The Rabobank team suffered from ill fortune in the first stages of the Amgen Tour of California, but that all turned around today in what would have been the race's fourth stage.
After two days where the team's sprinters Oscar Freire and Michael Matthews couldn't find the right formula for a stage win, and Matthews crashed and then abandoned the race altogether, Lars Boom walked onto the team bus and announced "I will make the breakaway today". Paul Martens said he would also like to have a go. Both pronouncements proved true today, and it has been a big morale boost for the team.
Boom was the first to make the breakaway, taking the first of the mountain primes. Although he did not last at the front when the 10-man breakaway was absorbed on the slopes of Mount Hamilton, a hors categorie climb, over the top Martens followed an attack by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervélo) and stayed clear until they reached the final climb on Sierra Road in San Jose.
It was then the turn of Laurens Ten Dam, who used his climbing prowess to finish eighth on the stage, 1:45 down on stage winner Chris Horner of RadioShack.
"I was too far back when Horner and [Levi] Leipheimer accelerated," Ten Dam said according to the Rabosport.nl web site. "After they got away, we couldn't close the gap to the second group anymore. I had the wrong two riders with me - both Vande Velde and Gerdemann weren't going to chase because they had teammates up the road."
He is now 10th overall and wasn't sure the time trial would improve his standing, but said he would try to gain time again on stage 7 to Mt. Baldy.
Ten Dam said his success today came in part because he asked his Twitter followers which gear to use on the stage today - a rear cassette with a maximum 25 tooth cog or one with a 28? The answer came from his former teammate Rory Sutherland, who said "If you don't use a 25, then you're a 'watje' (wuss)".
"And what did he show up to the race with? A 26!," laughed Ten Dam.