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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Amgen Tour of California. Today we'll be bringing you coverage of stage 8, the final day of racing, in which the peloton will travel 132.4km from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks. The race starts at 12:00 PDT.
The final day of racing in the 2011 edition will kick off in approximately 10 minutes.
There will be a 1.7km neutral section in Santa Clarita to negotiate first, and then the racing will begin.
The peloton is lined up on the start line and will start rolling in one minute.
The riders are half way through the neutral section and will soon see kilometre 0, the start of racing.
There's a Magic Mountain amusement park in the distance and that's where the official racing will commence.
Roller coasters are visible ahead, although the peloton had their own roller coaster ride yesterday en route to the brutal summit finish on Mt. Baldy.
And we're racing!
The attacks are starting immediately...
The stage eight finale winds predominantly downhill for the first 45 kms. The climbers will have one last opportunity to contest the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey on Balcom Canyon located at kilometre 49.6, although barring catastrophe current mountains leader Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech Powered By C10) has the classification wrapped up.
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) and Paul Mach (Bissell Cycling) have a slight lead.
Sorry, there's a correction on that attack. It was Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) off the front, but they've been brought back.
The pelton is all together and crossing the I5 Freeway, one of the traffic arteries of California.
On our way out of Santa Clarita we have dry, high desert hills and yellow grasses alongside the route.
David Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) had a go off the front, but was quickly chased down. The pace is a rather brisk 32mph at the moment.
Today is Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervelo) birthday! And check out his new (temporary) ride.
Christian met a local cycling enthusiast who's a Porsche dealer.
The Cyclingnews crew on the scene in California have been chatting to the teams this morning and the general consensus is that today will be a day for the sprinters.
Jen See spoke to Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), who finished a fine third place yesterday atop Mt Baldy, and he said the team is looking to set up Oscar Freire for a sprint victory today.
The team has yet to win a stage in the year's Amgen Tour of California and would like to close out the racing with a victory.
The sprinters will have their final two chances to gain points toward the Herbal Life sprint jersey at intermediate sprints located in Moorpark (km 72.9) and on the line at the start of the first circuit in Thousand Oaks (km 93).
Once there, the peloton will face five circuits of 7.8 kms in length before concluding the eight-stage race on the finish line in Thousand Oaks.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) leads the sprint classification and is a favourite for another stage win today.
Today is the last race for Ben King (RadioShack) in the stars-and-stripes jersey of US road champion.
Of course, he can just win another one on May 30 to continue his reign. King has had a shortened stint as US pro road champion as the championship moved from its calendar position in late August/early September to its new spot this year on Memorial Day weekend.
King's done the jersey proud this week, doing massive amounts of work at the front of the peloton for teammate and race leader Chris Horner.
As a reminder, here's the general classification situation heading into the final day of racing:
1 Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShack 20:50:02
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 0:00:38
3 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:02:45
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:03:18
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad 0:03:23
6 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:03:26
7 Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 0:04:12
8 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:04:33
9 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:04:50
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:06:16
RadioShack has been putting on a tour de force performance in defense of Horner's leader's jersey, and today will likely be no different.
As we mentioned before, Pat McCarty has the mountains classification wrapped up after his strong ride yesterday in the break. Here are the standings:
1 Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Team Spidertech Powered By C10 39 pts
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 24
3 Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShack 20
4 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 12
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 12
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo 12
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 11
8 Rob Britton (Can) Bissell Cycling 11
9 Will Routley (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10 10
10 Matthew Busche (USA) Team RadioShack 10
One of the riders looking to close out his Amgen Tour of California with a sprint victory is Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard).
He's won five stages in previous appearances, but has yet to top the podium this year.
He told Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo today that, "When you don't win there's always something you can do differently, but when you're sprinting at 65 km/h one small mistake can make all the difference."
Please bear with us as we try to sort out the race situation. The CN blimp seems to have lost contact with our crew in the race caravan.
The peloton is at km 26.5 and it's all together. Despite many spirited attempts to break away, nothing has stuck thus far.
There's been a strong headwind, although that hasn't seemed to temper the peloton's speed.
Currently, the riders are rolling through a section of road bordered by orange trees.
It's been a tough week for Mike Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth).
He spoke to our Laura Weislo this morning and he related he's having problems with his left leg. It may be an issue with his iliac artery, but he's going to get it checked out after the race.
And the Cyclingnews crew would like to take a moment to thank our driver Andy Paulin who has done a remarkable job of driving in the race caravan each day to keep us in the midst of all the action.
