Elk Grove, California - The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team continued its California dream on stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California with two riders finishing in the top 10. Sean Bennett, fresh off his 2nd place finish on stage 3, finished in 6th place and Ivo Oliveira followed two spots later in 8th place.
In addition, Michael Rice spent the entire day in a 5-man breakaway that included Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale), and Ruben Companioni and Fabian Lienhard (Holowesko|Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources).
After the break was caught, teams organized for the impending bunch sprint.
“It wasn’t amazingly hectic, there were a couple crashes, but individual people were moving across the whole peloton without looking, said Sean Bennett. “That was really frustrating and we lost Jasper today because of it. He was our best chance for the win and it’s just really tough when that happens.”
Jasper Philipsen was caught in a crash that forced the 20-year-old Axeon rookie to get medical attention at a nearby hospital.
“I caught a wheel when the pack moved left and I went down hard,” said Philipsen. “It was very frustrating as I was feeling pretty strong at the time. Nothing is broken so that’s good, but I’ll need to recover a bit.”
Dr. Peter Butterworth, team physician, described Philipsen’s injury as a deep abrasion and laceration over his elbow and some general road rash on the right side of his body. Philipsen required an X-ray and some sutures. Dr. Butterworth believes Philipsen will “be fine in a couple of days.”
The team quickly regrouped as best it could and prepared for a finish without its best sprinter.
“Jasper went down and then Ivo was right in front of me,” said Bennett. “Ivo is the next best sprinter so I kinda jumped up a little bit and kept near the front, following wheels. With 200 meters to go, I opened up and I thought I had Ian on my wheel, but I wasn’t sure. I’m not going to look back over my shoulder in the finale. I kept sprinting as long as I could. I feel pretty good; I don’t feel amazing, but I think the legs are there.”
Bennett’s success can’t be denied. Nor can the team’s success in its first time back at the Tour of California since 2016. Ian Garrison finished Thursday’s 176.5 kilometer stage in 11th place, making him the 3rd rider behind Bennett and Oliveira in the top 12. The team’s return to California has been filled with top placements and significant time spent in the breakaway.
“It was another competitive day for Hagens Berman Axeon,” said sport director Jeff Louder. “We had Rice in the move of the day which allowed the others to focus on the finale. It was a shame to see Jasper crash and not be able to continue on. The guys had him well placed, but it was a hectic fight and he was an unfortunate victim of the chaos. The others did an amazing job of regrouping. Seeing three guys finish in the top eleven confirms this. I am happy to see Sean, Ivo, and Ian fight for some very nice places at the finish. In the end though, it’s a question of what could have been if Jasper had been there to finish off their team work. The guys are handling the race strong and have shown their talent and maturity every day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow’s challenging stage; the guys are riding amazingly well and it will be another chance to prove it.”
Friday’s stage 6 from Folsom, California to South Lake Tahoe includes over 4,800 m of climbing in 196.5 km racing. The action gets underway at 9:45 am PDT.