Tour of California: Good signs for De Plus on Gibraltar Road
After the race's first mountain top finish, the Belgian is our team's highest-ranked rider in the general classification.
Fernando Gaviria rolled out of Venture – the start venue of Tour of California stage 2 – resplendent in the yellow jersey, which he got to wear following his emphatic victory in Long Beach, where he claimed Quick-Step Floors' 30th win of the season. With five classified climbs on the menu, the 23-year-old knew he would concede the overall lead at the end of the day, but that didn't stop our team from taking the front of the peloton and setting the tempo behind the three escapees for the most part of the 155km-long stage.
From Venture to Gibraltar Road, where Julian Alaphilippe forged his beautiful overall triumph at the 2016 edition, Monday's stage took the peloton through the Santa Barbara County, a region visited for the first time by Europeans in 1472, when a Portuguese expedition made its way there, but which knew a fantastic boom four centuries later, during the famous "Gold Rush".
As expected, the peloton got whittled down on Gibraltar Road, a real bruiser of a climb averaging 8%, whose toughest gradients featured in its opening and closing kilometers, where the GC teams put the hammer down. Laurens De Plus flew the flag high for Quick-Step Floors, staying with the main group until 2.5 kilometers to go, when Egan Bernal (Team Sky) launched the race-winning attack.
Taking on his first summit finish since last season's Giro d'Italia, the 22-year-old paced himself expertly on the 12km-long grueling ascent and crossed the line just outside the top 10, a result from which the young Belgian – currently 11th in the general classification – will draw a lot of confidence for the remaining days of the World Tour race.
"Crossing the finish line today felt incredible, I am so happy to be back! I feel like my old self again. This morning I talked with Petr over the phone and he told me that today was the first day he wass without a brace, so finally everything is starting to come together again. I'm super excited for the next days coming here in the States", Laurens said after Gibraltar Road.
Next up is the 197km stage 3, the longest of this edition, during which teammate Fernando Gaviria will wear the green jersey.
Photo credit: ©Christopher Graythen/ Getty Images