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Cycling

Julian Alaphilippe Claims Amgen Tour Stage 3 Victory on Santa Barbara’s Gibraltar Road

130 cyclists roll through Santa Barbara County for the annual cycling race through California

Julian Alaphilippe of France is first across the finish line at the top of Gibraltar Road for Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California.
Julian Alaphilippe of France is first across the finish line at the top of Gibraltar Road for Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California. (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)

The third stage of the 11th annual Amgen Tour of California came to an exciting finish with 130 cyclists rolling through Santa Barbara County and grinding up Gibraltar Road on Tuesday afternoon. 

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, of Etixx–Quick-Step Cycling, claimed the victory, holding off a late attack from American Peter Stetina (Trek-Segrafred) and pushing through a brutal six-mile mountain finish after riding 96 miles from Thousand Oaks. George Bennett of New Zealand (Team Lotto NL — Jumpo) was third.

“I was a little bit nervous before we got to Gibraltar because I wanted to wait until the last moment to push,” Alaphilippe said. “Everybody was waiting till the last climb for the big fight but I was really happy to pull off the win today.”

The 23-year-old from France repeated the feat of winning the Tour of California’s Queen Stage for the second consecutive year, claiming the coveted yellow jersey as the overall leader in the process. 

“I lost the yellow jersey on the big climbing day last year, so that was huge motivation for me,” Alaphilippe added. “I was surprised to win today but this is something really good for me.”

Finishing second was Stetina, who looked to be on his way to victory as he sped past Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) and Lachlan Morton (Jelly-Belly) with just over a mile remaining till the peak. 

Immediately following this assertive move, a full-out chase ensued from Alaphilippe and Bennett. With just 400 meters remaining, the Frenchman sprinted by Stetina while claiming the stage win. 

“When you come that close to victory, their is a feeling of lost opportunity,” commented Stetina. “I tried to be aggressive but took off a little too soon, which left me with nothing for that final drive.” 

Making his presence felt was Powless, who broke away from the peloton at the bottom of the mountain. During the final ascent, the 19-year-old cyclist held the overall lead for nearly five miles.

“Even though I’ve never raced at this level, I had a lot of confidence,” the Roseville, CA native said. “Overall, it felt amazing to be up front and was important to stay calm throughout.”

The 104.1-mile stage started in Thousand Oaks and descended through the strawberry fields of Oxnard and Ventura. It then rolled through the undulating terrain of Lake Casitas, Carpinteria and Montecito before finishing up with a relentless mountain climb up Gibraltar Road. 

Evan Huffman of Rally Cycling still holds the King of the Mountain jersey, while Peter Sagan of Tinkoff maintains the Green Sprint jersey.

With a phenomenal performance on Tuesday, Powless leads in the competition for the Young Rider jersey. BMC Racing carries the overall team lead after three stages. 

Wednesday's fourth stage will take off from Morro Bay. During the 135-mile course, the peloton will pass over Big Sur's famous Bixby Bridge before wrapping up in Monterey.

— Blake DeVine is a Noozhawk sports reporter. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Gregory Daniel, Evan Huffman, Julian Alaphilippe, Neilson Powless and Peter Sagan celebrate at the Stage 3 finish line with Michelob Ultra Podium Ambassadors Joanna Zanella and Allison Steinkamp. Click to view larger
Gregory Daniel, Evan Huffman, Julian Alaphilippe, Neilson Powless and Peter Sagan celebrate at the Stage 3 finish line with Michelob Ultra Podium Ambassadors Joanna Zanella and Allison Steinkamp.  (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)

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