The Big Bear Climb

What has been historically, a bunch finish, changed to a single rider victory. Sylvan Georges (AG2R La Mondiale) broke early away and maintained his lead through the finish line. AG2R La Mondiale had been looking for a victory and Georges delivered.

Once again the race started in a neutral zone. Within 20 minutes six riders attacked off the front. The breakaway group included Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan) Mickaël Chérel (AG2R La Mondiale), Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano), David Boily (SpiderTech), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) and Andrew Bajadali (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies).

As the riders began their approach to Mount Emma the breakaway group had a 2:15 advantage over the main group. They extended their lead at the King of the Mountain (KOM) mark to 3:05. David Boily (SpiderTech) took the KOM and was followed by Sebastian Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies).

The breakaway group stayed out in front through the descent and into the flats. They extended the gap to 5:20. They continued to extend their advantage to 7:00. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) stopped to change a tire, but quickly rejoined the break. The break stabilized at 7:15. With Wrightwood at 6888 feet, it was hard to image that the breakaway could maintain their lead.

As the riders climbed the mountain, the breakaway group managed to extend their lead to eight minutes. Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies) attacked and Boilly (SpiderTech) couldn’t keep up with him. Sebastian Salas won the KOM, followed by Andrew Bajadali (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies). David Boily came in third.

The descent saw speeds reaching 62.1 mph. The peleton was able to narrow the gap to 6:10. Two more category 3 climbs remained. With 40 kilometers left, the riders passed through the feedzone. The gap stabilized at 6:20.

At 1:30 PM the riders reached Silverwood Lake. The temperature was 79 degrees as the cyclists began the long, tedious climb to Crestline. Sylvan Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies) once again drove to the top, taking the KOM points with David Boilly (SpiderTech) coming in second.

Darwin Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes) attacked out of the peleton but was quickly pulled back in. The peleton crested the mountain while the gap slowly increased to 4:05. Liquigas-Cannondale began driving the front.

Sebastian Salas took the next KOM points with Sylvan Georges on his wheel. Salas’ performance was incredible considering he only began cycling three years ago. Salas now has a total of 65 King of the Mountain points and Boilly has 48. The climb to Mount Baldy offers 16 points with two category 2 climbs and 12 points for the HC climb to Baldy.

Gregory Rast (RadioShack), Sebastian Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano) tried to rein in Sylvan Georges (AG2R La Mondiale). Georges continued to have a 15 second lead ahead of the breakaway group. Then he extended his lead over the four riders to two minutes and five minutes ahead of the main group. Meanwhile the peleton pulled in Sebastian Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano).

Photo Courtesy Amgen Tour of California

With 27 kilometers remaining, Peter Weening (Orica GreenEDGE) attacked out of the peleton. He joined with Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan) and Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank Cycling Team) and tried to close the three minute lead of Sylan Georges. Garmin-Barracuda and Liquigas-Cannondale with Tim Duggan took the head of the peleton.

Sylvan Georges was the first to cross the Big Bear Lake Dam and enter Fawnskin. The ride around the lake is mostly flat. Finally, the peleton started to panic. Sylvan Georges began to lose time and the gap closed to one minute from the break and two minutes ahead of the peleton.

The peleton pulled in the three riders. Jens Voight and Peter Sagan attacked and closed to 1:20 of Sylvan Georges. It didn’t matter. Sylvan Georges, clearly suffering, managed to hang on and cross the finish line.

Stage 6: Four Ranked Climbs

The Category 4 climb up Mt. Emma, which summits at 22.2km;

The Cat. 1 climb at Wrightwood, which summits at 69.6km;

The Cat. 3 on California 138, which summits at 122.4;

The Cat. 3 on California State Highway 18, which summits at 139.1km.

