Peter Sagan, trying to jump-start a frustrating 2019 season, found a return to California was just what he needed as the Slovak won the opening stage of the Tour of California.
The three-time road cycling world champion held off late-charging Travis McCabe of USA Cycling on Sunday to stretch his record for stage wins in America’s premier stage race to 17.
The Bora rider has endured a rocky start to the year, failing to win since a stage victory at the Tour of Down Under in Australia in January.
Sagan, who said his training regime had been disrupted by illness, showed no signs of any struggle in the sunshine of Sacramento, where a 143-kilometer stage took riders on a circuit through the streets around the state capitol, out into the countryside and back for three more circuits.
The last breakaway riders were reeled in with some 16 km to go, setting up a frantic finish.
Sagan hit the front after working his way past a series of Team Ineos riders.
McCabe, celebrating his 30th birthday, nearly caught him at the line.
German Sunweb rider Max Walscheid was third.
“I was closing in on him,” said McCabe, who wasn’t at all disappointed.
“Losing to a world champion is not a bad thing,” he said.
The race continues with Monday’s second stage, 194 kilometers from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe.