed by Rodriguez. Jeffry Louder of UnitedHealthcare picked up bonus points for intermediate sprints and officially finished third in the general classification.

Local favorite Levi Leiphei-mer finished in the main peloton, proving that he is still a formidable opponent despite suffering a fractured left fibula just six weeks ago.

The final result seemed improbable as the lead riders prepared to enter Santa Rosa city limits for the final time. That's when Sagan's tire went flat. It would have been the end of the chase for many cyclists, but Sagan's crew had him back on the bike quickly, and teammates Ed King and Alessandro Vanotti quickly came back to retrieve him and provide support.

Or as Sagan said in his developing English: "It's a good work did my team."

Within four minutes, with the crush of titanium and flesh bearing down on the finish, Sagan was back in contention. Then came the next emergency. Rabobank's Michael Matthews swerved suddenly on Third Street and went down along with several other riders. One of them was King. Sagan was right on his teammate's back tire and narrowly avoided a fall.

Because the crash happened within three kilometers of the finish line, those who were caught up — including King, Matthews and a trio of AG2R La Mondiale riders — were given the same time as the group they had been riding in.

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