David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) took the win in sunny Santa Cruz today in stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California but he almost lost it to Mick Rodgers (HTC-Columbia) when he started celebrating before crossing the line. Officials had to review the photo finish before the official winner could be called. Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) finished in third.
The GC contenders made their move today with Leipheimer making the first attack on the final climb up Bonny Doon Road. While last year he was able to get some time on the field, this year Zabriskie and Rogers were able to match his pace and pass him in the final sprint.
The other story of the day is that Versus TV cut away in the final 2 kilometer of the race to bring the pre-game show of the hockey playoffs; money talks and so do pre-emptive contracts. Why they didn’t do at least a picture in a picture, who knows.
The 113.3 miles/182.3 km stage followed the expected scenario today. A break takes off and gains time over the two long, but moderate climbs on Tunitas Creek Rd. of La Honda Rd. and gets reeled at the bottom of the final climb, Bonny Doon Rd before fireworks happen.
After a few failed breakaway attempts at the start of the stage, the peloton approached the first sprint in Pacifica, which was taken by Stage 1 winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), putting him in the lead in the points competition. The first hour of the stage was marked by little attacks, mainly from QuickStep and HTC-Columbia, but the riders weren’t able to get anything to stick.
The next sprint in Half Moon bay was taken by Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), followed by Alexander Kristoff (BMC) and Cavendish. As the riders continued on from the sprint a five-man break formed, which included Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL), Will Routley (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Eric Boily (SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy), Davide Frattini (Team Type 1) and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies). Both Jacques-Maynes and Routley know the roads quite well as the first lives in the area and the second trained here earlier this year.
Frattini took the first KOM points on Tunitas Creek Road (Cat. 2 – 1,562 ft.) followed by Anderson. After going through the feed zone, the riders were quickly hit with another climb, Highway 84 (Cat. 3 – 1,427 ft.), which provided identical results to the first KOM – Frattini in first and Anderson is second. After a quick descent, the cyclists faced the third KOM of the day, Pescadero Rd. (Cat. 4 – 1,053 ft.), which, once again, saw Frattini take the KOM, followed by Anderson. Frattini was not only moving up in the KOM competition but was protecting his teammate Thomas Rabou‘s lead.
Team RadioShack, with assistance from the Cervélo TestTeam, drove the field for most of the day and eventually swallowed up the break en route to the final climb of the day. But not before, Routley went for a solo move which lasted a few miles. With the end of the race drawing near, several teams began to make their move and created a break that consisted of three riders – Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie.
With just under 20 miles to go on the route to Santa Cruz, the riders faced the largest climb of the day, Bonny Doon/Pine Flat Road (Cat. 2 – 2,135 ft.). The 3 men had a gap of 1:30 as they crested but they still had 20 km to go, on a fast descent to the finish line. Behind them, the chase was on which included Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Francois Parisien and Lucas Euser (Spidertech p/b Planet Energy), Rory Sutherland and Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia).
Zabriskie took the stage win in an all out sprint to the finish before thousands of fans at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.The chase group crossed the line 17 seconds later.
“I’ve been a runner up, but I’ve never won a stage here,” said Zabriskie. “I’ve never touched the Amgen Leader Jersey since the Amgen Tour of California started. Just to touch this jersey is quite an honor.”
Zabriskie took the Amgen Race Leader Jersey; Cavendish claimed the Herbalife Sprint Jersey; and Rabou is still in the California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey. Sagan retained the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey for the second consecutive day. And for his performance in the main breakaway of the day Routley was awarded Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
After three stages, Zabriskie has a lead of 4 seconds on Rogers and 6 seconds on Leipheimer. Sagan sits in fourth spot at 21 seconds.
Eighteen riders are less than 30 seconds down. Of those are four riders from Continental teams. UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis has Marc de Maar in fifth spot at 24 seconds down and Rory Sutherland in eighth at 27 seconds. Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) waiting for the big climb up Big Bear is also at 27 seconds down, and so is Francois Parisien (Spidertech p/b Planet Energy).
The race continues on Wednesday with the 121.5 mi/195.5 km stage 4 from San Jose to Modesto. Similar to the 2009 stage, the racers face a longer and more challenging route, beginning with Sierra Rd. (1,930 ft.) within the first five miles of the stage. After completing the Sierra Rd. climb, the riders face fast and flat roads full of twists and turns (Calaveras Rd. alone has more than 40 switchbacks) before visiting downtown Livermore for the first time. The peloton then turns on to the very difficult Mines Rd., where the riders will face nearly 30 miles of a narrow, twisting road, climbing most of the way before a long descent into Patterson. For the second consecutive year, the stage will finish with two circuits in downtown Modesto.