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Hernandez wins Most Courageous Rider and Hoehn Keeps KOM Jersey on Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California

U.S. National Team Riders have been in every jersey so far at the Amgen Tour of California except the yellow, currently on the back of American, Tejay Van Garderen

Michael Hernandez’s (Clermont, Fla.) daylong ride in the breakaway during stage 4 at the Amgen Tour of California not only preserved his USA Cycling teammate Alex Hoehn’s (Lenexa, Kan.) polka dot King of the Mountains jersey, the 21-year-old from Cleremont, Florida, also earned the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey for his efforts.

Hernandez, who spent 130km off the front of the race during stage 2 to South Lake Tahoe, upped the ante on Wednesday, infiltrating a breakaway group that escaped just a handful of kilometers into the 214.5km stage from Laguna Seca Raceway to Morro Bay. Hernandez and his group of five, which also included USA Cycling development program graduates Jonny Brown and Ian Garrison of Hagens Berman Axeon, stayed away until just 15km remained, spending nearly 200km off the front of the race.

Hernandez wasn’t there to enjoy the view along the Pacific Coast Highway, however, as there were enough KOM points on hand to sweep up the jersey Hoehn had won the previous day with his own all-day breakaway. Hernandez battled Novo Nordisk rider Joonas Henttala on each of the day’s three KOMs to deny points from anyone hoping to take Hoehn’s jersey.

“We came into the day knowing we wanted someone in the move,” Hernandez said at the post-race press conference. “With so many guys that are really far down on GC now, there’s always a chance that it would stay away, so I wanted to represent the United States up there, but also there’s always the opportunity to get a result if it does stay away. Once we were out there, it was a long day, but we just kept rolling through.”

Hoehn’s jersey was safe from challenge when Hernandez won the final KOM, a category 3 climb that came 131.5km into the race.

“I was really excited,” Hoehn said of learning he’d kept the jersey for another day. “There’s nothing more exciting than wearing a jersey at a WorldTour race. Having the opportunity to do this is just amazing, so I’m extremely happy with what Michael did today and that I’d be able to keep it.”

Hoehn put a lot of work into earning that jersey the previous day, when he was in a two-man breakaway with eventual stage winner Remi Cavagna (Deceunick-QuickStep). He paid the price for his efforts on stage 4, however, and was glad to have a teammate take the reins.

“Today when I was starting to ride my legs felt pretty bad,” Hoehn said. “It wasn’t until about two hours in that I was like, ‘OK, I guess I will make it to the finish. I’m not worried.’ But the whole day my legs just kind of felt like raw meat, just so tender all day long. I was kind of worried for a minute, but I ate a lot of food, a lot of solid food, and definitely came around.”

Despite the fatigue, Hoehn’s day on Wednesday was considerably easier than the effort that won his polka dot prize.

“Today was a lot easier. I was not in the break today, thankfully,” he said. “I don’t know if I could have done it again. It was very difficult, but I was able to keep the jersey for today while my teammate was up there taking the points for me, making sure no one else did.”

The USA Cycling National Team now has worn every jersey in the race except for yellow, currently on the back of former USA Cycling development rider Tejay van Garderen of EF Education First.

On day 1, Tyler Stites infiltrated the breakaway, earned some bonus seconds on intermediate sprints and earned the white jersey of the best young rider, while teammate Travis McCabe finished second on the stage to three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and wore the green sprinter’s jersey the next day. Hoehn still has the polka dots, and Hernandez will be resplendent in the blue Most Courageous jersey on stage 5.

Although jerseys are a point of pride and accomplishment in cycling, Hernandez’s blue top has a special meaning for the young rider.

“My mom’s an ovarian cancer survivor,” Hernandez said. “She still battles with it now, but she was diagnosed with stage 4 when it first came about. It was really rough then, but thankfully she’s still here and she was able to come out for the first couple of stages and watch me do my biggest race ever. It meant a lot to me, and now to be in the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey has an extra-special feeling to it.”

This year’s National Team presence at the Tour of California was made possible with the additional support of JustBARE Chicken and VolvoUSA.

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