Following some major shake ups in the general classification during a windswept stage 5 finale, the overall contenders at the Amgen Tour of California will have another day to stake their claim for the final leader's jersey during Friday's stage 6 individual time trial in San Jose.
But the 31.6km course is no ordinary affair. The first 90 percent uses the same time trial route as when the race visited San Jose in 2006, but this time it has a vicious sting in the tail – the 2.7km, 290 meter climb up Metcalf Road, averaging a leg-sapping 10.6 percent.
The first 29km are rolling or flat before the riders hit the climb. Considering that the 12km lead-up to the base of the climb will most likely be ridden into a tough headwind, aerodynamics will be as important as ever. But an aerodynamic bike and riding position aren't ideal for climbing fast, especially on a steep slope. Look for the top riders to make some very tough decisions, which might include a bike change, to get a maximum result.
Current overall leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who took over the race lead Thursday from Jamis-Hagens Berman's Janier Acevedo, said he was hesitant to give away his own strategy for the unique race against the clock, but he did say that the route requires a lot of thinking rather than just going out and riding hard.
"It's going to be a battle of equipment, gearing and whether or not you're going to take a bike change or if you're going to sacrifice weight for aerodynamics" van Garderen said. "It's going to be kind of a lab experiment and a science test a little bit."
The time trial is enough of a "science test" for UnitedHealthcare to bring in some outside experts to help determine what will be the best plan of attack for the Pro Continental team's riders, including Phil Deignan, who currently sits fifth overall. Like van Garderen, UnitedHealthcare team general manager and director Mike Tamayo was holding his cards close to his chest.
"I can tell you that we worked with the Faster wind tunnel, and they put together – not just their own engineer – but they reached out to a couple of folks that are way smarter than I am," Tamayo told Cyclingnews on Thursday. "We've had engineers that have been working out what the time savings would be for swapping a time trial bike and a road bike – the percentage difference and whether it would be worth it or not.
"I won't disclose that information for you because we spent a lot of money trying to get that," Tamayo said. "But I will tell you that we've spent a lot of time thinking about what we should do tomorrow."
Another issue for teams to consider when weighing the option of a bike switch is the rule banning team cars from passing a rider in the event. When a rider needs a new bike in a road race, the team car blasts ahead and prepares the bike for when the rider arrives – a relatively efficient operation.
But the time trial rule prohibiting a support vehicle from passing the rider means mechanics must wait until the rider stops in front of them before hopping out of the car, removing the bike from the rack and getting it under the rider. Bontrager director Axel Merckx said that maneuver could take as much as 30-45 seconds, as well as disrupting the rider's rhythm.
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Chad Haga, winner of the Redlands Bicycle Classic opening time trial earlier this season and currently sitting ninth overall in California, agreed with Merckx's assessment.
"I think it will just be the full time trial set-up," Haga said. "Take the weight penalty on the climb and hope that the aero benefits on the rest of the course make up for it."
No matter the equipment choices, the race promises to be a nail-biter that could once again dramatically shift the top of the general classification. Van Garderen currently leads Saxo-Tinkoff's Mick Rogers, who won the overall here in 2010, by just 42 seconds. Acevedo is currently third, 50 seconds in arrears. RadioShack-Leopard's Matthew Busche is fourth after Thursday's stage, trailing van Garderen by 1:04. Deignan is 1:17 back.
Rogers is a three-time world champion in the discipline and appears to be back on form after several protracted battles with mononucleosis. Acevedo, a pure climber from Colombia, recently finished ninth in the Tour of the Gila time trial, coming in more than 37 seconds off the winning mark. Busche, who exploited Thursday's hectic finish to move up four spots in the overall, rides well in the discipline and said he hopes to move onto the overall podium Friday.
"Hopefully I can keep my position or move up a spot or two," Busche said. "I definitely am in a better position now, and if I have a good time trial, then on Diablo I can be a bit more defensive and conserve my spot, which will hopefully be on the podium."
With the GC battle now set on high, other riders who are further down in the overall will simply be looking for a stage win. Lieuwe Westra, the Vancansoleil-DCM rider who won the first stage with a late move off the front, told Cyclingnews the course suits him well and he'll be going all out for the stage win.
"I think it's a good parcours for me," said Westra, the current Dutch time trial champion. "It's flat, a little bit uphill, downhill and it ends with a climb. I think it's good. Tomorrow we will see the parcours, but when I look in the book I see it's perfect for me. So we'll see. The condition is good. So I hope to post a good result tomorrow."
One rider who has seen the time trial course will be competing in the women's race just before the men takeoff at 1 p.m. Amber Neben, the 2008 world champion and a two-time Olympian who finished 7th in the London time trial, said the route is a "real" test against the clock.
