The Amgen Tour of California has so far been a stalemate between the top contenders, but that should change on Thursday when the race hits Bakersfield for the 29.7km time trial on stage 5. The stage will finally shake out the general classification, where all the names are clustered at 40 seconds from race leader and winner of all four previous stages, Peter Sagan.
Sagan has stated definitively that he will be giving up his jersey in the test.
"Tomorrow I think I will lose this jersey. I will do bye bye. I don't time trial well," he said.
But which riders will come out with that yellow jersey?
Chris Horner, the race's defending champion, admits that the time trial isn't his kind of day and that he will lose some time not only on his main opponents but the stage winner as well.
"Tomorrow we'll find out who's good and who's not," he said. "It's still not a day for me in general, I'll lose some time, but hopefully not much. We'll definitely figure out where Levi's form is, and after that we'll find out the other GC guys too: Tejay [van Garderen], [Andrew] Talansky, [Tom] Danielson, all those guys. We'll see how the race has evolved, who's tired and who's not tomorrow."
Horner said he expects on this flatter course to lose 20 to 50 seconds depending on which rider you look at.
"Maybe 20 seconds on Tejay, if Levi [Leipheimer]'s on really good form maybe he can get 50 seconds on me, I'd imagine," he suggested. "Of course we don't know where his form is and we'll have to wait and see."
Van Garderen knows that Thursday is an important day if he is to gouge as much time out of GC rival Horner ahead of some big climbing days on Friday and Saturday.
"If I can see him on the line and pull back time, that'll be a good motivator," the BMC rider explained. "But as far as how I'm going to ride, it doesn't change a thing that he's the guy in front of me. The most important people to take time out of would be Nibali and Horner because those guys are the best climbers. I'll take as much time as I can. If I have 40 seconds on Horner going into the base of Mt. Baldy, then I think I have a chance."
With the temperature rising as the tour goes on, van Garderen said he was coping well with the sometimes challenging conditions.
"I'm feeling pretty good," he admitted. "The heat [on Wednesday] kind of took it out of a lot of people. Right now it's about cooling down, recovering and getting rehydrated.
"We'll have the AC [air conditioning] on full blast in the bus [on Thursday] and we're going to wear special ice vests beforehand, as well as put some socks filled with ice on the back of our necks – really anything to keep cool."
Garmin-Barracuda's David Zabriskie, the winner of last year's test in Solvang and five-time winner of the national title is a prime candidate to claim the stage win, and clustered in the 40 second group, he could well take the race lead. "That'd be amazing," he told Cyclingnews in Clovis, "but you gotta make it happen first, so I don't think about that until tomorrow."
Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) placed fourth in Solvang last year, and could well come out of the stage as the best placed rider who also can hold his own on Mt. Baldy. He and van Garderen are well matched in both disciplines but all of the climbing favorites must face Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) who has had an armchair ride throughout the week.
Nibali excels in time trials which feature hills, but even on the flat parcours of Bakersfield will be a formidable presence.
"That's the idea," he said. "The real time trial specialists are probably pretty big guys, so they probably won't get up on Baldy, whereas I'm kind of in between. So it's more trying to put time into the climbers or stay as close as possible and then maybe look to make some time bonuses later on."
Fight for the stage win
The battle between the GC riders will likely take place behind the overall stage winner. With Liquigas-Cannondale the only team above zero in the Tour's win column, all of the other squads will be putting in a big effort to try for the time trial.
Australian Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), the current U23 world time trial champion is the center of his team's aspirations here in California. His director Neil Stephens has had to make sure 'Turbo Durbo' saves his legs for the stage win.
"Luke is in great shape at the moment. It's funny, we have to hold him back because he's really eager to help his teammates. We have to say hang on, we're here to try and get a stage result in the time trial. He's a very generous, very eager worker," Stephens said. "If he can beat the rest by a thousandth of a second that will be enough."
"I'm feeling confident and getting better every day here," Zirbel said. "I've ridden [the course] a couple of times, so I know how to approach it. It just comes down to legs and just a little bit of tactics, but it's a time trial - there's not much more you can do."
Rabobank has been knocking at the door of a sprint win, and don't have a pure time trial specialist although Luis Leon Sanchez can do well. Director Eric Breukink is hoping to limit his riders losses to the best climbers.
"The level of the team is quite good, Sanchez is OK. I think we can do a good result there. Then for the mountains we have a really good team. We're looking forward to the harder stages. The specialists like Zabriskie can win by one and a half minutes over 30km. If we can keep Horner within 30 seconds it should be good."
Of the outside contenders, Bontrager-Livestrong's Lawson Craddock and Nathan Brown are looking to test themselves against some of the world's top riders, and according to director Axel Merckx, they will put it all out there.
"We will see how they feel, but Nathan and Lawson should go full gas and test themselves against the WorldTour riders."
