Peter Sagan Strikes Again and Wins Stage 6 of 2010 Tour of California

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05/22/2010| 0 comments
by Thomas A. Valentinsen

Peter Sagan Strikes Again and Wins Stage 6 of 2010 Tour of California

Team HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers maintains overall Amgen Tour of California lead ahead of Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Transitions). Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) moves down to 4th overall before Saturday's decisive Tour of California time trial.

Tour of California- Stage 6

Team HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers maintains overall Amgen Tour of California lead ahead of Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Transitions). Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) moves down to 4th overall before Saturday's decisive Tour of California time trial.

In a stage characterized by consistent climbing on the route from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, Peter Sagan (SVK) of Team Liquigas-Doimo once again 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 in downtown Los Angeles, which will begin at 1 p.m. local time 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," race leader Rogers commented.

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.

Tour of California- Stage 6

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 Team 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," Sagan yelled with joy after the finish.

Tour of California- Stage 6

Cervelo TestTeam's talented and humorous rider Oscar Pujol (Esp) came close to giving his team a second stage win in today's sixth stage. Pujol made a very powerful and explosive sprinting burst with about 150 meters to go and quickly gained a major advantage over the other riders in today's successful breakaway.

"I saw the moment and thought it was better to fight for the win," Oscar Pujol analyzed after the finish and added "I started to make my move 150 meters from the finish but I think it was a little too early and they got to me. It was a hard stage today with the finish coming after a long climb and six hours on the bike. I think on Sunday, which I'm told is also a hard climb, I will be rested and able to support my teammates, like Brett Lancaster (Aus) who is strong and capable of getting a good result."

"I was good all day," Marc de Maar told "We were watching all the moves to make sure we didn't miss anything. When I went, it was perfect because I was up front and Rory was in back and could sit in for the sprint if I got caught."

"Marc picked a good spot to go," teammate Sutherland said and added "The big teams were all watching each other and it allowed him to get a gap. And when you have a teammate up the road, you want to be ready to get a good result to reward all the work he is doing up front.

"When Marc was caught, I started positioning myself for the sprint," he further added and concluded that "I found Sagan's wheel because he showed yesterday that he was probably the quickest guy there."

"I was close, Rory was close," de Maar said.

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.

The 2010 Tour of California concludes on Sunday.

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