"I did see the TT course a couple of days ago," Neben said during the pre-race press conference at the beginning of the week. "It's hard. The finish is brutal, and that climb at the end is definitely going to change the finish, for sure."
|1||Carson Miller (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman||13:00:00|
|2||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp||13:01:00|
|3||Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||13:02:00|
|4||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||13:03:00|
|5||Jason McCartney (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||13:04:00|
|6||Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||13:05:00|
|7||James Driscoll (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman||13:06:00|
|8||James Oram (NZl) Bontrager Cycling Team||13:07:00|
|9||Marsh Cooper (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:08:00|
|10||Gregor Gazvoda (Slo) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||13:09:00|
|11||Scott Zwizanski (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:10:00|
|12||Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:11:00|
|13||Thomas Soladay (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:12:00|
|14||Wu Kin San (HKg) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||13:13:00|
|15||Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||13:14:00|
|16||John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:15:00|
|17||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp-Endura||13:16:00|
|18||Jacobe Keough (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:17:00|
|19||Shawn Milne (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||13:18:00|
|20||Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman||13:19:00|
|21||Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:20:00|
|22||Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||13:21:00|
|23||Timothy Duggan (USA) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||13:22:00|
|24||Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team||13:23:00|
|25||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale Pro Cycling||13:24:00|
|26||Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Team NetApp-Endura||13:25:00|
|27||Travis Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||13:26:00|
|28||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||13:27:00|
|29||Robert Sweeting (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||13:28:00|
|30||Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:29:00|
|31||David Williams (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||13:30:00|
|32||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale Pro Cycling||13:31:00|
|33||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||13:32:00|
|34||Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||13:33:00|
|35||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro Cycling||13:34:00|
|36||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||13:35:00|
|37||Jeffry Louder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||13:36:00|
|38||Ryan Eastman (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team||13:37:00|
|39||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale Pro Cycling||13:38:00|
|40||Matt Brammeier (Irl) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||13:39:00|
|41||Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team NetApp-Endura||13:40:00|
|42||Feng Chun Kai (Tpe) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||13:41:00|
|43||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||13:42:00|
|44||Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||13:43:00|
|45||James Stemper (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||13:44:00|
|46||Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||13:45:00|
|47||Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp||13:46:00|
|48||Marco Pinotti (Ita) BMC Racing Team||13:47:00|
|49||Ken Hanson (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:48:00|
|50||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Bontrager Cycling Team||13:49:00|
|51||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||13:50:00|
|52||Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Sharp||13:51:00|
|53||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||13:52:00|
|54||David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Sharp||13:53:00|
|55||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman||13:54:00|
|56||Carter Jones (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||13:55:00|
|57||Bob Jungels (Lux) RadioShack Leopard||13:56:00|
|58||Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||13:57:00|
|59||Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin-Sharp||13:58:00|
|60||Jay McCarthy (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||13:59:00|
|61||Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||14:00:00|
|62||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||14:01:00|
|63||Chris Butler (USA) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||14:02:00|
|64||Michael Torckler (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling||14:03:00|
|65||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp||14:04:00|
|66||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack Leopard||14:05:00|
|67||Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Garmin-Sharp||14:06:00|
|68||José Joao Pimenta Costa Mendes (Por) Team NetApp-Endura||14:07:00|
|69||Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||14:08:00|
|70||Nathan Brown (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team||14:09:00|
|71||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||14:10:00|
|72||Baden Cooke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||14:11:00|
|73||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||14:12:00|
|74||Ryan Roth (Can) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||14:13:00|
|75||Max Jenkins (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||14:14:00|
|76||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Bontrager Cycling Team||14:15:00|
|77||Luis Romero Amaran (Cub) Jamis-Hagens Berman||14:16:00|
|78||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||14:17:00|
|79||Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura||14:18:00|
|80||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||14:19:00|
|81||Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack Leopard||14:20:00|
|82||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team||14:21:00|
|83||Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||14:22:00|
|84||Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team||14:23:00|
|85||Jacob Rathe (USA) Garmin-Sharp||14:24:00|
|86||Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling||14:25:00|
|87||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:26:00|
|88||Alexander Candelario (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:27:00|
|89||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team||14:28:00|
|90||Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard||14:29:00|
|91||Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||14:30:00|
|92||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura||14:31:00|
|93||Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||14:32:00|
|94||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard||14:33:00|
|95||Tanner Putt (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team||14:34:00|
|96||Brian Vandborg (Den) Cannondale Pro Cycling||14:35:00|
|97||David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura||14:36:00|
|98||Edward King (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling||14:37:00|
|99||Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack Leopard||14:38:00|
|100||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura||14:39:00|
|101||Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:40:00|
|102||Nathaniel English (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||14:41:00|
|103||Marc De Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:42:00|
|104||Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team||14:44:00|
|105||Chad Haga (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:46:00|
|106||Francisco Mancebo Perez (Spa) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda||14:48:00|
|107||Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team||14:50:00|
|108||Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||14:52:00|
|109||Philip Deignan (Irl) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||14:54:00|
|110||Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack Leopard||14:56:00|
|111||Janier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Jamis-Hagens Berman||14:58:00|
|112||Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||15:00:00|
|113||Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||15:02:00|
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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