Tour of California Stage 5: Sagan and the sprint


This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. The writers over there (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Stage 5 of the Tour of California offered up some more climbing. While it was nothing like yesterday’s climb, which allowed Chris Horner to attack and win the stage and the yellow jersey, there were still 4 categorized climbs. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) got into the break early and hung until the very end. Hoping to score a stage win for Rabobank, which was sponsoring the stage, he was denied 100 meters from the line, and the stage ended in a bunch sprint, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) handily taking the stage.

The Break

About 25km into the stage, a four man break got away, consisting of Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Chris Froome (Sky), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) and Chris Baldwin (Bissell Cycling). However, soon after the first KOM, an attack from the bunch allowed Martin Velits (HTC-Highroad), Maarten Tjallingi (Rabobank), Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech Powered By C10), and Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) to join the leaders. McCarty was the leader in the KOM jersey, and clearly was looking to stay there. However, he’d have to battle Anthony for maximum points , as he was only a few points behind. As they reached the 2nd KOM, the aggressive racing continued, with Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team), Stefan Denifl (Leopard Trek), and Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) attacking from the peloton and making across the gap to the leaders. This group of 11 was the break of the day, and their largest gap was 3’30”.

Again, RadioShack worked at the front of the peloton to keep the break in check. Tjallingi tried an attack on the break but only managed 20sec before he was brought back. By the time the break had reached the last KOM, riders had started to fall off of the break. When McCarty took maximum points over the top of the climb, Denifl and Freire took off and left the rest of the breakaway riders in their dust. The two worked together for awhile, but when Denifl got a flat, Freire took off. At 7km to go, he had 1 minute, but try as he might, a solo break win was not to be and he was swept up with 2.5km to go.

All together now

Once everyone was back together, a couple of attacks happened, notably George Hincapie (BMC). Jeremy Vannell (Bissell) also tried, but neither were successful. The pace in the run to the line was so high, the peloton was strung out and fractured.

As the finish line loomed, Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) started the sprint, followed closely by Ben Swift (Sky), but Sagan took them both coming around the outside to get to the line just before Howard, who had left a little too early.

It must be said that Bissell has been the star American team here in Cali. They’ve had men in the break every day and are racing to win (even though they haven’t yet!). For myself, I would love to see a domestic team get at least one stage win, but with only three days left, chances are running out. Today’s stage had no impact on the GC, or the time gaps, and Horner keeps his yellow jersey. Tomorrow is the individual time trial, which will hopefully see Taylor Phinney kicking some heiny!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Peter sagan SVK (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  2. Leigh Howard AUS (HTC-Highroad)
  3. Ben Swift GBR (Sky)
  4. Paul Martens GER (Rabobank)
  5. Alexander Candelario USA (Kelly Benefit Stratgies)
Top 5 GC
  1. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  2. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack) at 1:15
  3. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:22
  4. Christian Vande Velde USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:29
  5. Rory Sutherland AUS (UnitedHealthCare) at 1:30

Photo: AP

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