Tough time trial route to test Tour of California contenders

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."

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Tour of California stage 6 - Men's start times (PDT)
1Carson Miller (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman13:00:00
2Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp13:01:00
3Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Champion System Pro Cycling Team13:02:00
4Wesley Kreder (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team13:03:00
5Jason McCartney (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling13:04:00
6Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team13:05:00
7James Driscoll (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman13:06:00
8James Oram (NZl) Bontrager Cycling Team13:07:00
9Marsh Cooper (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies13:08:00
10Gregor Gazvoda (Slo) Champion System Pro Cycling Team13:09:00
11Scott Zwizanski (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies13:10:00
12Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team13:11:00
13Thomas Soladay (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies13:12:00
14Wu Kin San (HKg) Champion System Pro Cycling Team13:13:00
15Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling13:14:00
16John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team13:15:00
17Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp-Endura13:16:00
18Jacobe Keough (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team13:17:00
19Shawn Milne (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda13:18:00
20Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman13:19:00
21Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies13:20:00
22Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma-Quick Step13:21:00
23Timothy Duggan (USA) Team Saxo-Tinkoff13:22:00
24Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team13:23:00
25Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale Pro Cycling13:24:00
26Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Team NetApp-Endura13:25:00
27Travis Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge13:26:00
28Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team13:27:00
29Robert Sweeting (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda13:28:00
30Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team13:29:00
31David Williams (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda13:30:00
32Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale Pro Cycling13:31:00
33Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff13:32:00
34Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling13:33:00
35Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro Cycling13:34:00
36Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team13:35:00
37Jeffry Louder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team13:36:00
38Ryan Eastman (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team13:37:00
39Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale Pro Cycling13:38:00
40Matt Brammeier (Irl) Champion System Pro Cycling Team13:39:00
41Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team NetApp-Endura13:40:00
42Feng Chun Kai (Tpe) Champion System Pro Cycling Team13:41:00
43Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step13:42:00
44Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff13:43:00
45James Stemper (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda13:44:00
46Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step13:45:00
47Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp13:46:00
48Marco Pinotti (Ita) BMC Racing Team13:47:00
49Ken Hanson (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies13:48:00
50Antoine Duchesne (Can) Bontrager Cycling Team13:49:00
51Boy van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team13:50:00
52Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Sharp13:51:00
53Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge13:52:00
54David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Sharp13:53:00
55Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman13:54:00
56Carter Jones (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling13:55:00
57Bob Jungels (Lux) RadioShack Leopard13:56:00
58Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff13:57:00
59Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin-Sharp13:58:00
60Jay McCarthy (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff13:59:00
61Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge14:00:00
62Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step14:01:00
63Chris Butler (USA) Champion System Pro Cycling Team14:02:00
64Michael Torckler (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling14:03:00
65Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp14:04:00
66Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack Leopard14:05:00
67Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Garmin-Sharp14:06:00
68José Joao Pimenta Costa Mendes (Por) Team NetApp-Endura14:07:00
69Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Team Saxo-Tinkoff14:08:00
70Nathan Brown (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team14:09:00
71Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling14:10:00
72Baden Cooke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge14:11:00
73Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling14:12:00
74Ryan Roth (Can) Champion System Pro Cycling Team14:13:00
75Max Jenkins (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda14:14:00
76Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Bontrager Cycling Team14:15:00
77Luis Romero Amaran (Cub) Jamis-Hagens Berman14:16:00
78Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step14:17:00
79Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura14:18:00
80Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge14:19:00
81Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack Leopard14:20:00
82Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team14:21:00
83Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team14:22:00
84Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team14:23:00
85Jacob Rathe (USA) Garmin-Sharp14:24:00
86Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling14:25:00
87Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team14:26:00
88Alexander Candelario (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies14:27:00
89Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team14:28:00
90Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard14:29:00
91Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team14:30:00
92Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura14:31:00
93Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System Pro Cycling Team14:32:00
94Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard14:33:00
95Tanner Putt (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team14:34:00
96Brian Vandborg (Den) Cannondale Pro Cycling14:35:00
97David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura14:36:00
98Edward King (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling14:37:00
99Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack Leopard14:38:00
100Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura14:39:00
101Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team14:40:00
102Nathaniel English (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda14:41:00
103Marc De Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team14:42:00
104Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team14:44:00
105Chad Haga (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies14:46:00
106Francisco Mancebo Perez (Spa) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda14:48:00
107Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team14:50:00
108Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge14:52:00
109Philip Deignan (Irl) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team14:54:00
110Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack Leopard14:56:00
111Janier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Jamis-Hagens Berman14:58:00
112Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff15:00:00
113Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team15:02:00

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