Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) had even more reason to smile after the stage, having taken the race leader's jersey.
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General classification battle could take second stage to break
On the eve of the Amgen Tour of California's "queen stage" to Big Bear Lake, all eyes are on a tightly packed leaderboard, where Australian Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and American David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) are locked in a dead heat.
With Radioshack's defending champion Levi Leipheimer 10 seconds behind, best young rider Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) five more in arrears and the top 15 just over half a minute behind the lead the sixth stage could shake out the overall classification further.
The 217.7km stage includes a whopping seven classified climbs and climbs to 8,000 feet (2438m) above sea level, adding a degree of difficulty above the stage profile.
"I'm counting for a tough day. Radioshack still have a lot of guys in contention and I'm sure they're not going to go away from this race without giving everything they can to deliver," said Rogers. "There's a heck of a lot of climbing and a lot is at high altitude, so that will take a lot of out of the riders."
Race organiser AEG president Andrew Messick gave his prediction for the stage, indicating it may not unfold into a general classification battle.
"I think we've achieved what we wanted - for this race to possibly come down to the last day,” he said. “Tomorrow's climbs are going to be impressive in the beginning, and then it kind of plateaus when you get up on top of the ridge. But it's a roller coaster to the finish. A break could possibly sustain itself to the finish line on top of Big Bear."
Certainly the Kelly Benefit Strategies team is banking on a breakaway, and will be looking to gain additional points for mountains leader Ryan Anderson. However, Anderson himself did not make the front split which happened on the KOM at the mid-point of stage 5, and is hoping for a different outcome than Messick predicts.
"Tomorrow's going to a day of wait and see. We'll see how it goes - hopefully a lot of the GC guys will go and swallow up most of the points," Anderson said.
His continental team will be up against stiff competition from the Quick Step, Saxo Bank and Rabobank ProTour squads, which so far have been shut out of the results. Quick Step and Rabobank were particularly aggressive on Thursday's stage to Bakersfield and both made the ultimately unsuccessful breakaway.
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