Another day, another flat, another victory for Peter Sagan. A day after hurdling a punctured tire to win Stage 1 of the Tour of California, Sagan (Team Liquigas-Cannondale) retained the leader’s jersey by nabbing Stage 2 in Santa Cruz County on Monday; this time, overcoming a flat tire and a 10-man crash.
“Today was very hard,” Sagan said.
Sagan ran across his first obstacle when he was taken down in a 10-cyclist crash 73 miles into the race on Pacific Coast Highway. About 15 miles later, he flatted out for the second time in as many days while cruising down hill in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Sagan topped the field in Santa Rosa on Sunday despite puncturing a tire with less than five miles left in the race, begging the question: can anything stop him?
“I don’t know,” Sagan said. “Maybe some [natural] disaster.”
The 22-year-old Slovakian finished the 117.1-mile race in five hours and two minutes, giving him an eight-second lead over Australia’s Heinrich Haussler, who took second place for the second day in a row.
Sagan, who captured the junior world championship in 2008, was the Tour’s Stage 5 winner last year and the victor in the fifth and sixth stages in 2010.
Monday’s race kicked off at Marina Green in San Francisco in front of hundreds of onlookers with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz providing a picturesque backdrop. The contest continued along Highway 1, through Half Moon Bay, to Bonny Doon Road, where competitors confronted the arduous task of climbing through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sagan was greeted by thousands of cheering fans as he emerged from the hills and tore down Soquel Avenue, crossing the finish line at Cabrillo College.
“I saw [fans] every step of the way — climbing Empire Grade, on Bear Creek Road,” said Watsonville-native Ben Jacques-Maynes, who’s currently in sixth place. “In every town, every corner.”
Stage 3 of the eight-day race gets underway in San Jose today and will see racers tackling Mount Diablo for the first time in the tour’s history en route to Livermore.
The tour will also pass through Sonora, Bakersfield and Big Bear Lake before winding down in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Today’s stage: San Jose to Livermore