LOS ANGELES: Quick-Step's Fernando Gaviria steered clear of a big crash in the closing kilometres to win the fifth stage of the Tour of California on Thursday (May 17) as Tejay Van Garderen maintained the overall lead.
Colombia's Gaviria, who won the opening stage in Long Beach on Sunday, held of Australian Caleb Ewan of Mitchelton and Slovakian Peter Sagan (Bora) in a sprint finish to the 176-kilometre stage from Stockton to Elk Grove.
There was no change in the overall standings, with Van Garderen maintaining the 23-second lead over Team Sky's Egan Bernal that he claimed with a victory in the time-trial fourth stage on Wednesday.
But there was drama in the closing 10 kilometers as Britain's Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data and Katusha Alpecin's Marcel Kittel battled mechanical trouble and punctures before a crash wreaked havoc in the peloton with less than three kilometers remaining.
Gaviria's Quick-Step team took charge at the front with less than 200 meters to go and delivered the 23-year-old to the line ahead of a charging Ewan and Sagan - the three-time world champion who won the Tour of California in 2015 and owns a record 16 stage wins in the event.
As in the previous four stages, a five-rider breakaway formed in the opening kilometers when Stijn Vandenbergh, Michael Rice, Ruben Companioni, Fabian Lienhard and Tanner Putt built a lead of more than three minutes on the peloton, only to be reeled in with 18 kilometers remaining.
Van Garderen said he expected more of a challenge in Friday's pivotal sixth stage, which includes seven categorized climbs on the 196.5-kilometre route from Folsom to South Lake Tahoe.
"Today was, I wouldn't say a recovery day but we got to relax a little bit," Van Garderen said. "It's going to be a really aggressive race tomorrow. Bernal is going to do everything he can to wrestle this jersey off of me.
"I'm going to do everything I can to keep it on my back," he said.