It took Julian Alaphilippe just a bit longer than he hoped to top the podium at the Tour of California.
The French cyclist, who lost his lead on the final stage a year ago and finished second overall, managed to hang onto it Sunday. Alaphilippe finished safely in the main field in Stage 8 to hold off Rohan Dennis of Australia and American veteran Brent Bookwalter for one of the biggest wins of his career.
Mark Cavendish won the flat, fast stage over Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff in a sprint finish.
In the women's race, Dutch star Kirsten Wild beat Lisa Brennauer of Germany and compatriot Marianne Vos at the finish of a 43-mile criterium, while Megan Guarnier held off Kristin Armstrong to win the overall.
The men's race ultimately was decided when Alaphilippe won the climb up Gibraltar Road, then minimized his losses in the time trial in Folsom. Dennis finished 21 seconds back in second place for the second time in three years, while Bookwalter was another 22 seconds adrift for his BMC Racing team.
The final stage covered 86 miles before finishing on the flat streets of the California capital, and for a bit it looked like a breakaway just might stay clear. Their gap was 35 seconds with about 3 miles left.
The Tinkoff squad of Sagan and the Katusha team of Kristoff began to give chase, trying to set up their fast finishers for a group finish. They managed to reel in the break with about a mile remaining in the race, and then it was up to their lead-out trains to set them up for the race to the line.
Kristoff was the first to begin his sprint, and Sagan swung out from behind him. Cavendish showed his veteran patience by waiting until the last possible second and swinging out from behind Sagan.
He sped ahead of both his rivals and threw his arms up in victory as he crossed the line. It was his first stage win of the year and 10th of his career in California, the second-most in race history.
While the men's race meandered out of Sacramento before returning for the finish, the final stage of the women's race was a 20-lap circuit of the wide, fast roads near the downtown area.
The UnitedHealthcare squad of Olympic hopeful Coryn Rivera took to the front with two laps remaining, and four riders still controlled the race as the field began to position itself for the sprint.
Wild was able to hold off Brennauer and Vos, who had won the previous stage, to capture her first of this year's race. Rivera finished behind them in fourth and Amy Pieters was fifth.