The 2nd stage of the Tour of California saw the GC favourites come out to play and it was Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) who came out on top. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) placed 2nd with Ian Boswell (Team Sky) 3rd and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Lachlan Morton in 4th place.
It was a fast start to the 145km stage from Modesto to San Jose, so much so that the break of the day could not form until after 40km of racing. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Scott Thwaites make it into the lead group of 6 that eventually went clear. The big obstacle of the day came in the form of Mount Hamilton, a 7km out of category climb that averaged at 8.7% and it was here that the action kicked off.
Tom Skuijins (Cannondale-Drapac) attacked what was left of the break and led over the top of the big climb with Daniel Jaramillo (United Healthcare) in 2nd a few seconds back, Thwaites was soon to follow. Just behind the trio though, attacks had also come from the main GC contenders. Bennett had forced the early move and Morton was on him in a flash. Boswell and Majka joined the party too and the quartet caught Thwaites just as the descent began proper.
Our Yorkshireman went down the mountain like a stone, pulling his teammate Morton away with him and opening the gap to what was left of the peloton. With Thwaites powering along, the 2 riders up the road were caught to form a lead group of 7 just before the start of the category 2 Quimby Road climb. Thwaites and Jaramillo were dropped on the early slopes of the short steep kicker leaving 5 to start the descent, but this is where Skuijins would come unstuck too. The Latvian crashed heavily and had to pull out of the race as a result.
Morton and co. pushed on with a lead of 50 seconds over the main chase group of favourites and still 20km to go. The quartet was not hanging around though and they worked well to maintain their lead right up until the final 3km climb. Morton was the one who took the initiative when the leaders started to look at one another and he attacked twice in quick succession. On both occasions though our African Team rider was chased down. In the end, it was Majka who was strongest by just pipping Bennett on the line. Boswell nudged Morton into 4th but our young climber had done enough to pull on the best young riders’ jersey and moved into 4th overall. The chasers followed some 30 seconds later.
“I’m pleased with how today went and I felt pretty good. It took a while for the break to go and we were lucky to have Scott in there for us. There was only really two ways the race could go from there, so when George made the attack I knew I wanted some of that. It’s normally the type of move I would also make so it was nice that someone else did it this time. We were lucky to catch my teammate Scott at the top and then we hit that descent pretty hard. We rode well all the way until the final kilometer really and I was always feeling pretty good. We didn’t have much info out on course as to how far back the chasers were and who was in that group. In the end, us four just raced each over that final kilometer but I can be happy with how the legs were.”