Over six hours in the saddle, 135.3 miles (217.7 km) of racing, 7 categorized climbs, more than 12,000 feet of climbing, headwinds, clear blue skies, enthusiastic crowds all could be used to describe stage 6, the Queen Stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Another word could be tough. So tough that 17 riders pulled the plug in the race and 11 more were time cut.
How does the stage compare to stages in the Tour de France? “14,000 feet or 4,500 meters of vertical gain is a lot. I think the biggest stage of the tour I’ve done is probably 5,200 meters. It’s pretty tough. It was 217 kilometers, 6 plus hours of racing. ” said yellow jersey Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia). “The only difference I think here is that the actual climbs weren’t that steep, they were average of 4 or 5 percent, some 6. I believe that’s was why we didn’t see two or three riders contest the sprint. But it was a tough day.”
“I’ll remember it for awhile.” he smiled.
While the stage was very difficult, as expected it was not decisive for the overall classification. All eyes now turn to Saturday’s 20.9 miles (33.6 km) time trial.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) did it again, this time after more than six hours in the saddle at the Amgen Tour of California Queen Stage. The young Slovak outsprinted the yellow jersey group of some twenty riders on an uphill finish to take his second win of the race, the third for his Liquigas-Doimo team – and his fifth win of the season.
Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) was second followed by Rogers.
With the time bonus associated with his third place, Rogers now has a 4 second lead on David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions). Sagan moved up to third spot on GC at 9 seconds back.
The break of the day occurred on the lead into the first KOM at Mill Creek Summit. The move included Jason McCartney (Team RadioShack), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep), Matt Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), George Hincapie (BMC), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Jakob Fuglsang and Andy Schleck both of Saxo Bank and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1). Taking the KOM was Wilson, followed by Rabou and Schleck.
With his KOM jersey in jeopardy, Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) joined Fly V Australia duo of Darren Lill and Ben Day in a chase group, but the trio was pulled back by the peloton led by HTC-Columbia. The second of seven KOMs, at Hwy. 2 was taken by Rabou, followed by McCartney and Clement. Rabou continued to rack up the KOMs as the riders in the break were happy to let him gobble the point while they worked together to try to make it to the finish.
Gruppetto was called in the field as the yellow jersey put his team at the front to keep control.
Gap was up to 6 minutes by the time the break made its way to the second feedzone but were minus two riders as Barredo and Clement had both faded back. By the time, the break had crested the final challenging climb of the day, the “Rim of the World” Highway, they had lost one more, as Schleck faded back after doing a lot of pace setting earlier on.
Hincapie, Fuglsang, Rabou, Wilson and McCartney had a gap of only 2:40 but within only a few minutes and an attack, it was taken down to only three. With only about 15 miles of racing to go, the break was caught as they traveled along the final stretch into Big Bear Lake.
Counter-attacks occurred as soon as the catch was made. First it was Jani Brajkovic (Radio Shack) who stayed away for 3 miles. And then it was Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) who went for it. Wilson bridged up after 6 miles but a calm Rogers put two of his teammates at the front and they chased the riders down.
“No,” replied Rogers when asked if he was concerned at any time during the stage, “we had it pretty much under control. Particularly Garmin threw everything they had at us, they had the numbers, Radio Shack did the same. We took everything they threw at us and still have the jersey. ”
The lead group, down to 21 riders, prepared itself for the final sprint to the finish line. Sutherland followed Sagan’s wheel but couldn’t come around the young rider who took his second win of the race.
“I wanted to win a stage and now I’ve won two. So I’m very happy,” said Sagan.
Heavy Toll. The tough stage following the hard days of racing and numerous crashes took its toll, especially on the sprinters. Calling it a day were JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank), Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare), Theo Bos (Cervelo TestTeam), Martin Gilbert and Guillaume Boivin (Spidertech p/b Planet Energy), Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) and David Veilleux & Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies). Also pulling the plug were Clement, Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Doimo), Jackson Stewart (BMC), Will Dickeson (Jelly Belly-Kenda), Francois Parisien (Spidertech p/b Planet Energy) & Ben Day (Fly V Australia). Day crashed hard after the second feedzone and got back on his bike after some minutes on the ground but abandoned an hour later.
More riders are out as they didn’t make the time cut. Mark Cavendish & Mark Renshaw (HTC-Columbia), Aaron Kemps & Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia), Kurt Hovelynck (Quick Step), Anderson & Zach Bell (Kell Benefit Strategies), Will Routley (Jelly Belly-Kenda), Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare), Cody O’Reilly (BISSELL) and Dennis van Winden (Rabobank).
Lastly, Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) was disqualified for “excessive passing” (rule 12.1.040.19)
Hincapie was awarded Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey, and Rabou took the California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey from Anderson, who had worn the jersey for the previous two days. Unchanged was Rogers in the Amgen Race Leader Jersey and Sagan in the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey.
Saturday brings the 21-mile individual time trial. Each rider will leave L.A. LIVE and complete two laps of the 10.5-mile circuit around downtown Los Angeles. The first rider goes off at 1pm PST with the last rider, Rogers, starting at 3:30pm.