Ben Day (Kenda/5-hour Energy) is looking forward to testing his legs on Mt Hamilton and Sierra Road, the two decisive ascents that will end stage four at the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday. The Australian hopes to put for a strong performance on the stage that will surely shake up the overall classification.
"Everyone is unsure and you come into the race thinking you are going well but tomorrow is the big test and I'm looking forward to it," Day said. "The last five kilometres is going to be man-versus-man and whoever is the strongest is going to be up there. My legs feel fine and I feel strong. Sierra Road will be a matter of making sure that I am in the right position going into the climb."
Day placed eighth overall in the 2007 edition of the Amgen Tour of California. He knows the significance of the Mt. Hamilton and Sierra Road combo because the pair of ascents have been included in nearly every edition. This is the first year the Sierra Road will finish a stage and it is the first of two mountaintop finishes this week, followed by Mt Baldy on stage six.
Stage four will offer a 131.6km route beginning in Livermore. The peloton will first pass over Mt. Hamilton, a 6.8 km ascent of 8.4 percent gradient, before starting up the gruelling Sierra Road on a 9.4 percent gradient for over the 5.6 km to the finish line.
"We've done that climb every year and it is tough and steep but Mt Hamilton beforehand is a tough one as well," Day said. "Everyone is talking about Sierra Road but getting over Mt Hamilton in good position and still being able to feel good for Sierra Road, is major. Mt Hamilton will be telling because if people aren't feeling good there then they won't be in the group of Sierra Road."
Day is expecting a front group of climbers to emerge over Mt. Hamilton. Following a technical descent, the group will start up the base of Sierra Road where he predicts the field will completely shatter into small groups of one or two riders. However, with the climb being relatively short, the time gaps will not be irreparable when the race heads into the stage six time trial in Solvang and the stage seven finishing climb on Mt. Baldy.
"Every year that we have raced hard over Sierra Road there are only two or three riders over the top and usually Levi [Leipheimer]," Day said. "I think it will come in ones and twos and even though it is only five kilometres, it is steep. The time gaps might not be huge and I think there will still be some great racing after that. The finale with Mt Baldy on the penultimate stage is a world class climb and a stage reminiscent of a Grand Tour."