Los Angeles (AFP) – Spain’s Ivan Cortina sprinted to victory in the fifth stage of the Tour of California on Thursday as American Tejay van Garderen retained the race leader’s yellow jersey.
Bahrain-Merida rider Cortina, 23, claimed the first professional win of his career after holding off the challenge of Argentina’s Maximiliano Richeze and Colombia’s Sergio Higuita.
Cortina took advantage of the absence of the race’s strongest sprinters to claim the win, with riders such as Peter Sagan falling away from the peloton after being dropped in the final climb of the day.
Van Garderen, who has led the overall standings since the 2nd stage, had a comfortable ride, unlike Wednesday’s calamitous fourth stage, when he crashed after suffering a broken chain.
He initially lost his overall lead before being reinstated after a controversial decision by the race jury.
The 2013 Tour of California leads the field by four seconds from Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen of the Deceuninck team.
Asgreen leapfrogged Italy’s Gianni Moscon into second place.
Friday’s sixth and penultimate stage sees the peloton face a gruelling finish on the slopes of Mount Baldy, the 4,200ft peak in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles.