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Marianne Vos wins Santa Rosa stage of women's Tour of California cycling race

Marianne Vos held off a challenge from two dozen riders as she crossed the finish line downtown, but the overall lead belongs to another cyclist.|

Dutch champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Marianne Vos won Saturday’s stage three of the Amgen Tour of California with a feverish push in the final stretch along Third Street in downtown Santa Rosa to win by half a bike length.

The 29-year-old rider for Rabobank-Liv held off a challenge from two dozen riders, led by UnitedHealthcare’s Coryn Rivera, as she crossed the finish line at the end of the 64-mile circuit that began and ended downtown.

The win was the highly decorated Vos’ first career victory on the new Women’s WorldTour. Saturday’s race was the first time the women’s Tour of California was a UCI WorldTour race.

Swedish national champion Emma Johansson, riding for the British team WiggleHigh5, finished third.

Megan Guarnier, 30, of the Netherlands’ Boels Dolmans, finished fourth, but remains the overall race leader with a 15-second lead over fellow American Kristin Armstrong of Twenty16.

The race culminates today with a 41-mile final stage in Sacramento.

In team standings, Armstrong’s Twenty16 team leads Boels Dolmans by 45 seconds.

Guarnier won the first stage of the race Thursday, a 72.7-mile circuit around Lake Tahoe, four seconds ahead of Johansson. Vos placed fifth, 10 seconds behind the lead.

In Friday’s team time trial, Twenty16, an American entry, clocked in at 27 minutes, 33 seconds, averaging 27.5 mph. Boels Dolmans was six seconds off the pace.

Guarnier held onto her individual lead, 12 seconds up on Armstrong. With Saturday’s stage win, she extended her lead over Armstrong by three seconds.

Evelyn Stevens, also of Boels Dolmans, is 25 seconds off Guarnier’s leader pace, followed by Vos at 43 back.

Santa Rosa rider Alison Tetrick of the Cylance race team is 14:51 back, in 74th place.

Guarnier, an All-American swimmer at Middlebury College, didn’t begin competitive cycling until shoulder injuries forced her out of the pool. But she has become an elite pro rider.

Vos won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics points race and in 2012 won a road race gold. She is a three-time World Road Race Champion and a seven-time World Cyclocross Champion.

Women’s field thins out

The women’s race started stage one with 101 racers, but several had dropped out by Saturday’s stage three in Santa Rosa. Ninety-three began the day.

About five miles into the race Saturday, a crash claimed another. Anna Sanders of Visit Dallas DNA Racing and Hanna Payton of Drops Cycling collided about 15 minutes into the race outside of Santa Rosa.

Sanders abandoned the race while Payton received medical attention and about 10 minutes later, pushed hard to make it back to the peloton before the day’s first climb.

By day’s end, 91 women remained.

Conquering Harrison Grade

American Mara Abbott of WiggleHigh5 won three points for winning the first Queen of the Mountain climb, up Harrison Grade Road. Overall leader Guarnier was second and Karol Ann Canuel was third over the hill.

After the first climb, riders reached 66 km per hour, about 41 mph.

Podium wardrobe changes

As is tradition in cycling, “podium girls” assist winners on stage after the race. In the women’s race, the girls wore olive-colored jeans and sneakers. They switched to red dresses and strappy high heels to present the men with their honors and plant kisses on their cheeks.

Voit joins festivities

German cyclist Jens Voit drew a crowd Saturday in the festival part of the day as he signed copies of his book “Shut up, Legs.”

Lots of cheers for locals

The large crowd at the start-finish line went nuts for several riders with local connections: Alison Tetrick and Peter Stetina, both of Santa Rosa, and riders for the locally based BMC Racing team.

But perhaps the loudest cheers were from several large groups of Sonoma County residents who immigrated to the U.S. from Eritrea. They came out to see their countryman Daniel Teklehaimanot, 27, who races for Team Dimension Data and is the only Eritrean in either race.

After being introduced to the crowd before the men’s start, Teklehaimanot greeted his fans and shook hands with several of them.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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