Moreno Hofland of the Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM sprinted with the best on Sunday, taking third place in a photo finish on the first stage of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. The 193km stage, beginning and ending in Sacramento at the steps of the Golden State’s capitol, saw former world champion Mark Cavendish of Great Britain take the stage win just ahead of German John Degenkolb.
Hofland was very active in the final kilometres of the stage. Lars Boom and the rest of the Belkin squad rode valiantly, keeping the 22-year-old Dutchman in contention for the final dash. Other teams working for their sprinters, Degenkolb, Cavendish and Peter Sagan, but Hofland kept his cool, keenly coming off Sagan’s wheel in the frenetic final meters, relegating the Slovakian to fourth place.
„It was a war zone from the start. Everybody was nervous, but I felt really good today and, when Team Sky and Omega Pharma-QuickStep attacked in the crosswinds, I was at the front,“ Hofland said. „But I didn’t spent too much energy there. In the final, Lars helped me and set me off at the front. I’m very happy with my third place today. It’s a nice present for our sponsor Belkin.“
Belkin Sports Director Nico Verhoeven: „When Sky and QuickStep attacked in the crosswinds only Moreno was up there. That was not OK, but we closed the gap. In the bunch sprint, Moreno showed his talent. He is not the fastest and is still very young. This was an excellent result for him and the team.“
Leezer attacks early
Belkin’s Tom Leezer, meanwhile, rode like the wind earlier in the day, attacking at the start and taking five other riders with him. The Dutchman from Delft, 28, won two intermediate sprints along the way, taking 5 points and 3 seconds in time bonuses.
„I saw three guys attacking and I also went. We were with six eventually and you know this mission is not going to succeed. So, I concentrated on the points,“ Leezer said. „In the last 4 kilometres I got a flat tyre and lost some time.“
Leezer lies third in the competition for the points jersey behind Cavendish, with 15 points, and Degenkolb, with 12 points.
Race against the clock
The 2014 Amgen Tour of California resumes Monday with stage 2, a relatively flat 20.1km individual time trial in the heart of California’s Gold Country, starting and finishing in the historic town of Folsom. „Tomorrow it’s an important day for our GC rider, Laurens ten Dam, and, of course, we look out for Jack Bobridge and Lars both to have a good time trail,“ Verhoeven said.
The eight-day Tour of California ends Sunday in Thousand Oaks, near Los Angeles.