In homecoming Tour, second not quite good enough for Hanson

California local narrowly misses in Santa Barbara and will take the sting and the lesson to Thursday's Avila Beach finale

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (VN) — Ken Hanson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) said all the right things after the finish of stage 4 at the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday: he was happy with his team, he was happy with his result, and he was happy to do well in front of a home crowd.

His team did work well enough, unfurling a swift leadout in the final kilometer of the 134-kilometer stage. And Hanson should be happy with his result; second at a major race like the Amgen Tour is an enormous result for a rider from a domestic squad. And, with the finish in his former hometown of Santa Barbara, fans shouted louder than normal for a runner-up.

But after finishing second to Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) in stage 4, Ken Hanson clearly wanted more. Very clearly, he seemed to have expected more.

“I was a little too impatient and went a little too soon, and Farrar had good finishing speed,” Hanson said. “I lived here for so long. I have such good friends here, it feels like coming home. I was really, really motivated for the stage here. And I just came up a little short. Just was a little too impatient for the sprint. I think I could have gotten maybe 50 meters more out of my last leadout guy, [Alex] Candelario. But I was afraid of getting swarmed and pinched in, and kind of went a little early and hugged the barriers, and Farrar was able to come by me in the last 50 meters. It was close, and I’m happy, but I’m still really hungry.”

Hanson is one of America’s top domestic pros on one of America’s strongest teams, the Minnesota-based Optum squad. The team has recently bolstered its European racing regime, and is putting that strength to work. In a drag-race of a sprint today into Santa Barbara, the team had the best leadout inside the final kilometer, but was perhaps just a rider short. Farrar stole a seat on the tracks and barreled by Hanson, the most prolific winner in North America last season, and a winner at a race in Portugal, the Classica Aveiro-Fatima, earlier this spring. In California today, Hanson was close, but not close enough.

It wasn’t a win for Hanson, but it was far from a loss. And he knows it, though the sprinter in him has a hard time calling a second-place result a success.

“You know. It’s tough,” he said. “The timing couldn’t have been any better. I’ve got really good teammates supporting me … I think I was just a little too impatient. I think I could have waited a little bit longer to start my sprint. Three hundred meters is a little long. I had momentum, and just kind of went for it. Maybe a little bit more patience and one more guy, you know?”

The Tour of California is nearly a home race for Hanson, who seems to have done time all along its route, at one point or another. He was born and raised in Sierra Madre, and now lives in San Diego, though he used to live in Santa Barbara and went to college in the state as well. When he rolled through the finish straight after the podium presentation, Hanson was greeted with loud cheers from a mass of fans. The pressure, then, to do well, is present, even if he rides for one of the smaller teams.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re a really small team, and we don’t even have all our best leadout guys here,” he said. “As you see, we’re just as good as the ProTour teams when we get organized,” he said. “I’m really motivated for tomorrow’s stage as well.”

He should get another crack on Thursday, when the peloton heads from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach. The fifth leg of the race is 51km longer than Wednesday’s stage and every bit as tailored to a bunch finish, but Hanson will almost certainly be more patient when he winds up his kick a day after his career best Amgen Tour result.

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