Kiwi Bennett captures Tour of California title

George Bennett (File)
George Bennett (File)

Los Angeles - New Zealand's George Bennett won the Tour of California title Saturday by 35 seconds while American Evan Huffman captured the seventh and final stage in a thrilling sprint finish.

Bennett, a LottoNL-Jumbo team rider, took the yellow jersey by finishing fourth in Friday's time trial and kept his full margin over the final 77.6 miles (125km) to the finish line at Pasadena.

Bennett won in a total time of 22 hours, 54 minutes, 38 seconds with Poland's Rafal Majka of Bora Hansgrohe second at 365 seconds and American Andrew Talansky of Cannondale third, another second adrift.

"It was a pretty hectic day," Bennett said. "We thought we had it under control early on and then it kicked off. I was under pressure a little but the team came through for me.

"It's a pretty special day really -- very, very special."

Admitting, "I was pretty relieved when I went under the 3km (to go) banner," Bennett said he hopes his first major stage race crown can launch him to greater feats.

"It's a major steepping stone for me. I can take a lot from this, confidence and with the team," Bennett said. "I want to keep building on this in Europe."

Rally rider Huffman took the stage victory in 2:27:28, edging Spanish Sky rider David Lopez in second and French Cofidis rider Nicolas Edet who was third at the line.

"I'm happy with the week," Huffman said. "I came into it with a stomach bug. I'm nowhere near my best, so I'm optimistic for July."

That's when riders hope to be racing in the Tour de France.

Results and final standings from Saturday's seventh and last stage of the Tour of California, 77.6 miles (125km) from Mountain High to Pasadena:

Stage 7

1. Evan Huffman (USA/Rally) 2hrs 27mins 28secs, 2. David Lopez (ESP/Sky) same time, 3. Nicolas Edet (FRA/Cofidis) s.t., 4. Lachlan Morton (AUS/Dimension Data) s.t., 5. Rob Britton (USA/Rally) s.t., 6. Peter Sagan (SVK/Bora) at 22 seconds, 7. Matteo Trentin (ITA/Quick-Step) s.t., 8. John Degenkolb (GER/Trek) s.t., 9. Ben King (CAN/Dimension Data) s.t., 10. Jhonatan Restrepo (COL/Katusha) s.t.

Final general classification

1. George Bennett (NZL/LottoNL) 22hrs, 54min, 38secs, 2. Rafal Majka (POL/Bora) at :35, 3. Andrew Talansky (USA/Cannondale) :36, 4. Brent Bookwalter (USA/BMC) :45, 5. Ian Boswell (USA/Sky) 1:00, 6. Vegard Laengen (NOR/UAE) 1:54, 7. Lachlan Morton (AUS/Dimension Data) 1:55, 8. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR/Sky) 2:12, 9. Sam Oomen (NED/Sunweb) 2:15, 10. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/Trek) 3:14.

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