SAN JOSE — Latvian Tom Skujins pedaled to a surprising mountain stage win by more than a minute and took the lead Tuesday in the Tour of California.
The 23-year-old began stage 3 in 95th position and trailed previous race leader Mark Cavendish of Britain by 42 seconds. He completed the hilly 105.7-mile road stage in 4 hours, 33 minutes and 10 seconds.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) of Slovakia finished second for the third straight day and finished 1 minute and 6 seconds behind Skujins. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) of France was third in the same time.
Skujins rides for the American Hincapie Sportswear team. He holds a 32-second race lead over Sagan with five stages of the eight-day event remaining.
“I wish someone was with me because I was suffering real bad,” said Skujins. “In the headwinds, I was just dying.”
Rob Britton (SmartStop) of Canada is third overall, 43 seconds behind. Twenty-five riders remain within a minute of the lead.
“This is big,” said Skujins, who last year won two stages and the overall title at the Tour de Beauce in Canada. “I dunno, it's pretty massive for us. Last year Robin Carpenter (his teammate) won in Colorado. This year we made it happen here.”
Skujins was among a seven-rider breakaway, his third attempt of the day, that rode to nearly a five-minute margin at the base of Mt. Hamilton (elevation, 4,216 feet), the first substantial climb of the race.
Skujins then bolted to the front and quickly built his advantage over a few weary chasers to more than a minute and several minutes ahead of the main field. Skujins rode alone for the last 1 1/2 hours, which included a long, winding descent. The sharp down turns forced Skujins to stop once and stumbled briefly on another corner.
“It was really hard to get in the break,” said Skujins.
Sagan, who has won 11 Tour of California stages, and the rest of the main field miscalculated the stage winner's lead.
“It was OK on the first climb, but then on the last one, I don't know what happened,” said Sagan. “I did the best I could and I won the in (following) group again.”
Cavendish, who won the first two stages of the race's 10th edition, finished 103rd in the remaining field of 134, more than 21 minutes behind the winner.
The race picks up Wednesday with 106.9-mile stage 4 road race from Pismo Beach to Avila Beach.