The battle for the overall Amgen Tour of California title will take place today on the most difficult stage to ever be included in the race - stage 7 from Claremont to the top of Mt. Baldy, a 9km climb that rises over 700m. Overall race leader Chris Horner of RadioShack will have to continue to be the best on Mt. Baldy, but on the two category 2 ascents that precede it, the fight for the mountains classification will unfold.
Spidertech Powered by C10's Pat McCarty leads the mountains classification with 23 points to Jesse Anthony's 17, but Anthony's Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth team director Jonas Carney said his team likely won't try to control the race to set him up to take the jersey.
"It's more about how well Jesse feels," Carney said about going for the mountain sprints. "If he feels good and he can do it the other guys will try to help him.
"We made the mistake last year of doing everything we could to defend Ryan Anderson's jersey and it backfired on us. We ended up blowing up the team and we lost four guys on the stage to the time cut.
"Tomorrow it could be similar. The time cut is 11 percent - on a stage like that is really small. Much smaller than you would probably see in most races. So you can't just go and nuke yourself out of the blocks. You could easily get time cut if you don't take care of yourself."
Mt. Baldy isn't the only challenge in the finale: the Glendora Road climb - an unrelenting 14.8km drag averaging about 5 percent - comes immediately prior to Mt. Baldy, giving little room to recover for the final push to the line.
Carney predicted that if the riders contending for the overall start attacking early, as soon as the first climb on Glendora Ridge Road which begins basically from kilometre zero, it could be one of the WorldTour riders who take the mountains jersey off the back of McCarty.
"It's not out of the question that one of those guys will end up in the jersey just because they win the stage tomorrow. There's enough points if Pat McCarty or Jesse are riding well enough in the first two climbs to get points, but if they aren't it could turn out that Levi or Horner could get 12 points on the top of Mt. Baldy and win the jersey. Both McCarty and Jesse need to get points early on if they can."