Tour of California: Sir Bradley Wiggins on the brink after Peter Sagan win
Last Updated: 18/05/14 6:56am
Sir Bradley Wiggins: On the verge of his first race win of 2014
Sir Bradley Wiggins moved within 24 hours of wrapping up the overall victory at the Tour of California by finishing the penultimate stage in the front group after Peter Sagan had sprinted to victory.
Wiggins never looked threatened on the lumpy 142.8km trek from Santa Clarita to Pasadena and was well marshalled by his Team Sky team-mates once again before a fractured finish ensued on the city centre circuit.
With a number of high-profile sprinters dropped earlier in the stage and Cannondale using up the majority of their domestiques to bring the breakaway back, there was a conspicuous lack of lead-out trains on what could otherwise have been a breakneck finale. Instead, it was Thor Hushovd who ignited the sprint, but Sagan easily overhauled the BMC rider in the final 100 metres before pressing on to seal his first victory of this year's Tour.
Wiggins rolled home on the same time as Sagan which ensured he maintained his 30-second advantage over Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) at the top of the general classification.
Immediately after the stage Wiggins gave his thoughts on the stage before revealing Team Sky's plan of action for Sunday.
He said: "We knew Cannondale would want to ride for the stage win because they were desperate to make that happen. That meant all we had to do was make sure there were no Cannondale riders in the break at the start of the day, and when that happened, they rode like we'd predicted.
"That meant we could sit back a bit, but we still had to keep our wits about us, especially on that long run in because it was pretty fast on the descent. I was thinking 'a puncture now and it could be over', so I couldn't relax until I'd crossed that line, especially with the speed we were going. I'm glad we've got another day ticked off and it's all down to tomorrow now.
"We'll continue to do the same thing there and keep an eye on the Garmin guys, as we've been doing every day. If we do that, I'm sure we'll be alright."
As Wiggins alluded to, Team Sky were forced to chase down a number of early moves before a suitable breakaway group stuck and they could then allow Cannondale to take over pacesetting duties at the head of the peloton.
Seven riders initially made it up the road but their lead was never allowed to stretch over three minutes and the speed which Cannondale set over the two categorised climbs also meant the likes of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Moreno Hofland (Belkin) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) lost contact behind.
Indeed, only 50-60 riders survived as the peloton swept onto the finishing circuit, and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Ben King (Garmin Sharp) were the final escapees to be reeled in 3km from home.
Once parity had been restored, a lack of leadership in the bunch allowed Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) to momentarily spring clear, but BMC did eventually give chase and it was Hushovd who lit the blue touch paper with the finish line in sight.
Sagan had been sitting in the Norwegian champion's wheel and surged clear to such an extent that he had time to unleash one of his trademark celebrations before sealing his 11th career win in the Golden State.