Cavendish Wins Stage 4 of 2009 Tour of California
Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad sprinted to an impressive win in Stage 4 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. Two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was able to retain the overall lead and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey heading into Stage 5 of the race. The impressive and challenging Stage 4 course, which took the riders from Merced to Clovis, included five King of the Mountain (KOM) and two sprint competitions.
After a fast and furious start to the race, which began with immediate attacks, Cavendish celebrated a narrow victory over Tom Boonen (BEL) of Quick Step.
“This win was massive for me and for the team,” said Cavendish. “I was really driven and I wanted this win bad. The team stayed so well together on every climb and it played into our ends today.”
Though the 188 kilometer stage saw no major changes in the overall general classification, the field faced multiple challenging aspects, including the five categorized climbs between the morning start in Merced and the final flat run-in to the finish line in Clovis.
The majestic views of the field flying along with the snow-capped Sierra Mountains in the backdrop amidst brilliant blue skies and sun made for a perfect day of racing.
“The scenery on the course is awesome,” said Leipheimer. “It’s very pretty and there were a ton of people, even in the snow, cheering for us. I think it’s great that the Amgen Tour of California can come to new places and spread the word.”
“We were quite a ways up there in the Sierras, so it made for a pretty hard race. Everyone came out with guns blazing. We had to chase down a lot of potentially dangerous breakaways. There were times when Lance (Armstrong) broke away and pulled back four to five guys on his own; it’s great to have such a strong team.”
Commenting on the time trial in Solvang Leipheimer told Roadcycling.com that “Solvang is an excellent course because it has elements of all time trials. I think it’s a great course. Time trials are unique because you have to push yourself and you don’t have your team to push you.”
Jason McCartney (USA) of Saxo Bank drove several early moves, finally getting clear at the 26-mile mark with Serge Pauwels (BEL) of Cervelo Test Team and Rock Racing's Tyler Hamilton (USA). Hamilton's teammate Francisco Mancebo (ESP) joined the break as well, hoping to defend his sprint and KOM jerseys.
The first dry day of the race was marred by serious injuries to three high-profile riders: Kim Kirchen (LUX) of Team Columbia-Highroad fractured his right clavicle and scapula; Oscar Friere (ESP) of Rabobank fractured two ribs on his left side; and Scott Nydam (USA) of the BMC Racing Team fractured his left clavicle.
As the peloton continued their charge, Cavendish’s confidence grew. Mancebo stayed up front long enough to consolidate his leads, then retreated to the field to give teammate Hamilton a shot at staying away. The lead quickly climbed to more than five minutes with 50 miles to go, but with the mountains and motivated sprinters behind, the breakaway had no chance. They were finally swallowed by the fast-moving peloton at the Clovis city limits, where the Cervelo Test Team pulled to the front. But, Team Columbia-Highroad’s infamous sprinter Cavendish quickly took over for the win.
"I was looking after so well after the climbs; my team really put me in a perfect position,” said Cavendish. “Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia-Highroad) helped me; it was the first time we got the lead-out right."
In what was a photo-finish bunch sprint to the “gateway to the sierras,” Boonen took second and Juan Jose (J.J.) Haedo (ARG) of Saxo Bank took third.