Dutchman Lieuwe Westra seized the yellow jersey at the Tour of California after winning the 165 kilometer (130 mile) opening stage on the outskirts of San Diego on Sunday. Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) outduelled Spaniard Francisco Mancebo in a sprint over the final kilometers while Slovak Peter Sagan led the chase bunch, finishing six seconds back. Cannondale’s Sagan had to overcome a rear derailleur problem with just five kilometers to go. Westra made his move with about five kilometers to go and Mancebo quickly took off in pursuit, making it a two-man sprint to the finish under trying hot conditions.
Mancebo grabbed the lead with about 300 meters to go but Westra answered by slipping around him before powering his way in for the victory. The 200km second stage takes place Monday, beginning in Murrieta then heading into the southern California desert to Palm Springs where temperatures are expected to climb as high as 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).
For the first time, the Tour of California will take riders on a route from the southern part of the state northward, starting at Escondido and finishing on May 19 in Santa Rosa, near San Francisco. America’s most important stage race will cover some 1,200km over the eight stages, highlighted by an individual time trial on the sixth stage and the hors categorie Mount Diablo climb on stage seven.