Jonathan Vaughters is expecting his Garmin-Cervélo riders to animate the race on the lengthy finishing ascent on Mt Baldy, on the penultimate stage of the Amgen Tour of California. According to the team boss, the climb is one of the last chances to move onto the podium or maybe even into a position to win the overall classification.
“We're definitely the underdogs for the next few days,” Vaughters told Cyclingnews. “Tomorrow, there will be fireworks. We'll put on a show tomorrow, I mean, you know, it's going to be tough. Horner is really strong right now. The overall classification will change. I'm optimistic to be on the podium, maybe even the second two places on the podium, but the top spot? That's going to be tricky. Horner's riding strong right now.”
RadioShack’s Chris Horner is currently leading the overall classification ahead of teammate Levi Leipheimer in second and UnitedHealthcare’s Rory Sutherland in third.
Garmin-Cervélo has stacked the top ten with Christian Vande Velde, who slid from third place into fourth place following the stage six time trial in Solvang. He is the team’s closest hope for an overall victory because he is sitting 1:39 behind Horner. Tom Danielson is next in line, sitting in fifth place, 1:44 back. Ryder Hesjedal is in eighth place, 2:27 down, followed by Andrew Talansky, eleventh at 2:56.
“Horner is the strongest rider in the race right now,” Vaughters said. “Whether we can pull a Paris-Roubaix and swarm it or not remains to be seen. We put them under a lot of pressure during stage five with Dan Martin being off the front.”
“In stage seven, we are going to have to try early and often and try to break it,” he added. “We need to hope that Chris is having a bad day. We are certainly going to try. We will attack and we will attack all day long. But, whether or not that cracks Chris... it will be tough. He will have to be a little bit off because the form he has now is exceptional.”
The queen stage seven is relatively short at only 121km, but it is one of the most challenging and decisive stages in the Amgen Tour of California. The race will start in Claremont and climb for roughly 20 kilometres to the top of Glendora Ridge Rd. The peloton will continue into the base of the final climb on Glendora Mountain Rd. The general classification contenders will no doubt emerge over the next 25 kilometres up to the top of Mt.Baldy, where the finale six kilometres mark the steepest section.
“I think it is the hardest day in the race for sure and it is the hardest climb in the race,” Vaughters said. “It will be more decisive than Sierra Road, without a doubt. It will be very, very difficult. I actually think it might be a little bit of a larger group than everyone is assuming, by that I mean five guys, up until two or three kilometres to go and then it is going to split and in the last two kilometres there will be very, very big gaps. I think people will be amazed at how much time will be gained and lost.”