Peter Sagan Sprints to Victory in Stage 5 of 2010 Tour of California

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05/21/2010| 0 comments
by Thomas A. Valentinsen

Peter Sagan Sprints to Victory in Stage 5 of 2010 Tour of California

Team HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers takes overall Amgen Tour of California lead ahead of Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Transitions) and Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack).

Tour of California- Stage 5

Team HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers takes overall Amgen Tour of California lead ahead of Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Transitions) and Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack).

With the sun hanging high in a flawless blue sky, enthusiastic crowds turned out in Visalia for at the start of today's race to watch the peloton of world-famous cyclists, including defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (USA) of Team RadioShack, lined up at the start line. Equally impressive crowds lined the streets in Bakersfield to witness the incredible sprint to the finish line that saw Peter Sagan (ITA) of Team Liquigas take his first stage win in the 2010 Amgen Tour of California.

The 197 kilometer stage 5 brought the riders through the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After the neutral start in Visalia, the cyclists headed due south through Exeter and Lindsey and up the narrow and twisty Old Stage Road; the day's first of two KOMs. The race got to a rough start, with a big crash less than thirty minutes after the start in Visalia as the road narrowed heading out of town, that included Leipheimer and Armstrong, along with several other riders.

US cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Proving to be a devastating crash to the group, Stuart O'Grady (AUS) of Team Saxo Bank and Armstrong abandoned the race to secure medical attention (both are being treated for their injuries and will not be returning to the race). Heinrich Haussler (GER) of Cervélo TestTeam abandoned the race shortly after as well because of knee problems, but had not been involved in the crash.

"I fell twice so far during the Tour of California and now my knee hurts but not at the same place as my previous injury," Heinrich Haussler explained. "My form is good and I have to listen to my body, get a few days rest, do some physio and look at the big picture in order to be fully prepared for the 2010 Tour de France."

With incredible crowds lining the street, the first sprint of the day took place in Lindsay and was taken by Robbie Hunter (RSA) of Garmin-Transitions, followed by Michael Rogers (AUS) and Mark Cavendish (GBR) both of HTC-Columbia. About 20 miles into the stage, Thomas Leezer (NED) of Rabobank and Davide Cimolai of Liquigas-Doimo broke away from the pack, creating a small gap, but were quickly swallowed back up. Shortly after, another breakaway formed that included Marcus Berghardt (GER) of BMC Racing Team, Tony Martin (GER) of HTC-Columbia and Jeremy Hunt (GBR) of Cervélo TestTeam and as the group neared the second sprint of the day additional riders joined to form a break of 15.

Tour of California- Stage 5

The second and final sprint of the day in Porterville was nabbed by Karl Menzies (AUS) of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis, followed by Jeremy Powers (USA) of Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda and Martin. In a chase led by HTC-Columbia, the break of 15 was brought back in, which was promptly followed by several counter attacks until one finally took, which included Paul Mach (USA) of Team BISSELL, Ben Day (AUS) of Fly V Australia, Grischa Nierman (GER) of Rabobank, Mark Renshaw (AUS) of HTC-Columbia, Kurt Hovelynch (BEL) of QuickStep and Will Dicksen (AUS) of Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda.

Continuing on to Bakersfield, the route headed into the Kern River oil field, the fifth largest in the United States, where the riders encountered several short, steep climbs. The route then took the riders further inland to tackle the narrow and twisty Old Stage Rd. climb (Cat. 3 - 3,345 ft.), which was taken by Mach, followed by Nierman and Hovelynch. The breakaway powered on, but an elite chase group led by Team RadioShack was following at about four minutes behind.

As the riders continued on the way to the final climb of the day, Round Mountain Rd. (Cat. 4 - 1,421 ft.), which was just 21 miles from the finish line in Bakersfield, different teams took turns leading the chase group. From the apex of the final climb, the cyclists will be able to look down onto the finish at Bakersfield College. On the ascent, Day took the opportunity to launch an attack and pulled out ahead of the breakaway, followed closely by Renshaw, but they were caught by the remainder of the breakaway on the descent.

The final obstacle of the day was a 10 percent climb up China Grade, which was part of two finishing circuits in Bakersfield. With one lap to go Day pulled away from the group and the rest were caught by the chase, but at the base of the grade on the final circuit, he too was absorbed by the group. In an all out sprint to the finish, Liquigas-Doimo pushed Sagan to the front for the win, followed by Rogers in second and David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Transitions, who started the day as the race's overall leader, in third.

Tour of California- Stage 5

"It was a pretty tough day today with the hard climb, the strong wind and the breakaway that got away. With two laps to go, it was Liquigas-Doimo and Garmin-Transitions who did the work to bring it back," Sagan stated after the stage win and added "Dave Zabriskie took off early in the sprint and with a couple meters to go. It was the right moment and I found a gap."

There were several changes in the jerseys today, with Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey going to Day, the Herbalife Sprint Jersey going to Sagan, and the Amgen Race Leader Jersey changing hands from Zabriskie to Rogers. The other jersey winners remain unchanged with Sagan in the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey and Ryan Anderson (CAN) of Kelly Benefit Strategies in the California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey.

"It came down to bonus seconds," Tour of California leader Michael Rogers told after the stage. "We still have a lot of racing to go with the mountain stage tomorrow and the Time trial on Sunday but every second counts. I'm expecting teams to throw everything at us tomorrow and we'll do our best to try and defend."

"Today was a very aggressive day of racing and when RadioShack picked up the tempo on the climb it thinned the bunch out pretty quickly. It worked out perfectly for us. I felt pretty good. I'm climbing well and I could even have a bit of a sprint today.

"I'm really happy with the way the team rode," Rogers added and concluded "We were active all day with Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw setting up sprints early on and Renshaw in the break for the rest of the day. Then the boys delivered me perfectly to the finish line. Peter Sagan is a really quick sprinter - something I'm not really renowned for. So the best man won today."

The 2010 Tour of California concludes on Sunday.

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