It's tough work and Andy's been superb.
We have four riders on the attack:
Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
They have about 45 seconds on the field, and several riders are trying to make their way across.
It looks like this quartet is getting some breathing room as the peloton is taking a nature break.
The theme for the day is "sprinters" and Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo spoke this morning with Zach Bell (Spidertech Powered by C10), who's a lead-out man for the team's fast man Kevin Lacombe.
The team is 100 percent committed to delivering him to a sprint victory today after coming tantalizingly close on stage 2 in Sacramento.
Jamis-Sutter Homes and Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth have also been aggressive, putting riders into breaks.
The four man break is currently 1km shy of reaching the day's only KOM.
Their lead over the peloton is 3:40.
There are two riders in no man's land between the break and the peloton: Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) and a Jamis-Sutter Home rider who we don't have an ID for yet.
The duo are 2:50 behind the break.
We have results for the day's only KOM, the final one of the race:
1. Jan Barta (Team NetApp)
2. Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home)
3. Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)
4. Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
The cars are being pulled out of the gap between the field and the second group on the road, looks like Hernandez and the Jamis-Sutter Home rider are going to be absorbed.
While the Amgen Tour of California had its queen stage yesterday, across the ocean at the Giro d'Italia the peloton had their's today, an absolutely brutal day in the mountains. Read all about the day's action here.
And back here at the Amgen Tour of California, two more riders who should figure prominently in the final stage's endgame are Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Frank Pipp (Bissell).
See what the pair had to told Kirsten Frattini about today's final stage here.
Our four escapees Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home), Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) are 66km into the stage and hold a 3:20 lead over the peloton.
And our mystery chaser has been identified.
Two riders are currently 2:40 behind the break: Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) and Phillip Gaimon (Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder).
We've had some hijinks in the peloton as Charles Wegelius (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) picked up a giant foam hand from a spectator on the side of the road, dropped back to the back of the peloton, and used it his gigantic hand to signal for service.
The break is 1km away from the first sprint line in Moorpark.
Hernandez and Gaimon have been absorbed by the peloton so there's just the four man break off the front.
Here are the results for the day's first intermediate sprint in Moorpark:
1. Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home)
2. Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)
3. Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
The lead quartet have a 2:45 advantage on the peloton.
RadioShack is at the head of the peloton, tapping out the tempo.
74km have been covered thus far and HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale, and Saxo Bank Sungard have all contributed riders alongside RadioShack to the pace-making effort in the field.
George Hincapie (BMC) is getting a new rear wheel from his team car.
Mauro Da Dalto (Liguigas-Cannondale) had to stop to take care of a mechanical, but he's made his way back to the field.
The break is heading towards the Norwegian climb part of the famous Simi Valley ride.
The break's lead is 2:40.
Liquigas-Cannondale is now setting tempo as the field is climbing.
Race leader Chris Horner (RadioShack) is smiling as usual, riding comfortably in the field.
The four escapees are working smoothly together, everyone sharing the load.
Cameron Wurf (Liquigas-Cannondale) had rolled off the front of the field on the climb, from the look on his face by accident, but he's back in the pack.
The break is about 7km away from entering the finishing circuit, on which they'll do five, 7.9km laps.
Two of the stars of the Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders champion Nick Nuyens and Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren are rolling along in the peloton, chatting away.
The break has 45.5km remaining and hold a 2:35 lead.
The riders are no longer in the countryside, but in the suburban streets of Thousand Oaks.
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) leads the best young rider's classification and has that classification wrapped up. He'll be working for his team's sprinters today.
Our four leaders, Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), are inside of 4km away from the day's second sprint line.
Saxo Bank Sungard, HTC-Highroad and Liquigas-Cannondale are sharing the pace-making duties at the front of the peloton. RadioShack is tucked in behind them.
At the front, Friedman flicks his elbow and Antogna comes through.
The lead quartet are rotating smoothly, with 40.5km remaining.
The break has turned onto the finishing circuit and are closing in on their first view of the finish line.
Five laps to go for the break. Big crowds on hand.
Results for the second intermediate sprint in Thousand Oaks:
1. Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home)
2. Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)
3. Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
Theh peloton has crossed the finish line, 2:35 behind the break.
The final circuit isn't exactly flat.
The break's hearing applause all the way around thus far.
The field is getting stretched out and trail the break by 2:10.
The lead of Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) is now at 1:55.
Frank Pipp (Bissell) is getting a new rear wheel. There will be some work to get back into the peloton.
