Kelly Benefit Strategies became the second Continental team to hold on to the red mountains classifications jersey at the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday. The result is important not only for the team's profile but also because it is still hoping to secure future sponsorship.
Canadian Ryan Anderson claimed the honour by slipping into the breakaway for the second stage in a row and claiming both mountain sprints on offer. After Stage 3 to Santa Cruz, he was 11 points behind Team Type 1's Thomas Rabou, but won both the category 1 sprint on Sierra Road and the category 4 climb outside Livermore en route to Modesto to take the outright lead in the competition.
"I was hurting pretty bad over the climb [on Sierra Road]," said the 22-year-old Anderson. After a long day in the previous day's breakaway, the 5.9km climb coming in the first 10km of the stage was a harsh wake-up.
"Compared with yesterday, the break was definitely going pretty fast today. I was going to just make it over the second KOM and then go back to the group."
His job done and the jersey secured, Anderson dropped back to the field to rest up for the battle to come.
Team director Jonas Carney was thrilled with the result and said the team would continue to fight to keep it. "For us as a Continental team it's a pretty big deal to wear a jersey in a race of this caliber," said Carney. "We'll do our best to hold onto it."
Having the jersey will put on an important show for the team's sponsors, who are set to arrive tomorrow, and will give a good impression for future sponsorship negotiations. "I spoke with the team owner and they're all pretty psyched. Our first Tour of California in 2008 didn't go so well and we didn't do the race last year, so this is our biggest result here."
For Anderson the result confirms good performances at the Vuelta al Uruguay, where he placed second on a stage and was fourth overall. "I definitely feel I've stepped up to another level here," he said. "We'll try to defend the jersey. The Big Bear stage will be pretty tough, but hopefully we'll get into the early group again and take some points."
Stage five has two climbs: a category 3 and category 4, but the Big Bear stage holds seven categorized climbs: five category 3, a one each category 2 and 4.