Cavendish races to 3rd Tour of California stage victory

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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — Britain's Mark Cavendish raced his third Tour of California stage victory and Latvia's Tom Skujins retained the overall lead Thursday in the rainy fifth stage.

Cavendish, the Etixx-Quick Step rider who won the first two stages, powered to the front in the final 200 yards to win the 95.7-mile leg from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita in 3 hours, 51 minutes, 37 seconds.

Cavendish waited for Australian teammate Mark Renshaw to get to the front of the field.

"I had Mark Renshaw at the end, and as always he was cool and calm, but we had to dig deep," Cavendish said. "Daniel Oss attacked in last kilometer and Mark was cooked, so we couldn't go as fast as we wanted in the end. It was a headwind finish, and I knew I didn't want to jump early."

Cavendish has 131 career victories, eight in the Tour of California.

Belgium's Zico Waeytens of Giant-Alpecin was second, and Slovakia's Peter Sagan of Tinkoff-Saxo was third — in the same time as Cavendish.

Sagan, who won the fourth stage and finished second in the first three stages, gained four bonus seconds to cut Skujins' lead to 18 seconds with three stages left in the eight-day race.

Skujins, who rides for the American Hincapie Racing team, assumed the race lead with a solo win in the third stage. He finished in the main field Thursday.

My guys did amazing," Skujins said. "We managed to not let the break get too far ahead. We kept them close, 3:30 or so. We knew after the last descent that it could be tailwind, or tail-cross, fast finish, had them at 2 minutes. ... It didn't get too out of hand."

France's Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quick-Step was third overall, 44 seconds back.

With snow forecast Friday for the individual time trial in Big Bear Lake, race organizers have revised and shortened what was viewed as a key day for the overall race title contenders.

Instead of riding 15.1-mile time trial at more than 6,700 feet, the field will negotiate a 6.5-mile course starting and ending at the Magic Mountain theme park. Potential time gaps will be greatly reduced.

A women's invitational time trial will be held on the same course before the men's race.

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