California stage win puts Kiwi in yellow
The finish of the Amgen Tour of California stage into Modesto didn't go as planned for Team Sky but the British team still claimed the stage win and kept the race lead. Instead of yellow jersey Ben Swift sprinting to victory as he did in Sacramento, it was his teammate and final lead-out man Greg Henderson who maintained his sprint for 500 metres to take the stage and race lead.
Swift got caught up with a Rabobank rider and lost the wheel of Henderson heading into the finale, but the Kiwi had no idea his charge had dropped back.
"I went through the last corner at 500m like we talked about at the team meeting, and I wasn't getting any slower, but was starting to die. I got to 200m and nobody came by, then it was 100m and still nobody and I was like, 'well, there are only a six or so pedal strokes left' so I held on. I was completely lactic at the end.
"I've never sprinted 500 meters to victory before. Normally sprinters do the last 150 or 200, but to win from there shows I'm in great condition."
That condition is something he hopes will catch the eye of the Team Sky directeurs when they make the decision who to take to the Tour de France this year.
"It's no secret I want to race the Tour de France," Henderson said. "I'm trying to tick all the boxes to make the team this year. If I keep doing my job and keep myself in good condition I can make the team this year.
"I was late to turn pro, and my career has stepped up each year. I've done the Vuelta and the Giro a couple times, but now I want to compete against the best in the world at the Tour de France."
The team's plan of going into the race with two of its fastest sprinters has paid off with domination in the pair of stages that have run since the cancellation of the first day.
"We've come here with a super strong team. Unfortunately Mick Rogers couldn't be here to defend his GC of last year, he's obviously quite sick, but we decided to come in and pick up as many stages as we could."
Henderson will carry the yellow jersey taken from Swift into the stage to Sierra Road, which goes over Mount Hamilton before finishing on the punishing 3.5 mile ascent - a climb too difficult for the New Zealander to hold onto the race lead.
"I have no illusions of holding onto the yellow jersey, as there is no way I can match the climbing of Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie."
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