Aleksandr Efimkin (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis) did not achieve the overall ranking that he set out to at beginning of the Amgen Tour of California. However, his sixth place performance on the queen stage seven atop Mt Baldy, following an all day breakaway, was enough to secure the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider jersey.
"It was my hope to race well on this stage but obviously RadioShack has a lot of speed and they are really strong," Efimkin said to Cyclingnews. "It was good today. We tried and I was really close."
Efimkin broke away from the peloton during the chaotic opening kilometres of stage seven. His companions included Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervelo), George Hincapie (BMC Racing), Rob Britton (Bissell), King of the Mountain leader Pat McCarty (SpiderTech p/b C10), Francesco Belloti (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Grischa Niermann (Rabobank).
Efimkin was the last rider in the breakaway to get caught by Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and his teammate and current race leader Chris Horner. When the catch did happen it was with less than three kilometres to the top of the decisive Mt Baldy, a more than 25-kilometre ascent.
"I’m so impressed with Alex and the ride that he did today," said Team Type 1 Sanofi Aventis co-founder Phil Southerland. "He was upset about the first six days and how he placed overall but that’s bike racing."
"Today he said that he wanted to be in the break and that he wanted to go for the win and that he was going to leave it all out on the road, and that’s what he did," he added. "I couldn’t be happier for the ride that he did. Sixth place on this stage and holding off the RadioShack train for as long as he did was impressive. He’s the man."
Leipheimer won the race to the top of the mountain with Horner safely on his wheel. The pair was followed by Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), who placed third on the day, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) in fourth and Steve Morabito (BMC Racing) in fifth.
"I was in the car behind him and we were excited," Southerland said.
"One-by-one everyone in the breakaway was dropped. I was biting my nails and the RadioShack riders were twenty seconds behind him with three kilometres to go. We thought - maybe, but RadioShack was phenomenal. [But] we are definitely happy with his performance at the Team Type 1 camp right now."
Efimkin’s performance was acknowledged by race organizers who awarded him with the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous rider jersey. The jersey is given to one rider on each stage who demonstrates perseverance.
"Any time you get on the podium at the Tour of California is great," Southerland said. "To have it on the queen stage is phenomenal. We will wear that jersey with pride and we will have one more stage to try and win."
Efimkin won the Presidential Cyclist Tour of Turkey prior to his arrival at the Amgen Tour of California. The team has also announced that its next big target will be the Tour de Suisse in June.
"We had the victory in Turkey and we expected to come to this race and win," Southerland said. "Some problems on the stage four Sierra Road stage and bad luck in stage five, that’s bike racing. We hope that Alex’s form here will take us into the Tour de Suisse, where we hope to get a stage win and a jersey. We will ride the best we can ride there because it is a huge race."