The 159.5-kilometer stage four at the Amgen Tour of California was tipped for the sprinters, but when a breakaway of five was granted a generous nine minutes and had a wind-aided 50-kilometer run-in after the final climb, the peloton got it wrong by 13 seconds.
While the five leaders duked it out for victory, John Degenkolb battled against the other fast men down the long, wide-open boulevard to the finish; it was only for the minor places, and he was edged at the line by Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe), but Degenkolb needed to find his good juju back after a disappointing 15th place yesterday.
"It's a pity of course that we didn't catch them after the team did a good effort in the chase," said Degenkolb after the finish, "but in the end, we missed out for a few seconds. I felt much than yesterday, and that, for me, gives me a lot of confidence now."
While Team Rally pulled off a one-two finish for the stage, Evan Huffman taking the honors over teammate Rob Britton, a photo finish was needed to sort out the bunch sprint for sixth place. In the end, Sagan had edged Degenkolb, but it didn't matter: John was in much better spirits after his sprint, and after the team, once again, continued to show a strong belief in him.
"I am happy how the team performed, the team spirit is perfect, but today we were a little bit unlucky, and not all the teams were helping to pull the chase," continued Degenkolb. "And the [breakaway] group was really strong because they went in the beginning in a really hard part."
Tomorrow the Amgen Tour of California continues with the queen stage and a tough summut finish up Mt. Baldy. There were no changes in the general classification after today's bunched ending, and Haimar Zubeldia held his 13th place.