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Amgen Tour’s Gibraltar Hill Climb Dominated by Colombian Rider Egan Bernal

Rafal Majka of team BORA-hansgrohe and Adam Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT finish 2nd and 3rd, respectively


When the Amgen Tour of California set the second stage of this year’s race as a reprisal of the classic climb to the top of Gibraltar Road, it became clear that the winner most likely would be determined here in Santa Barbara and by a select group of pure climbers.

That is, if they could blow away the likes of Fernando Gaviria, Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan, who finished 1, 2, 3 in Sunday’s Stage 1 race in Long Beach.

Gaviria has won 30 races this year alone on the race circuit, and Sagan has notched 18 stage wins in past Tour of California races (not to mention winning the Tour in 2016).

Given that none of the upcoming stages featured the type of massive climbs that Gibraltar presents, the question came down to how much time could be gained today, and would it be enough to hold off other riders on the next five stages that were more favorable to the sprinters and time-trail specialists. 

The day was perfect for the type of effort that would be required Monday: cool 60s weather for the midday part of the ride, light clouds and afternoon temperatures in the 70s.

The race began at about 11:15 a.m. at the Ventura Pier, then snaked through the cities of Oxnard, Camarillo, Santa Paula and Ojai.

The course traveled to Santa Barbara County along Highway 192, and cut toward Cravens Lane to Via Real in Carpinteria, adjacent to Highway 101, and along Coast Village Road in Montecito.

The day’s finish line included an eight-mile, nearly 3,500-foot climb up Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara around 3:45 p.m.

crowds on Gibraltar Road Click to view larger
Crowds line Gibraltar Road Monday for the finish of the second stage of the Amgen Tour of California. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

Though the race length measured just under 100 miles and featured just under 8,000 feet in elevation gain, the race really didn’t begin until the riders worked their way through the Carpinteria Valley, Summerland and the lower parts of the Montecito area.

At that point only eight miles of riding were between the lead riders and a stage victory — not so easy when the climb to the top represented 3,100 feet of torturous elevation gain with some of the steepest of the climbs near the top of the mountain.

With just over two kilometers left to ride to the summit of Gibraltar Road, Team Sky’s 21-year-old Egan Bernal (COL) attacked and swiftly climbed away to a solo victory to close out Stage 2 of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California.

Listening to the commentary from the finish line, it appeared that Team Sky had determined that it would attack relentlessly over the mid-part of the climb with the goal of dropping rider after rider before reaching the final two kilometers just past the Flores Flat area.

That's when Bernal began his attack, quickly leaving the other riders behind.

Start of cycling race Click to view larger
Cyclists get underway Monday in Ventura at the start of the second stage of the Amgen Tour of California. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

While second- and third-place riders Rafal Majka of team BORA-hansgrohe and Adam Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT finished just 21 and 25 seconds behind, respectively, the toll on the rest of the field was immense.

Sunday’s top three all finished with the same time — 18:30 off the pace.

With many of the upcoming stages favoring the sprinters, it appears that the Stage 4 time trail in San Jose may determine whether any of the other riders who are close enough to mount a challenge to the young Colombian rider can make up enough time to overcome today’s domination of Gibraltar Road by Bernal.

It's the ninth time in the 13-year race history that the Santa Barbara region has hosted the sporting race.

The seven-day cycling stage event dubs itself as a Tour de France-style cycling road race. Organizers said it attracts world-class cyclists with top riders and teams. 

The Amgen Tour of California’s website notes, “The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and world champions, and award important, world-ranking points to the top finishers.”

Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California starts Tuesday from King City to Monterey County.

The three-day Amgen Tour of California's Women's Race runs from May 17-19, starting in Elk Grove and running to South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento.

Noozhawk Staff Writer Brooke Holland contributed to this report.

Noozhawk outdoor writer Ray Ford can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for his website, Follow him on Twitter: @riveray. The opinions expressed are his own.

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