Peter Sagan has had trouble finding his way to the front at the finish this season.
Turns out he just needed to get back to the Tour of California.
The three-time road cycling world champion, and the winningest rider in race history, freelanced his way to the front of the opening 89-mile stage Sunday and then held off fast-finishing Travis McCabe of the USA Cycling team to earn his 17th career win in North America’s biggest stage race.
McCabe nearly caught him at the finish line in downtown Sacramento in what would have been a monumental upset. Max Walscheid rounded out the podium for Team Sunweb, which set a frantic pace over the final couple of miles to set up the sprint finish.
The second stage Monday takes riders 122 miles from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe. The crucial climbing stages come later in the week, but riders still will navigate nearly 15,000 feet of ascent in what could shake up the general classification.
• Pascal Ackermann of Germany sprinted to victory at the end of the second stage of the Giro d’Italia. Slovenian Primoz Roglic remained overall leader. It was the first win in his first Grand Tour for Ackermann, the 25-year-old who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe. Ackermann edged out Elia Viviani and Caleb Ewan in a bunch sprint at the end of the rolling 127-mile route from Bologna to Fucecchio.
Stanford is tops in
women’s water polo
Makenzie Fischer recorded a hat trick and freshman Ryann Neushul scored the game-winner to give No. 2 Stanford a 9-8 victory over No. 1 USC in the NCAA women’s water-polo final at Avery Aquatics Center.
Stanford (23-2) has won four of the past six NCAA championships and took its seventh overall, tying UCLA.
Neushul scored the winner at 4:51 in the fourth quarter, the only goal of the period. Makenzie Fischer was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
College baseball: Tim Tawa hit a three-run homer and starter Erik Miller pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings as third-ranked Stanford (37-9, 19-5 Pac-12) took the decider of a three-game series at Cal (29-17, 14-10) with a 5-2 decision. Andrew Vaughn’s 14th homer of the season accounted for the Bears’ runs.
Softball: Stanford (32-18) received its first bid to an NCAA regional since 2013. The Cardinal will open against Boise State (34-14) on Friday in the Gainesville (Fla.) Regional. Host Florida (44-15) faces Boston University (37-18) in Friday’s second game.
Tennis: Novak Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to win his third Madrid Open title, tying Rafael Nadal for most Masters 1000 trophies with 33. It was the second title of the season for Djokovic, the top-ranked player who added to his triumph in the Australian Open. He hadn’t won in Madrid since 2016, with his other title in the Spanish capital coming in 2011. Nadal and Djokovic have five more Masters 1000 titles than Roger Federer, who’s third.
Motor sports: Lewis Hamilton beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to win the Spanish Grand Prix in Montmelo for a third consecutive year, securing a fifth one-two finish for Mercedes to start the Formula One season.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Peter-Sagan-wins-opening-stage-of-the-Tour-of-13839902.php.