Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) held his nerve in what was an aggressive bunch sprint, finishing second to Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), with Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) third, Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) fourth and Alexander Kristoff (UAE) fifth.
The 23-year-old and Gaviria are quickly rising to prominence in the WorldTour, personally using this seven-stage race as a measure ahead their respective Tour de France debuts in July. Today, the pair and their sprint trains were enticingly on par with each other, and ahead of the rest.
“I think as far as strength goes then they’re definitely comparable. I got dropped off pretty much exactly where Fernando got dropped off,” Ewan said of the lead-outs.
“Today, we came from maybe a little bit further back. Roger Kluge had a puncture the last or second last lap, which wasn’t ideal. He had to come back so we were waiting in the middle of the bunch for him and that left our run to get to the front a little bit later. I waited for them to eventually get there and we did inside the last kilometre.”
Ewan was uncertain of his form leading into the race he entered on the back of an extended break and training period following a career-best second place at Milan-San Remo in March.
“It was a pretty hectic finish because it wasn’t too hard during the day and it’s the first stage so there is a lot up for grabs,” he said. “The team did a great job and got me where I needed to be to do the sprint. Congrats to Fernando, he did a great sprint.”
Gaviria acknowledged the compliment with a respectful nod in the press conference that followed the 134.5km race held over a 11.2km circuit in Long Beach.
The stage victory was the Colombian sprinter’s fifth of the season in which he is set to spearhead the Quick-Step Floors team at the Tour de France, with sports director Brian Holm even talking about a green jersey bid.
Gaviria was unapologetic about holding his own in the frenetic finale where he bumped shoulders more than once with Jasper Philipsen (Hagens Berman Axeon).
“This guy is more crazy than me because he doesn’t brake,” he said. “I followed my lead-out and it’s normal I touch him for the wheel but he continued to touch me, touch me. One crash for him is maybe okay at this time of the season. But for all the [WorldTour] sprinters here, they take their condition for the Tour, focus on the Tour and one crash now would make it too difficult to come back.
“It’s the race, it’s the moment, but now I’m really happy for the win. There is no problem.”
The Amgen Tour of California continues tomorrow with the 155km queen stage from Ventura to Gibraltar Road.