Bakersfeld Individual Time Trial Stage 5 start order
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||13:00:00|
|2||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos - Shimano||13:01:00|
|3||Logan Loader (USA) Team Exergy||13:02:00|
|4||Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||13:03:00|
|5||Travis Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||13:04:00|
|6||Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:05:00|
|7||Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||13:06:00|
|8||Carter Jones (USA) Bissell Cycling||13:07:00|
|9||Carlos Julian Quintero (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||13:08:00|
|10||Jacob Rathe (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||13:09:00|
|11||Serghei Tvetcov (Mda) Team Exergy||13:10:00|
|12||Jason McCartney (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:11:00|
|13||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||13:12:00|
|14||Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:13:00|
|15||Matthew Wilson (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||13:14:00|
|16||Ken Hanson (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:15:00|
|17||Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||13:16:00|
|18||Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin - Barracuda||13:17:00|
|19||Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Argos - Shimano||13:18:00|
|20||Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:19:00|
|21||Scott Zwizanski (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:20:00|
|22||Bradley White (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:21:00|
|23||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:22:00|
|24||Sébastian Salas (Can) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:23:00|
|25||Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Cycling||13:24:00|
|26||David Boily (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:25:00|
|27||Bert Grabsch (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:26:00|
|28||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale||13:27:00|
|29||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:28:00|
|30||Morgan Schmitt (USA) Team Exergy||13:29:00|
|31||Michael Creed (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:30:00|
|32||Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||13:31:00|
|33||Ryan Anderson (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:32:00|
|34||Roger Kluge (Ger) Argos - Shimano||13:33:00|
|35||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||13:34:00|
|36||Benjamin King (USA) RadioShack-Nissan||13:35:00|
|37||Michael Rodriguez Galindo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||13:36:00|
|38||Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:37:00|
|39||Thomas Zirbel (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:38:00|
|40||Ryan Eastman (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||13:39:00|
|41||Thomas Peterson (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||13:40:00|
|42||Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||13:41:00|
|43||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:42:00|
|44||Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team||13:43:00|
|45||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:44:00|
|46||Edward King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale||13:45:00|
|47||Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||13:46:00|
|48||Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||13:47:00|
|49||Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos - Shimano||13:48:00|
|50||Frank Pipp (USA) Bissell Cycling||13:49:00|
|51||Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||13:50:00|
|52||Lucas Euser (USA) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:51:00|
|53||Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||13:52:00|
|54||Hugo Houle (Can) Spidertech Powered By C10||13:53:00|
|55||Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Argos - Shimano||13:54:00|
|56||Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan||13:55:00|
|57||Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Argos - Shimano||13:56:00|
|58||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Bontrager Livestrong Team||13:57:00|
|59||Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos - Shimano||13:58:00|
|60||Alexander Candelario (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:59:00|
|61||Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||14:00:00|
|62||Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack-Nissan||14:01:00|
|63||Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||14:02:00|
|64||Andrew Bajadali (USA) Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:03:00|
|65||Timothy Duggan (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale||14:04:00|
|66||Joseph Dombrowski (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||14:05:00|
|67||George Bennett (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan||14:06:00|
|68||Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:07:00|
|69||Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:08:00|
|70||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling||14:09:00|
|71||Nathan Brown (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||14:10:00|
|72||Andrés Díaz Corrales (Col) Team Exergy||14:11:00|
|73||Ian Boswell (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||14:12:00|
|74||Thimothy Roe (Aus) BMC Racing Team||14:13:00|
|75||Matt Cooke (USA) Team Exergy||14:14:00|
|76||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||14:15:00|
|77||Sylvain Georges (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:16:00|
|78||Philip Deignan (Irl) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:17:00|
|79||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:18:00|
|80||Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team||14:19:00|
|81||David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||14:20:00|
|82||Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||14:21:00|
|83||Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||14:22:00|
|84||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:23:00|
|85||Raymond Kunzli (Swi) Spidertech Powered By C10||14:24:00|
|86||Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:25:00|
|87||Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:26:00|
|88||Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale||14:27:00|
|89||Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||14:28:00|
|90||Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||14:29:00|
|91||Brian Vandborg (Den) Spidertech Powered By C10||14:30:00|
|92||Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||14:31:00|
|93||Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:32:00|
|94||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team||14:33:00|
|95||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:34:00|
|96||Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||14:35:00|
|97||Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||14:36:00|
|98||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||14:37:00|
|99||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:38:00|
|100||Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan||14:39:00|
|101||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:40:00|
|102||Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan||14:41:00|
|103||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos - Shimano||14:42:00|
|104||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||14:44:00|
|105||Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team||14:46:00|
|106||George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:48:00|
|107||Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||14:50:00|
|108||Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:52:00|
|109||Josh Atkins (NZl) Bontrager Livestrong Team||14:54:00|
|110||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||14:56:00|
|111||Marc De Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:58:00|
|112||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan||15:00:00|
|113||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Cycling||15:02:00|
|114||Fred Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy||15:04:00|
|115||Alex Howes (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||15:06:00|
|116||Jeffry Louder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||15:08:00|
|117||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin - Barracuda||15:10:00|
|118||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale||15:12:00|