Peter Sagan Takes Stage Win for Second Consecutive Day
BIG BEAR LAKE - In a stage characterized by consistent climbing on the route from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, Peter Sagan (SVK) of Liquigas-Doimo emerged victorious. In the longest and most challenging day of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, clear blue skies and energetic crowds marked the day that included the race's first-ever mountain finish. Michael Rogers (AUS) of HTC-Columbia came in third place in the stage, securing the Amgen Leader Jersey heading into day seven and the individual time trial at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles, which will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
"When we're riding, I hear the crowds calling out 'Mick Rogers' or 'HTC-Columbia' and it is encouraging. We came here to race," said Rogers.
Palmdale City Hall served as the backdrop for Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California, the most difficult stage in the five-year history of the race, a mountainous 135.3-mile leg from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake with more than 12,000 ft. of climbing. After a five-mile neutral section heading south on Sierra Rd., the route made a left turn onto Angeles Forest Highway. Facing the riders next was the imposing San Gabriel mountain range, and within a few miles, the first of seven King of the Mountains (KOM) competitions. The first real break of the day occurred on the lead into the first KOM at Mill Creek Summit (Cat. 4 - 4,906 ft.), and included Jason McCartney (USA) of Team RadioShack, Carlos Barredo (ESP) of QuickStep, Matthew Wilson (USA) of Garmin-Transitions, George Hincapie (USA) of BMC Racing Team, Stef Clement (NED) of Rabobank, Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) of Team Saxo Bank, Andy Schleck (LUX) of Team Saxo Bank and Thomas Rabou (NED) of Team Type 1. Taking the KOM was Wilson, followed by Rabou and Schleck.
Behind the breakaway, Darren Lill (RSA) and Ben Day (AUS) both of Fly V Australia, along with Ryan Anderson (CAN) of Kelly Benefit Systems began to form a chase group, but were quickly pulled back in by the peloton, which was being led by HTC-Columbia. The second of seven KOMs, at Hwy. 2 (Cat. 3 - 5,046 ft.) was taken by Rabou, followed by McCartney and Clement. This KOM was the kick-off to a series of four almost back-to-back climbs that would truly challenge the cyclists. As the break approached Coldburst Summit (Cat. 2 - 6,924 ft.), the KOM was taken by Rabou, followed by Clement and Hincapie, while Barredo fell off the back and rejoined the peloton.
After passing through the feed zone, next up was the Dawson Saddle KOM (Cat. 3 - 7,900 ft.), followed almost immediately by the Blue Ridge Summit KOM (Cat. 3 - 7,302 ft.). The Dawson Saddle climb, which is the highest point the 2010 Amgen Tour of California will reach, was taken by Rabou, with McCartney and Clement following behind. With the peloton now split into two chase groups, the break crested Blue Ridge Summit with Rabou in first, Clement in second and Wilson in third. This series of climbs was followed by the first sprint competition of the day, which was taken by Schleck, in Wrightwood where the streets were lined with cheering fans.
At the lowest elevation in the mountain portion of today's stage the leaders held a gap of 6:10 on the peloton, and nearly nine minutes on the gruppetto. On the way to the next climb, Clement lost contact with the break and fell back, eventually rejoining the peloton. Shortly after, as the cyclists made their way through the second feed zone, the first crash of the day occurred, but everyone was able to recover.
The sixth climb of the day came next at Hwy. 138 (Cat. 3 - 4,649 ft.) and was taken, once again, by Rabou. With no time to rest, the cyclists were then faced with the second and final sprint of the day at Crestline, which was taken by Schleck. Then, the cyclists faced the final challenging climb of the day at Hwy. 18 (Cat. 3 - 5,628 ft.), the "Rim of the World" Highway, which was won by Rabou, followed by Wilson and Schleck.
Following the climb, the break was taken down to just five riders - Hincapie, Fuglsang, Rabou, Wilson and McCartney - with a gap of only 2:40, but within only a few minutes and an attack, it was taken down to only three - McCartney, Wilson and Hincapie. Entering the Big Bear area, the riders took the northern route around Big Bear Lake to reach the finish line at the Snow Summit ski area for the Amgen Tour of California's first-ever alpine finish. With only about 15 miles of racing to go, the break was caught as they traveled along the final stretch into Big Bear Lake. At this point, Marc De Maar (NED) of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis took the opportunity to make a break for it and was eventually caught by Matt Wilson (USA) of Garmin-Transitions. Keeping the break for most of the final stretch into town, they were caught with just about half a mile to go, giving Sagan the opportunity to take the win - his second consecutive stage win in the 2010 Amgen Tour of California.
"I wanted to win a stage and now I've won two. So I'm very happy," said Sagan.
Moving into second and third overall were U.S. National Time Trial Champion Zabriskie and Sagan, respectively.
Today's stage brought only two changes to the jersey leaders. 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.
"Today, Stage 6 of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, is one that we were really looking forward to," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race. "This was our very first mountain finish, which presented the riders with a very challenging day of racing, and the fans with the opportunity to witness some of the world's greatest and most accomplished cyclists at their best. The crowds along the route were amazing, which really helps motivate everyone as well. Going into tomorrow's individual time trial at L.A. LIVE, this is still anyone's race."
Continuing its partnership for the fifth year, Amgen utilizes the race to raise awareness for the Breakaway from Cancer® initiative.
"Amgen has delivered on the promise of biotechnology by discovering and developing innovative and vital medicines that have helped millions of patients fight cancer, kidney disease and other serious illnesses," said Stuart Arbuckle, vice president and general manager, Amgen Oncology. "Through the Amgen Tour of California sponsorship, we are able to raise awareness of the medical breakthroughs possible through biotechnology while also helping support cancer patients and caregivers through the Breakaway from Cancer initiative."
Amgen created the national Breakaway from Cancer® initiative in 2005 as a complementary component to its sponsorship of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California. Breakaway from Cancer represents a partnership between Amgen and four nonprofit organizations dedicated to empowering patients with education, resources and hope. The Breakaway from Cancer partners collectively offer people affected by cancer with a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient's team of healthcare professionals.
As part of the today's race activities, breast cancer survivor Marsha Furman fired the official start gun in Palmdale, and in Big Bear, 8-year-old cancer survivor Nigel Holland had the honor of awarding Hincapie Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
"I've been affiliated with Breakaway from Cancer for five years and it's a wonderful cause," said Hincapie. "What Amgen does for cycling in America is unprecedented in the history of our sport. To be able to wear Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey on the hardest stage of the Amgen Tour of California makes me feel special."
For access to resources or to learn more, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.
STAGE 7 TOMORROW:
Saturday, May 22 - Los Angeles Individual Time Trial (20.9 mi/33.6 km)
Start Time: 1 p.m. PT
Estimated Finish Time: 4:15 p.m. PT
The Amgen Tour of California descends on the City of Angels in Stage 7, sponsored by Herbalife, with the 21-mile individual time trial. Los Angeles plays host to a course that is filled with several of the city's most recognizable landmarks. Each rider will leave L.A. LIVE and complete two laps of the 10.5-mile circuit around downtown Los Angeles. Heading south for the first half of the circuit, the riders will pass by the Los Angeles Convention Center, the University of Southern California, Exposition Park and the LA Memorial Coliseum. The route will then head back north for the second half of the circuit and will include two short, but steep climbs while passing several downtown Los Angeles icons, including the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and Los Angeles City Hall, before returning to the finish area in front of STAPLES Center at L.A. LIVE.
For full results, archived footage, GPS data, course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race website at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
In addition to the website, fans can view the race on the daily VERSUS broadcasts. Stage 7 will air on VERSUS tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET.