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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California. Today is the final day of racing as the peloton faces an 83.5 mile (134.4km) circuit race in Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village/Agoura Hills.
The stage begins at 12:30 pm local (Pacific) time, and we'll be starting our live coverage just prior to the race's start.
Racers will begin with a 4.8 mile (7.6km) neutral section from the start in Thousand Oaks at the Oaks Shopping Center. The official start is scheduled to happen when the peloton crosses the finish line of the circuit on Townsgate Rd for their first of four 20.9 mile (33.6km) laps.
The peloton is underway in the neutral section.
The moto board has a "Welcome to thousand aches California' message.
After seven days of racing, and a taxing circuit race on tap today, there will be some tired legs in the field.
The 20.9 mile (33.6km) circuit contains the Mulholland Highway climb, about a third of the way into the course, and there they will face steep slopes and numerous switchbacks as they ascend approximately 1,000 feet.
After climbing about six miles, the riders will start descending a dangerous and technical descent on Westlake Blvd., before setting off again on the course. Each lap is expected to last anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes.
The stage, and the Tour, end on Townsgate Road in Agoura Hills, where the 2010 winner will be crowned.
Once again, Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo is on the scene within the race caravan and she reports that there are lots of people on hand to witness the Amgen Tour of California finale today.
There should be quite a battle for the overall classification today and, amazingly, the top four GC riders from 2009's Amgen Tour of California are back once again in the top four this year.
In 2009 Levi Leipheimer entered the final stage with a 36 second lead over David Zabriskie, a 45 second lead on Michael Rogers and a 1:10 advantage on Jens Voigt and those time gaps remained true at the conclusion of the final stage.
This year the top four have been shuffled and the time gaps between the first three are tighter.
Today, Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) enters the Amgen Tour of California finale in the leader's jersey. The 29-year-old Australian leads David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) by 9 seconds, Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) by 25 seconds and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) by 1:12.
We have a little band on the side of the road with drums and plastic horns to entertain the peloton.
It's quite cool here, but sunny. It's rather breezy as well and we expect wind to be a factor today.
Some unfortunate news from Europe regarding a rider who was in the Amgen Tour of California, but abandoned due to a crash.
Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) has been charged with drunk driving after getting in a car accident last night. You can read the details about the incident here.
The peloton has about 1.5 more miles left in the neutral section.
Thousands Oaks, the start location, is the home of the Tour of California's title sponsor, Amgen. Today we have several Amgen VIPs in the caravan getting an up-close view of the action.
Parking seems to be at a premium, particularly as we get closer to kilometre 0. Parking was $10 back a block, up here it's $20!
The peloton has just turned onto the race circuit and are greeted by a huge crowd of spectators.
The race has begun! The peloton now faces four laps of a rather taxing circuit.
Here's a look at the top 15 on general classification entering today's final stage:
1 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia 29:46:06
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:00:09
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 0:00:25
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:12
5 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis 0:01:26
6 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:01:32
7 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo 0:01:34
8 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions 0:01:46
9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 0:02:10
10 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:02:21
11 Phil Zajicek (USA) Fly V Australia 0:02:49
12 Marc De Maar (Ned) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis 0:03:20
13 Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:03:25
14 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:04:08
15 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC-Columbia 0:04:22
Team support will be critical today, and perhaps that may tip the balance slightly into Zabriskie's favor. Garmin-Transitions is the only team which still has its full roster of 8 riders in the race. Leipheimer's RadioShack squad has 7 of their original 8, having lost Lance Armstrong on stage five. Rogers' HTC-Columbia team starts the stage with six riders.
The peloton is rolling along at 29mph with a pretty good tailwind.
Attack! We have 11 riders in the first break of the day.
Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) were in the lead group of 11, and have now attacked that group.
Zwizanski had a good time trial yesterday and evidently has some fresh legs today.
The attack has been absorbed and the peloton is strung out single file. They just touched 45mph.
Now the riders have made a hard right and have begun to climb.
We're presently on a short, very twisting ascent.
We now have another attack containing approximately 13 riders. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) is in this group and we're waiting confirmation of the rest of the escapees.
Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank), Andreas Stauff (Quick Step), Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Simon Zahner (BMC Racing Team), Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team), Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team) are off the front on the first ascent of Mulholland Highway.
The group is currently 50 seconds ahead of the field.
Garmin-Transitions is at the head of the peloton and setting a strong tempo. They've reduced the gap to the break to 30 seconds.
The riders are having a bit of a push up Mulholland Highway as they've got a slight tailwind.
Hmmm...there's a nearly naked man on a penny farthing on the climb. Did he actually ride up here on that
Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) has been dropped from the break due to a mechanical.
There's a huge crowd lining the climb on Mulholland Highway.
The break is at mile 11.4 and have nearly two more miles of climbing to the top.
Simon Zahner (BMC Racing Team) has been dropped from the break.
The volume of the crowd here is absolutely deafening.
Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team) have attacked the break and have a slight advantage.
Dmitriy Muravyev (Team Radioshack) and Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) have abandoned.
Philip Deignan (Cervelo Test Team) did not start today.
The break has been caught 200 metres from the KOM. The peloton has shattered into approximately 5 groups on the first ascent of Mulholland Highway.
Results for KOM on lap 1:
1 Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions)
2 Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Transitions)
3 David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)
4 Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia)
And we have some camels along the race route. Not something you see everyday at a race...
Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) has some fans up here. There are signs for him along the road side.
Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini spoke with many of the riders prior to the start of today's stage, including Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions):
"I think this is a unique situation for this year's Amgen Tour of California. Every year the last stage has been pretty easy. This year it is going to be one of the most critical days. We have three guys close on GC and we are going to put the screws to the peloton today and put on a good show."
Based on the first lap thus far, I'd say the team's game plan is in underway.
The peloton is making its way down the dangerous and technical descent on Westlake Blvd. It's definitely a white knuckle ride in the race caravan as well!
There's now a lead group of approximately 23 riders who are now seeing 5km to go for the first circuit.
Race leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) is in there, as well as best young rider Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo).
A few riders went off-roading on the descent after they overshot a turn: Jason McCartney (RadioShack), Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly) and a Bissell rider. They didn't go down and we're not sure yet if they've made it back to the lead group.
There are 28 riders in the lead group and they have a 50-second gap to the first group of chasers.
Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack are applying the pressure in the lead group.
Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini spoke to race leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) this morning:
"It's a very hard stage today. It is not flat and the race is not finished yet. We are expecting a lot of attacks but we are looking forward to it. I can call my time trial yesterday an A+."
The lead group is on it's second lap and the pace is intense. We don't have confirmation yet of all the riders in the lead group, but we know Roger and Sagan are there as well as a contingent of Garmin-Transition and RadioShack riders. Zabriskie and Leipheimer are surely in there. They're riding this race like it's a criterium, just absolutely drilling it.
There are three chasers trying to latch on to the lead group. We believe those are the three who went off-roading on the descent: McCartney, Reijnen and a Bissell rider.
A large chase group has just made contact with the leaders. We now have a group of 43 riders at the head of affairs.
The leader of the KOM classification, Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1), was in the group of chasers which just made contact with the leaders.
Lars Boom (Rabobank Cycling Team), Thomas Leezer (Rabobank Cycling Team) and Alexander Kristoff (BMC Racing Team) have abandoned.
Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini spoke to Chris Jones (Team Type 1), a teammate of KOM leader Thomas Rabou, before the stage today:
"We are going to take care of Rabou today because the jersey is really important to our team. We are going to take care of him and make sure he takes that jersey home."
Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank Cycling Team), Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team), Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) have attacked from the lead group and have a slight gap 28 miles into the stage.
There's a 28-rider chase group trying to make contact with the lead group.
We're at mile 29 and it looks like the four attackers are about to be caught.
Kirsten Frattini spoke with US road champion George Hincapie (BMC) prior to the start today:
"I'm feeling much better today. It took me two or three days to get over the crash but now I am feeling 100 percent so hopefully I can put a good stage in today.
"This is the hardest stage race I have ever done in America. The climb up to Big Bear was epic and a lot of guys are still tired from that."
The lead group is at mile 30 and climbing again. They're setting a particularly brisk tempo. Ouch, this is going to hurt.
The chasing group of 28 is now 1:10 behind the leading yellow jersey group, about 43 strong.
The lead group has 5km of climbing to the KOM line on Mulholland Highway.
Swiss, Belgian and British flags are flying on the side of the road.
There are KOM points up for grabs on each of the four circuits. Additionally, there are intermediate sprints at the end of laps 2 and 3. Those time bonuses could be very important to the GC race with the top 3 of Rogers, Zabriskie and Leipheimer so close together.
Dave Zabriskie has some supporters out on the climb. Four fans have D-A-V-E spelled out in red on their respective chests.
We have one rider attacking the lead group: Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step)
The chase group is falling behind, and now trails the lead group by two minutes.
KOM leader Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) has bridged to Carlos Barredo. The pair have a slight 10-second lead.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) has abandoned.
Check out our gallery of photos taken at the start of today's Amgen Tour of California stage in Thousand Oaks.
Rabou and Barredo have extended their lead slightly to 15 seconds as they near the KOM line.
The pace has slowed somewhat on this lap after the furious tempo the first time up Mulholland Highway.
Rabou and Barredo are still in the lead.
We now have a 7-rider chase group in pursuit: Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) .
The leaders have 5km to go to the end of the second circuit.
Nearing the end of lap two we now have a lead group of 7 containing Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1).
The seven leaders have a 45 second advantage over the yellow jersey group.
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) has abandoned.
George HIncapie is the highest place on GC in the leading group. He started the day 18th overall, 6:03 behind Rogers.
The seven rider break is out on its third lap. Brad White (Unitedhealthcare) is in no man's land, chasing the seven leaders.
The yellow jersey group rolls through the finish line, 1:20 behind the break.
HTC-Columbia is setting temp in the field, with RadioShack tucked in behind.
Michael Rogers and Dave Zabriskie ride next to each other in the field and are sharing a laugh.
The break is working smoothly together and have stretched their lead slightly to 1:25 over the peloton.
Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini also spoke to Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) prior to the stage today:
"I’m happy to be where I am but I’m not done yet, I’m excited about today. 11th overall is great but it doesn't really mean a whole lot so I am going to gamble everything today."
The break's lead is growing steadily, and is now up to 1:50.
Brad White has now been absorbed. There appears to be about 30 riders in the yellow jersey group.
Our leading group of seven, Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) , now have a lead of 2:10
We have confirmation about several of the riders in the yellow jersey group: Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack), Michael Rogers (Team HTC-Columbia), Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia), Tejay Van Garderen (Team HTC-Columbia), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions), Steve Morabito (BMC Racing Team), Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Lucas Euser (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy), Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies).
Francesco Bellotti (Liquigas), Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Dominique Rollin (Cervelo TestTeam) and Marc de Maar (Unitehealthcare) are also in the yellow jersey group.
The break's advantage is now out to 2:50.
Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia), the winner of yesterday's time trial in Los Angeles, is setting a steady tempo at the head of the yellow jersey group.
The break's lead is now at 3:00 with 50km remaining in the stage.
The seven-man lead break is ascending Mulholland Highway and are all together.
Martin is still hammering out a steady tempo back in the field.
The break is getting some raucous support from spectators running alongside the leading seven. There's quite a substantial crowd on the climb.
Jason McCartney (RadioShack) is slipping off the back of the yellow jersey group.
The break's lead is dropping slightly on the climb, down to 2:40.
This looks like climb at any large stage race in Europe...the spectator turnout is quite impressive.
The seven leaders and the yellow jersey group are each tapping out a steady tempo. No aggression on this ascent of Mulholland Highway.
The break's lead is currently 2:50.
KOM classification leader is putting his stamp on the mountains competition, taking maximum points on the 3rd ascent of Mulholland Highway.
Unitedhealthcare now puts a rider at the front of the yellow jersey group to set temp.
As a reminder, we have seven riders off the front: Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) .
The yellow jersey group of approximately 30 riders has pegged the break at approximately three minutes, and currently trail by 2:50.
The break is currently bombing down the descent, a pretty tricky affair full of twists and turns.
The break has split on the descent as they see 5km to go on their third lap of four: Hincapie, Popovych and Pujol have a sizeable gap.
