Tejay van Garderen, fifth in last year’s Tour de France, captured the Tour of California on Sunday, sealing his first career stage-race triumph in the final stage. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan won the eighth and final stage, which took the riders out of San Francisco via the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to a finish in Santa Rosa. Van Garderen won the overall title in a total time of 29 hours and 43 minutes. Australia’s Michael Rogers was second overall, 1:47 back, with Colombia’s Janier Acevedo third.
BMC rider Van Garderen, a 24-year-old American, continued a superb start to the year that has seen him finish fourth in the Paris-Nice and second at the Tour de San Luis ahead of his breakthrough victory.
“It’s a big relief. It’s a weight off my shoulders, a monkey off my back,” van Garderen said. “Hopefully this gets the ball rolling and we get a few more.”
The triumph came shortly after he became a father with the birth of his first child.
“Maybe becoming a daddy was the difference,” said van Garderen, who cradled his tiny daughter on the podium. “I’m a bit more relaxed and a bit more mature. I just had to be patient.”
Sagan won his second stage win of the week after capturing the third leg, and notched the 10th Tour of California stage win of his career. His Cannondale squad led the peloton in the final 10 kilometers, closing in on Bontrager’s Antoine Duchesne, who was the last survivor of an early break. The Cannondale riders turned back a challenge from Garmin and Sagan launched his sprint to the finish with 200 meters to go, winning the 130.6 kilometers stage in 3:04:07 ahead of Austrian Daniel Schorn and American Tyler Farrar.
Van Garderen, meanwhile, finished safely in the pack to secure the win. He had first donned the yellow jersey after Thursday’s fifth stage and strengthened his hold on the lead with a triumph in Friday’s individual time trial. Van Garderen finished third in Saturday’s penultimate stage, one spot ahead of Saxo rider Rogers, the 2010 Tour of California winner.