Sacramento, California - Mikkel Bjerg’s efforts in the all day breakaway earned him the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey on the 7th and final stage at the Amgen Tour of California. In the final sprint for points and one last chance at a podium spot, Michael Rice sprinted with the World Tour’s best for an impressive 7th place finish.
“As we entered the finishing circuits, the big teams really took control of the front and made the pace faster and faster,” said Michael Rice. “We were well represented with Ian Garrison holding a steady position which gave me a good focal point to follow. I was concentrating on being patient until the last lap and threw myself in the mix with the big name sprinters, happy to finish off the week with a 7th place after a strong team effort.”
In addition to Rice’s top 10, Garrison finished in 11th place and Sean Bennett finished in 14th. Bjerg spent nearly all 143 kilometers of Saturday’s flat and fast stage in the breakaway.
“Today I went into the break because I wanted to leave everything out there,” said Bjerg. “And I did. Getting the blue jersey was a great way to end a phenomenal week.”
The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team had what many would consider a triumphant return to the California stage race and the team’s first World Tour level test. Over the seven stages, the team earned three podiums, including Sean Bennett’s 2nd place finish on stage 3 and two Courageous Rider Jerseys (Ian Garrison and Bjerg). Bjerg also finished in 6th place during the individual time trial on stage 4, 1 of the team’s 6 top ten finishes on the week.
“Overall the Tour of California has been great,” remarked Bjerg. “Saturday’s breakaway was a summary of the whole week; the spirit with the team has been amazing. Everyone has been so motivated to prove themselves on the biggest stage.”
Overall in the general classification, Will Barta finished a team best 23rd, followed by Bennett in 24th, and Ivo Oliveira in 34th. Axeon alumnus Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) finished in 5th place.
“I am so proud of how the guys performed this week,” said director Axel Merckx. “We were present everyday and active in the race throughout. Today was no different with Rice finishing in 7th place.”
Photo: Casey B. Gibson