The descent is splintering the yellow jersey group as well...
Our seven leaders are all back together approaching the finish line to end their third circuit.
There's an intermediate sprint on this lap but nobody is going for it. The bonus seconds are of no consequence for this group.
The break is now out on the final lap with a lead of 2:55.
The yellow jersey group is seeing one lap to go, led across by Garmin-Transitions.
When will the fireworks commence for the riders atop GC?
While the riders are on the flat, opening section of the final lap the gap between the break and the yellow jersey group has dropped to 2:35.
Garmin-Transitions is setting tempo, with assistance from Unitedhealthcare.
The yellow jersey group is strung out single file....things are heating up.
The 7-man break is still sharing the work equally, trying to keep their advantage.
Matt Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) is taking a strong pull at the head of the yellow jersey group as the break's advantage is now hovering around two minutes.
Max Jenkins (Unitedhealthcare) has been dropped from the yellow jersey group. Wilson is still on the front, keeping the group single file.
Race leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) is near the front of the group with several teammates.
The break's lead is now pegged at approximately 2:00 as they approach the final ascent of Mulholland Highway.
Matt Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) is still powering the yellow jersey group, and the break's advantage has slipped inside of two minutes.
Unitedhealthcare now has a rider setting the pace with Garmin-Transitons and HTC-Columbia tucked in behind.
Our seven leaders, Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank Cycling Team), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1), lead by 1:50
Matt Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) is once again setting a furious pace at the head of the yellow jersey group.
The break's advantage is now 1:45...
Mechanical for Levi Leipheimer.
Not a good time to have to chase back on. Leipheimer has a teammate with him and is about to regain contact with the yellow jersey group.
Leipheimer is back in the yellow jersey group and is moving up towards the front.
Barredo just cranked up the pressure in the break, as they see 5km to go to the KOM line.
The break is splintering as Rabou and Vennell have been gapped.
Their lead is down to 1:25.
Unitedhealthcare launches an attack from the yellow jersey group.
The break has shattered and Yaroslav Popovych (Team Radioshack), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team) are now in the lead.
Fireworks are going off in the yellow jersey group. Leipheimer puts in a huge attack and Rogers has immediately bridged up.
The yellow jersey group has blown to pieces.
Dave Zabriskie is coming across to Leipheimer and Rogers. Horner is sitting on Zabriskie's wheel.
Pujol, Barredo and Hincapie are still in the lead on Mulholland Highway with 55 seconds on the yellow jersey chase group.
Pujol, Barredo and Hincapie have crossed the KOM line together at the front.
The trio lead the yellow jersey group by 50 seconds.
Zabriskie puts in an attack, but is brought back by Rogers. Popovych was dropped.
Hesjedal attacks the yellow jersey group with Horner on his wheel.
Zabriskie attacks again! Rogers claws his way back to Zabriskie.
Now Leipheimer puts an attack. Rogers has Zabriskie on his wheel and brings back Leipheimer.
The three leaders have a slim lead, 30 seconds, as the GC contenders trade heavy attacks.
Hesjedal and Horner have bridged to the leaders on the descent!
The five leaders are flying down the descent with 5km to go.
The yellow jersey group passes the 5km to go sign...
Four kilometres to go for the five leaders...
The five leaders are off the descent and are eying each other.
The leading five are thinking about the stage win approaching the finish line.
And Barredo puts in an attack, but is brought back by Hincapie.
The yellow jersey group is 35 seconds behind the leaders as the first five near the 1km to go banner.
Horner moves to the front with Pujol on his wheel.
Horner leads out the sprint...and Hesjedal puts in a strong surge approaching the line. Hesjedal takes the stage win!
Hincapie takes second on the stage, followed by Barredo.
The yellow jersey group finishes 29 seconds later led in by Langeveld in 6th.
Rogers wins the Amgen Tour of California. Wow, what a finish today.
Thank you for joining us today at the Amgen Tour of California's final stage and we hope you've enjoyed our coverage of the US's premier stage race.
While the Amgen Tour has finished, live coverage continues on Cyclingnews on Tuesday, with stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia. We hope you join us then!