Stage results

1. Sylvain GEORGES, Ag2r La Mondiale in 5:07:06

2. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale +28

3. Peter VELITS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step +28

4. Thomas DAMUSEAU, Argos-Shimano +28

5. Tom DUMOULIN, Argos-Shimano +28

6. Greg VAN AVERMAET, BMC Racing +28

7. Romain BARDET, Ag2r La Mondiale +28

8. Christopher HORNER, RadioShack-Nissan +28

9. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing +28

10. Robert GESINK, Rabobank +28

General classification

1. David ZABRISKIE, Garmin-Barracuda in 25:37:04

2. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing +34

3. Robert GESINK, Rabobank +39

4. Peter VELITS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step +45

5. Andrew TALANSKY, Garmin-Barracuda +48

6. Luke DURBRIDGE, Orica-GreenEdge +1:01

7. Thomas DANIELSON, Garmin-Barracuda +1:07

8. Rory SUTHERLAND, UnitedHealthcare +1:10

9. Cameron MEYER, Orica-GreenEdge +1:26

10. Lawson CRADDOCK, Bontrager-Livestrong +1:30

Peter Sagan is Unstoppable!

Photo Courtesy of Amgen Tour of California

Peter Sagan (SVK) of team Liquigas-Cannondale came from behind to edge out Heinrich Haussler (AUS) of Garmin-Barracuda and Tom Boonen (BEL) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

The race began this morning in sunny San Jose, the only city that has participated in all seven races. A large group of Slovakians came with their flag to greet and have pictures with their countryman, Peter Sagan.

The peleton had a neutral start to get out of the city. Twenty eight miles later, with sprint points awarded downtown, the peleton entered Livermore.

The riders then took an 87 mile route north. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) and Michael Creed (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies) attacked first. Creed fell back and Sebastian Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies), Jason McCartney (Unitedhealthcare p/b Maxxis), and Wilson Torres (Colombia – Coldeportes) joined Jeremy Vennell in the breakaway group, creating a one minute gap. As the race reached Fenestra Winery the four riders widened the gap to four minutes and 25 seconds.

Once the feedzone was over, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) picked up the pace at the front of the main group of riders. As the 43 mile marker approached, the breakaway gap increased to eight minutes and the ascent of Mount Diablo began. There were huge crowds on the upper slopes to greet the riders as they averaged 13 mph up the grade.

Sebastian Salas (Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies) made it up the mountain first taking the KOM points. While the main field was stretched out, Salas began a screaming descent. The big teams had to step up and put the hammer down.

At the 44 mile mark, team Liquigas-Cannondale controlled the peleton and narrowed the gap to six minutes and 20 seconds. Levi Leipheimer was at the front of the main group chatting with his teammates.

Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep took over the pace, keeping Tom Boonen in striking distance.

Jeremy Vennell maintained his aggressive riding, again extending the gap while Frantisek Rabon (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) drove a grueling pace for the peleton. There were stunning pictures of wind turbines lining the tops of the hills while the breakaway group’s gap was narrowed to two minutes and 35 seconds.

As Patterson Pass approached the breakaway group was looking shaky and the gap narrowed to 40 seconds. Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep did all of the work, including pulling Peter Sagan along.

Patterson Pass is a category 3 climb with a 4 ½% grade. Riders reach the summit after covering 105 miles. It didn’t discourage the sprinters. The timing couldn’t have been better.

The Garmin-Barracuda team made a move in support of Heinrich Haussler. They worked with the wind. It whipped through the heart of the peleton, splitting the main group of riders. The acceleration of team Garmin-Barracuda put pressure on the back of the peleton.

Fabio Duarte (Columbia-Coldeportes) and Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) made a break. Duarte is a strong climber and he took the initiative. Roche tried to challenge for KOM points, but Duarte crossed first.

As they made the descent, the lead switched between Liquigas-Cannondale and team Omega Pharma-Quickstep. Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep wanted to keep Tom Boonen close to the front. There was not a lot of organization and at the 10 kilometer marker Rabobank joined the front of the peleton.

With seven minutes to go, speeds approached 31 mph. Although Liquigas-Cannondale set the tempo, Hienrich Hauseller was right beside them.

Josh Atkins (Bontrager Livestrong Team – Best Young Rider) dashed to the front and caught all of the sprinters off guard. Chris Horner scrambled to the front in order to keep his position.

AG2R La Mondiale took over the pace for a moment hoping to position Maxime Bouet. But Rabobank, desperate for a win, rushed to the front to retake the pace for Michael Matthews.

The final sprint appeared to be between Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). But Peter Sagan edged them out for his third consecutive stage win.