The break is nearing the end of it's first circuit lap. Four to go with a lead of 1:50.
The majority of the finishing circuit has wide-open streets. There's some twists and turns but nothing too technical.
The peloton crosses the finish line and has cut the break's lead to 1:30.
Timothy Roe (BMC) is riding tailgunner in the peloton.
30km to go and a couple of riders are attacking the field.
Leopard Trek and Rabobank on the attack.
Martin Mortensen (Leopard Trek) and Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank Cycling Team) have a small gap on the field.
Mortensen and Tjallingi are 25 seconds up on the field.
The break has 27km to go and their advantage for the moment has levelled off at 1:30.
Looks like a momentary lull in the peloton's chase effort.
25km to go and the four escapees lead the peloton by 1:20.
The break sees 300m to the finish line. Three laps to go.
Mike Friedman leads the break across the finish line.
Mortensen and Tjallingi are working hard and trail the break by 39 seconds.
The peloton now has three laps to go...and has cut the lead of the four escapees to one minute.
Antogna has surged and draws out White in the break. Friedman and Barta chase back on. The cooperation seems to be ending.
Friedman now punches it and and Barta is immediately on his wheel. Once again, the break's all together and not cohesive.
Their lead is now at 45 seconds.
Mortensen and Tjallingi can see the break and are desperately trying to make contact.
Another acceleration by Friedman.
The break's back together and now soft pedalling some.
Mortensen and Tjallingi are about to reach the break.
White has popped.
We now have a lead group of five: Barta, Friedman and Antogna have been joined by Mortensen and Tjallingi.
HTC-Highroad is now setting tempo in the peloton.
Mortensen and Tjallingi are doing a two man rotation at the front of the break, driving the pace.
Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) has been absorbed by the peloton.
The break is nearing the finish line and will see 2 laps to go.
Their lead is holding at 30 seconds.
Friedman takes a pull now and leads the break across the finish line.
Liquigas-Cannondale paces the peloton through the finish line and has cut the break's lead to 20 seconds.
Antogna has been dropped from the break.
Friedman has been dropped and is caught by the field.
We now have Barta, Mortensen and Tjallingii in front.
The lead trio have 13.5km to go and hold a 25-second lead.
Barta is having trouble staying with Mortensen and Tjallingii...
HTC-Highroad is driving the peloton, strung out single file.
Barta isn't pulling through any longer and is just trying to stay in contact with Mortensen and Tjallingii.
12km to go. The leading trio clinging to a 25-second advantage.
Tjallingii, Mortensen and Barta lead by 20 seconds with 11km to go.
Tjallingii gets out of the saddle to power up a small roller. The trio still lead by 20 seconds.
Linus Gerdemann had a mechanical and swaps bikes with a teammate. Jakob Fuglsang is now pacing Gerdemann back to the field.
The break's on the finishing straight amidst a corridor of noise.
One lap to go!
The break's lead is a rather slender 10 seconds.
Mortensen refuses to cede and gets out of the saddle at the front of the break.
6km to go and the trio lead by 5 seconds.
Mortensen asks Barta to help...
Barta takes a quick pull and slips to the back of the break.
And the catch is made with 5km to go. The break is no more.
HTC-Highroad and Sky are at the front.
Saxo Bank Sungard is there too.
Tejay Van Garderen working to lead-out his team's sprinter.
3km to go.
Peter Sagan has teammates with him, looking to set up the sprint competition leader for another win.
Three Saxo Bank riders drive the pelton.
2km to go and Saxo Bank still holds the front position.
Sky and HTC-Highroad are moving up.
HTC-Highroad now in control.
Sky has jumped HTC, now lead. Rabobank jerseys up there too.
And here comes Liguigas-Cannondale...
Inside the final kilometre!
The sprinters fanned out across the road iin a drag race to the line and Matt Goss takes it!
Sagan was closing fast and appears to get second.
And race leader Chris Horner (RadioShack) rolls across the line with his arms aloft, your 2011 Amgen Tour of California champion.
Here's the provisional top-10 for stage 8:
1Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad2:56:39
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Procycling
4Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
5Kevin Lacombe (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10
6Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
7Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis
8Ken Hanson (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda
9Anibal Andres Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter Home
10Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard
The top of the GC remained unchanged, with Horner taking the overall win:
1Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShack23:46:41
2Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack0:00:38
3Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:02:45
Thank you for joining Cyclingnews throughout the Amgen Tour of California!