Team Sky’s Wiggins Triumphs at AMGEN Tour of California; Cavendish Wins Two Stages

Cycling: Tour of California 2014/ Stage 5

Sir Bradley Wiggins’ 2014 AMGEN Tour of California campaign was extremely reminiscent of his 2012 Tour de France victory. Back in winning form, the Tour de France and Olympic Champion took to the California landscape with one thing on his mind: adding to his already impressive resume with an AMGEN Tour of California title, one of the few cycling feats he had not yet achieved. From his domination of the individual time trial during stage two, to the first climbing stage on the third day of racing, Wiggins and his Team Sky teammates put him into position to bring home California’s version of the yellow jersey. He took the top prize by an overall margin of 30 seconds over Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis.

“It’s always nice to wear a yellow jersey,” Wiggins said. “I set my sights on winning the Tour of California. I wanted to add my name to the guys who have gone before. At age 34, it’s still nice to be winning bike races.”

Wiggins who had struggled with injury since his 2012 Tour de France championship, hadn’t won a general classification title since the Tour of Britain last September. In his first return to America’s greatest cycling race since 2008, where he withdrew due to illness, Wiggins credited his Team Sky teammates in helping him get his illusive Californian title.

“I had an incredible team behind me,” he added. “They were there every day and without them I wouldn’t be in this position now. You can’t do it on your own.”

From an individual stage perspective, The Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma Quick Step took two of the eight stages; both in extremely tight sprint finishes. Winning the first and last stages, Cavendish achieved what he set out to accomplish during his Californian mission. Fresh off winning four of the eight stages at the 2014 Tour of Turkey, Cavendish out-duelled John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan in the final 122.4 km stage in Westlake Village, CA for his second win of the event. Just as Wiggins did, Cavendish highly regarded his OPQS teammates as the reason he was able to succeed at this year’s race. This was especially true considering Cavendish was off the lead group coming into the final portion of Sunday’s finale and they worked hard to get him back in touch with the leaders for the sprint finish.

“I got dropped a bit on the last lap, I had Mark Renshaw with me and Thor Hushvord and Taylor Phinney, who really wanted to get back, and finally we went full gas on the descent and we almost got back. And then, my teammates were in the break, came back and helped with the chase and we got back on,” Cavendish said.

Eventual GC runner-up, Rohan Dennis of Garmin-Sharp had his stand out performance during Stage 3, where the 23-year-old Australian climbed his way over Mt. Diablo for the stage win, carving a bit of time out of Wiggins’ lead coming from the time trial the day before.

“Especially after Diablo,” Dennis said. “Usually I wouldn’t really get to the top. I’d blow two or three kilometers before the whole of last year. Now I was able to stay there and actually do something at the finish and pull it off.”

One final standout individual performance came from American Taylor Phinney of the BMC Racing Team during the fifth stage. Most professional cycling races see a breakaway pack make a bold move at some point in the race, only to be reeled back in by the peloton. Taylor Phinney made such a break on Stage 5, heading towards Santa Barbara. The 23-year-old Colorado native made a break on a long descent with 19 miles left in the stage. In a more-times-than-not unlikely scenario, Phinney outpaced the main pack to hold on and win his seventh career pro win by a twelve second margin.

“I wasn’t sure it was the smartest move,” Phinney said. "But I know I can go downhill faster than anyone because I weigh more than anyone. I hadn’t planned to attack until maybe 4 or 5 kilometers to go, but I just went on instinct. It got more painful, but I knew it would be worth it. This is the way to win. It’s what we live for.”