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Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) has every reason to smile, after moving one step closer to winning the Tour of California.
Race finale boasts decisive circuit climbs
Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) added a few additional seconds of padding to his overall lead during the Amgen Tour of California’s stage seven time trial, held in downtown Los Angeles. Despite losing two riders to a stage six’s time cut, the three-time world time trial champion is confident that he can win the overall title on the eighth and final stage.
“I just saw a bunch of roads in front of me, didn’t really see too much,” Rogers said. “It was a spectacular place for the time trial in one of the world’s city centre stages, in a beautiful race and it was certainly one that I will remember.”
Roger’s teammate Tony Martin won the 33.6 km time trial in 41:41 minutes, beating Rogers by 22 seconds and USA Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) by an additional five seconds. Three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) rode in for fourth place, 33 seconds back.
Rogers moved into the overall race lead on stage five and furthered his advantage by picking up time bonuses on the queen stage six atop Big Bear Lake. He heads into the final stage with a nine second lead on Zabriskie and 25 seconds to Leipheimer.
The grand finale 134 km circuit race includes four laps of a 33 km course and a 1,000 feet climb up the Mulholland Highway located 10 kilometres from the finish line in Agoura Hills.
“We haven’t seen the course and the majority of the riders in the race can only go by what is in the race booklet,” Rogers said. “We will send some of our management around the course to see it tonight. They will attack and they will attack hard, I am sure. The logical place to attack is on the climb and I would do the same if I was in that position. My job is to mark the top general classification guys and if they move I’ll move.
“With regard to the tactics of the race, first and foremost is to protect the jersey,” he added. ‘I am very confident with Bert Grabsch, Bernard Eisel, young Tejay and Tony Martin. I think we’ve got a strong team. Obviously from what I hear it is a difficult circuit with a tough climb, four times. It is not over, it is far from over. I think we got one step closer today and tomorrow we will take it as it comes.”
Rogers will be supported by five teammates including Martin, Bert Grabsch, Tejay van Garderen, Bernard Eisel and Lars Ytting Bak. HTC-Columbia lost fast-men Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish and lead-out man Mark Renshaw to a nine percent time cut on stage six.
“The two Marks being sprinters had a tough day yesterday, normal for a sprinter,” Rogers said. “When you have a team that was able to protect a stage that was twice as long and a lot more climbing we were able to protect the lead without the two Marks.
“I’m confident that we can defend tomorrow but we will have to keep our wits about us because obviously the whole race is going to throw everything at us that they have and we will be taking that,” he added. “We have a lot of experience, not only the riders but our sport directeurs have got years and years of experience and we will use all of that to our advantage.”