Mach is King of Mountain after a victorious climb
SACRAMENTO — In a field loaded with accomplished climbers, Paul Mach's name doesn't stand out.
But for the majority of Sunday's opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California, Mach had his Team Bissell colors in full view as one of four riders who set out on the day's biggest breakaway.
Mach earned the King of the Mountain jersey that he'll wear when today's stage starts in Davis, doing so by finishing first over a Category 3 climb just outside Auburn, the lone categorized climb of the day. The four riders were caught well before the race concluded, but that didn't keep the day from being a success for Mach.
"The goal was to ride aggressively and to animate the race and try to get into the breakaway," Mach said. "That was the plan for us, and it definitely worked."
With a healthy group of Northern California riders, Team Bissell has its sights on making as big a mark as it can in the early stages of this year's race. Led by Watsonville native Ben Jacques-Maynes, his twin brother, Andy, and now Mach, the squad already has captured some attention.
"Whether it is winning a stage or finishing in the top, that's what we want to do," said Ben Jacques-Maynes before Sunday's start in Nevada City. "We want to make a statement wherever we can. I've got a lot of energy and fitness and I don't mind using it up."
Daniel Holloway is also a promising younger rider. A former short-track speedskater who raced against Olympic champion Apolo Ohno, Holloway is trying to use that experience for a good showing for Bissell this week.
"Guys like (Mark) Cavendish and Fabian (Cancellara) are just another guy on a bike," Holloway said. "I'm not intimidated by any means."
Adding the King of the Mountain jersey will give Mach even more fuel for what already stood to be a festive send-off this morning. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in applied mathematics at UC Davis.
"It's kind of like a dream in a dream," Mach said. "Just to start (the race) was a big goal of mine, and now to have a jersey and to get in a breakaway in the biggest race in America is a big achievement for me."
Kristoff, who races on the same team as longtime American rider George Hincapie, is only 22 years old. On Team BMC, he races alongside Campbell's Jackson Stewart.
"I'm not so good in the climbs, so it may just be one day (in the jersey)," Kristoff said.
If Kristoff falters, he may be able to hand off the jersey to a friend. Teammate Chad Beyer finished second in the Best Young Rider standings after spending much of the first stage in the breakaway.
Last year's stage from Davis to Santa Rosa was a particularly wet one, and rain is in the forecast again today as riders head for Santa Rosa. Weather.com projects a 60 percent chance of rain today in both Davis and Santa Rosa.
— Ben Enos