Mark Cavendish (Columbia-High Road) easily outsprinted Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) to win his second stage in two days at the Amgen Tour of California.
The 134.3-mile stage 4, the longest stage of the race, was finally raced under ‘California’ weather which had everyone smiling at the start in Visalia. Cavendish has circled this stage with Paso Robles, the finishing city of the stage, at only 12 miles from the headquarters of High Road and he delivered the goods.
“This was the day that I was planning on winning this year. It was a hard day; harder than expected. It seems like they’ve replicated a Tour de France stage with the speed and the parcours, the distance. It has been incredibly hard. There was a strong breakaway and we had to do everything to bring them back, it was touch and go and in the last kilometer, everything came back. It was a case of doing what we do as the best in the world and that’s to lead me out. Big George [Hincapie] went in the last kilometer , it was slightly downhill in the last kilometer and then Mark Renshaw went again just before 500 and dropped me off at 200 meters to go. It was a drag strip. There were a lot of trains going out, there was Cervelo, Liquigas, Quick Step. It was a battle of the teams and fortunately we came out on top.” said Cavendish.
Yesterday, Cavendish was almost pipped at the line when he raised his hands so today he sprinted hard.
“Actually I could see a shadow to my right and I thought it was Tom coming around and I was just watching it on the video and I was actually sprinting my own shadow.” laughed Cavendish.
Matt Crane (Jelly Belly) who initiated the break at only seven miles into the stage was eventually joined by Jeff Louder (BMC), Curtis Gunn (Fly V Australia), Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing) and Cam Evans (Ouch). It was the second time for both Evans and Louder to attempt a break.
Cruising through the flat San Joaquin Valley floor under sunny skies, the escapees steadily opened the gap to a maximum of eight minutes mid-way through the race, with Astana leading a steady tempo in the field. At 50 miles to go, Quick Step, Team Columbia-Highroad and Saxo Bank began sharing the load at the front, and the time differential decreased rapidly. The breakaway splintered under the pressure, with Chadwick being the last one reeled in with less than three miles to go. The Columbia-High Road lead out train took over and delivered Cavendish to the line.
No changes on GC as all the contenders came in together before tomorrow’s decisive time trial.
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) still leads with 24 seconds over three-time World Champion Michael Rogers (columbia-High Road) and 28 seconds over US National Champ Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream). Cavendish took over the Sprint jersey, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is still leading the Best Young Rider competition and Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) keeps his King of the Mountain jersey.
Matt Crane was awarded the Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey for his ride today.
“Small teams like ours have to look for every opportunity they can get. A day like today is great; to be out in front and on television, it’s great for the team and the sponsors. I just tried to make a race of it. It’s great to be on the podium and have that time. When we race against ProTour teams, we don’t have too many options, so we’re just happy to be here today.” said Crane.