PASADENA, Calif. (AP) – Slovakian Peter Sagan surged late and won the Tour of California by three seconds on Sunday with a close third-place finish.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish won his fourth stage of the eight-stage event and 13th victory of the season in a mass sprint in the last of nine circuits around the Rose Bowl.
Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who began the final day trailing former race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) of France by two seconds, gained four bonus seconds for the third-place finish and a one-second bonus during a mid-race sprint.
Wouter Wippert (Drapac) of the Netherlands was second in the final stage. Sagan edged American Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) by a few inches for third to secure the title.
Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Sky) of Colombia finished third overall, 37 seconds behind Sagan.
“I almost thought that I didn’t do it,” Sagan said. “(Tyler) Farrar was third, I thought, but after my team said that I was third, and I came here (to the podium) and I can’t believe that I did it.”
Sagan, who won two stages of the event and has four Tour de France stage wins, held the race lead after winning the Stage 5 time trial. He collapsed at the finish line after finishing sixth in the mountainous Stage 7 to Mount Baldy and relinquished his lead.
“It was very hard to get this victory,” Sagan said. “I did surprise myself from the effort yesterday and I believed that I could do it today. I never thought about going for the general classification at the Tour of California. This year it was very hard to finish on the climb.”
Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step), who earned his ninth Tour of California career stage, completed the 65.3-mile road race from Los Angeles to Pasadena in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 55 seconds.
“We tried our best, but Tinkoff (Saxo) rode very well,” especially Peter,” Cavendish said. “He chased down breaks on by himself. It was impressive.”
Sagan finished second to Cavendish in a mid-race sprint in a photo finish, gaining two bonus seconds and moving to a one-second race deficit to Alaphilippe, who placed third and gained one second.
Guillaume Boivin (Optum-Kelly Benefit) of Canada crashed out of the final stage before it started. Approaching the start from the back of the pack, Boivin’s handlebars malfunctioned and he fell into the starting barriers.
The eight-day race began May 10 in Sacramento with a field of 143 riders from 18 teams. There were 121 finishers.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.