Pasadena - Slovakia's Peter Sagan won the 2015 Tour of California, completing eight days of racing with a dramatic third-place finish in the final stage on Sunday.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider won by just three seconds from overnight leader Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick-Step), who had grabbed the yellow jersey by winning Saturday's gruelling seventh stage that finished on the upper slopes of Mount Baldy.
"It was close and very hard," Sagan said of his win by the narrowest of margins. "I did surprise myself. I almost thought I didn't do it. I am very happy for the victory."
Briton Mark Cavendish won the eighth stage from Los Angeles to Pasadena in a sprint with a time of two hours, 14 minutes, 55 seconds. It was Cavendish's fourth stage win and the fifth for Etixx-Quick-Step team in the race.
Sagan's third place, however, gave him enough bonus seconds to take the overall title. He said he didn't come into the event with high hopes of winning the overall title.
But after winning the fourth stage, he seized the yellow jersey in stage six on Friday -- a time trial shortened to just 10.6 kilometres after being moved from Big Bear Lake to Santa Clarita.
He followed that with a courageous climb from the city of Ontario to Mount Baldy, losing the yellow jersey to Alaphilippe by just two seconds.
"I am happy," he said. "I never thought I could win the general classification in the Tour of California. Every year the race is decided in the climb and this year I worked really hard on that stage."
France's Alaphilippe had to settle for second place overall, but he was rewarded with the best young rider's jersey. Team Sky's Sergio Henao finished third overall while American Joe Dombrowski placed fourth.
Cavendish said Sagan and his team deserved the victory.
"We could always do more to win it but hats off to Tinkoff, they rode strong, they rode hard today, especially Peter," he said.Results on Sunday after the eighth and final stage of the Tour of California, 105.8km from Los Angeles to Pasadena:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/Etixx) 2hrs, 14mins, 55secs
2. Wouter Wippert (NED/Drapac) same time
3. Peter Sagan (SVK/Tinkoff-Saxo) s.t.
4. Tyler Farrar (USA/MTB-Qhubeka) s.t.
5. Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL/Lotto) s.t.
6. Lucas Haedo (ARG/Jamis) s.t.
7. Zico Waeytens (BEL/Giant) s.t.
8. Andrea Peron (ITA/Novo Nordisk) s.t.
9. Logan Owen (USA/Axeon) s.t.
10. Martijn Verschoor (NED/Novo Nordisk) s.t.
Final overall standings
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/Tinkoff-Saxo) 28hrs, 13min, 12secs
2. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/Etixx) at 0:03.
3. Sergio Henao (COL/Sky) 0:37.
4. Joseph Dobrowski (USA/Cannondale) 1:14.
5. Robert Gesink (NED/Lotto) 1:15.
6. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/Trek) 1:16.
7. Ian Boswell (USA/Sky) 1:23.
8. Riccardo Zoldi (ITA/Trek) 1:24.
9. Peter Kennaugh (GBR/Sky) 1:44.
10. Rob Britton (CAN/Smartshop) 2:10.