ESCONDIDO–The first of eight stages of the 2013 Amgen Tour of Californiagot off to a thrilling – and hot – start Sunday in Escondido as Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team’s Lieuwe Westra (NED) held off the charging peloton to capture the Stage 1 victory of American’s biggest professional cycling race.
Today’s stage included more than 11,000 feet of climbing, the most ever for an opening stage in race history. The climbs were the sites of dramatic shake-ups, including a decisive one in the last five kilometers that saw Westra claim the stage victory, as well as the Visit California Sprint Jersey, when, perhaps aided by a tailwind in the final minutes of the race, he embarked on a furious sprint to hold the lead. Second sprint points finisher Francisco Mancebo Perez (ESP) of 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team will wear theVisit California Sprint Jersey for tomorrow’s stage that begins in Murrieta as Westra will start the stage wearing the yellow Amgen Race Leader Jersey.
“It was a good surprise,” Westra said of the win. As for what that will mean for his team for the rest of the race, “We won a stage, and we have a strong team. We will see.”
Now in its eighth year, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California will run south to north for the first time, covering nearly 750 miles of California’s most scenic highways, roadways and coastlines over eight days, concluding in Santa Rosa, Calif., May 19. With one of the most difficult courses yet ahead of them, the 123 elite cyclists (the race began with 127, with four eliminated due to time cuts today) will compete through 12 Host Cities and 60,000 feet of climbing, a record for the race, including a first-time summit finish at Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area.
With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, BISSELL Pro Cycling’s Carter Jones (Boulder, Colo.) claimed the first Nissan King of the Mountain Jersey in a stage that will be the first of several where climbs play a crucial role in shaping the podium. The riders had to battle not only each other, but the blazing temperatures, which will continue tomorrow as the race heads from Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs.
“The heat was brutal. Definitely the hardest part of the day. We haven’t done anything like this all year,” said Jones.
The Amgen Tour of California is the largest and most prestigious race in the U.S. and has become known for attracting top international talent. Among the riders at the start line today were the second-ranked cyclist in the world, Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK), who will be looking to increase his hold as the Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder (8); seven world champions including current world road race champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing Team (BEL); 11 current national champions; Tour de France champion Andy Schleck of Radio Shack Leopard Trek (2010, LUX) and Amgen Tour of California champion Michael Rogers of Team Saxo-Tinkoff (2010, AUS).
“We’re proud that over the past eight years, we’ve built this race into one of the top cycling events in the world, which was evident on the race course today as we watched a truly world-class field battle it out to the finish in Escondido,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports. “We congratulate Lieuwe Westra on being the first to don the coveted Amgen Race Leader Jersey this year. And, we thank all of our teams, partners and Host Cities for their help making this day possible.”
Other jerseys awarded today include: the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey to 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team’s James Stemper (Wauwatosa, Wisc.), and the Crunchies Best Young Rider Jersey to Jasper Stuyven (BEL) of the Bontrager Cycling Team (USA). Taking second and third stage finish spots on the podium were 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team’s Francisco Mancebo Perez (ESP) and Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK) respectively.
“In the last four years with this team, I’ve been making the transition to a road rider. I pride myself on being a great teammate right now. I know I can ride hard for the entire day,” said Stemper.