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Live coverage

Tour of California 2010: Stage 6

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California.  Today, racers are covering 135.3 miles (217.7km) from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake.

The stage begins at 9:30 am local (Pacific) time, and we'll be starting our live coverage just prior to the race's start.

Three minutes to go until the start.  At the start here in Palmdale, it's sunny and crystal clear.  It's in the 60s, and there is not a cloud in the sky.

Racers will begin with a 5.4 mile (8.6km) neutral section on their way out of Palmdale.  The official start is scheduled to happen on the Angeles Forest Highway.  Then there are just 10 miles to the first KOM of the day, a Cat. 3 climb topping out at 4,906 feet.

One minute until the beginning of neutral. We're near Edwards Air Force base, and today we had an astronaut on a bike though we don't know if he was an actual astronaut.

Today could be a very interesting stage.  It is not only the longest stage of the race, at 135.3 miles, but it also features seven KOMs and two sprints en route to the finish in Big Bear Lake.  The stage is net uphill, starting at a little over 3,000 feet and finishing at near 7,000 feet.  And don't forget, racers already have five days of competition in their legs.

Today, Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo is in the car with Peter Stetina's father Dale Stetina, the brother of Wayne Stetina one of USA Cycling's Vice Presidents.  Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions) is 11th overall in the GC (at 31 seconds).  He's second in the best young rider classification to Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo), by just 16 seconds.  Our trusty driver, Steve Hegg, is still at the wheel today.

Wayne Stetina works for Shimano.  Back in the day, he and Dale modified their gruppo to add a gear - from six to seven speeds (we think), by shaving down the spacers in between the gears.  Looking back, those days of friction shifting seem awfully long ago.

Given all the climbing in today's stage, racers will likely appreciate the extra gears technology has given them.  It means more total gear options, so they can find the perfect gear on any grade and pace.

Riders are still in the neutral section of the stage - they are getting some quality time to spin out the legs before the action begins.  Our driver and former Olympian Steve Hegg made a live appearance yesterday on local TV for the last hour of yesterday's stage.  He tells us it went well and he'd be happy to get a job with Schlanger and Gugolski on Universal TV. (hint, hint!)

We talked with a bunch of riders and directeurs before today's stage and they were split on their opinions about how much the stage will split up and when.  Some think the favorites will try to conserve energy and save up for the individual time trial in Los Angeles, while others are thinking that today is a day they can open some serious time gaps which could decide the overall race, despite tomorrow's TT.

One mile to go in neutral. A sponsor of one of the teams in the race, Fly V is also sponsoring today's stage while yesterday's stage was brought to you by Rabobank. Bakersfield has a Rabobank event center.  There are also lots of branches throughout California while Fly V has a hub in the Los Angeles Airport (LAX).  The Fly V hub just opened there last year.

Our driver Steve Hegg wishes his friends down south good luck for tomorrow's "Fred Diego" ride from Long Beach to San Diego.  As we approach the end of neutral, one rider may have a mechanical.

Ok, the RACE IS ON.  The speed instantly goes up to 28mph.  No time to waste today - we have some climbing to do!  Racing along at 30 mph, a group already has a slight gap.

On this first climb, HTC-Columbia, Jelly Belly and Saxo Bank are represented in the front group.  Oh, here comes BMC, too.

It's a very aggressive start, perhaps because the first KOM is atop the Mill Creek Summit at mile 10.  After that, we have four more KOMs - all before 60 miles, as the riders just keep ascending higher and higher into the mountains.  There is however, a blistering descent from Mill Creek Summit, then the route turns to Upper Big Tujunga and then onto Angeles Crest Highway.

Rabobank takes a turn attacking within this lead group, which contains about 15-20 riders.

210km remaining from 213km

The lead group splinters to eight total, with six chasing them.

Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions), Christopher Baldwin (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Chad Beyer (BMC Racing Team), Matthew Crane (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), and Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) are among the racers in the breakaway.
 

Uh oh, there is a crash in the field.  It's a United Healthcare rider.

Matthew Crane (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) needs a wheel according to race radio.  We wonder if that's related to the crash.

RadioShack is asking for service for its rider, Yaroslav Popovych.  Seems like RadioShack is still having some rough luck in this Tour.  Yesterday, they lost Lance Armstrong after a crash early in the stage while Jose Luis Rubiera is still racing but covered in road rash and having a tough time of things according to team directeur Viatcheslav Ekimov.

The race enters the Angeles National Forest.  The split in the field has closed and the race is all together.  However, the peloton is all strung out in single-file.

Eight new riders launch an attack.  Meanwhile, sprinter and Classics ace Tom Boonen (Quick Step), says "no thanks" to doing the rest of this mountainous stage.  He abandons.  Boonen got off to a rough start in the Tour of California with a major crash near the end of stage 1.  He got tons of road rash.

Another attack goes.  It's Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack), Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1).

202km remaining from 213km

Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) and Christopher Baldwin (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) attempt a chase, but they don't have enough firepower and are re-absorbed into the peloton.  Our seven leaders have 20 seconds on the chasing peloton.

Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team) tries his hand at a solo chase. Behind him, in the peloton, Kelly Benefit Strategies and HTC-Columbia are chasing seriously. KBS doesn't want to let Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) get away as he's second on the KOM classification, and HTC-Columbia wants to control the race for its leader Michael Rogers, also #1 on the GC.

Clement is successful in his bridge.  That gives us eight leaders: Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack), Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team) at 30 seconds.

It is interesting that Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) is in this break.  Before the start, he was giving us a bit of a sad song about how most of the team's riders were off after the Classics.  He also said he's not climbing all that well and has been suffering like a dog.  Hmmm....

199km remaining from 213km

One mile to go until the KOM.  Darren Lill (Fly V Australia), Benjamin Day (Fly V Australia), and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) are leading the chasing activity in the peloton.

The Angeles National Forest is looking stark.  This is largely because there was a HUGE fire there last year, known as the Station Fire.  According to Wikipedia, it burned 160,577 acres and killed two firefighters last summer.  The area is still reeling from the effects as many roads and trails are still closed due to the damage.  In fact, the Amgen Tour of California website has several advisories regarding today's stage - useful info for spectators if you are out there trying to figure out where to watch and where to park en route.

Correction on one of our break rider IDs: Race radio has updated us.  It's Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and not Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) up there.

197km remaining from 213km

First KOM (Mill Creek) results are
1 Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions)
2 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
3 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)

We mentioned Darren Lill (Fly V Australia), Benjamin Day (Fly V Australia) and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) earlier as leading the chase from the peloton. The three managed to get away; however, of the three, only Anderson remains as a chaser.  The other two, the Fly V riders, were re-absorbed.  As the leader of the mountains classification beginning the day, Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) is motivated to catch the break.  He sees the writing on the wall: if he lets Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) get away with so many KOMs today, he can say goodbye to the jersey.  They started the day just three points apart.

We mentioned Darren Lill (Fly V Australia), Benjamin Day (Fly V Australia) and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) earlier as leading the chase from the peloton. The three managed to get away; however, of the three, only Anderson remains as a chaser. The other two, the Fly V riders, were re-absorbed. As the leader of the mountains classification beginning the day, Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) is motivated to catch the break. He sees the writing on the wall: if he lets Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) get away with so many KOMs today, he can say goodbye to the jersey. They started the day just three points apart.

We have word that Martin Gilbert (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy) is going to abandon the race; however, he's not pulling out now. He is going to ride to the feed zone and then pull the plug.  Perhaps, he's looking for the extra training?

Next up in the roster of KOMs for today is the second one, on California Route 2.  It tops out at 5,046 feet and is a Cat. 3 climb.  The riders will cross the line for it at mile 26.8.

Communication is a little tricky here in the mountains, and we have another correction for you. Of those three chasers, it was Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) who was dropped by Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) and Benjamin Day (Fly V Australia) - not the other way around.  Anderson was re-absorbed into the peloton while the two Fly V riders are still together chasing.  The break has 1:50 over the peloton and the chasers are 30 seconds in front of the peloton.
 

184km remaining from 213km

Earlier in our journey, the Angeles National Forest was just burned trees and dirt, but now we are seeing patches of wildflowers in pink, yellow and purple.  They are in conspicuous bunches - with patches of dirt in between.  Looking ahead, there are more signs of hope as we see some green shoots emerging from the scarred earth.  Apparently, what happened to many of the trails and roads is that they are just gone.  After the vegetation burned, the land was more vulnerable to erosion damage all winter - this has taken a toll.  So even as the flora and fauna return, there will be a lot of work ahead to re-build man-made constructs like the roads and the trails.

Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Doimo)  and William Dickeson (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) abandon the race.  You may recognize Dickeson's name.  He was in yesterday's breakaway and also another one on another stage earlier in the race.

Many of the teams are looking to RadioShack to control today's stage.  The team is still viewed as the favorite, with its leader Levi Leipheimer.  However, is the team really the strongest?  Looking at the GC, RadioShack has three riders in the top 20 while Garmin-Transitions has four riders.  That gives Garmin a little more room to maneuver strategically.  Of course, we can't count out the other big powerhouse team, HTC-Columbia, which holds the race lead with Michael Rogers going into today's stage.  They have two riders in the top 20.

177km remaining from 213km

In the break, the eight riders are all taking turns working; however, Andy Schleck seems to be doing the most work.  In general, Saxo Bank is doing the most work, but then they are the only team in the break with two riders.  Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) looks like he is suffering the most.

Before the start of the stage, RadioShack DS Viatcheslav Ekimov told us, "The length of the stage makes it hard to predict. We only have 6.5 guys left inthe race (he was counting Rubiera as a partial due to his crash yesterday - ed.)."  RadioShack has one man in this break, Jason McCartney.  He is in 67th in the GC at 37:38 down from the leader prior to today's stage, so not someone the team is setting up as an alternative leader instead of Leipheimer.  We expect that RadioShack will ride conservatively today as a team - saving as much energy as possible for Leipheimer in the hope that he can take over the GC lead tomorrow during the time trial.

Ekimov also predicted that this stage will be very hard on the riders with its relative heat and the altitude.  The air is also very dry, which will make staying hydrated all the more important and difficult.

171km remaining from 213km

One kilometer to go until the KOM.  Our leaders are chugging away on this climb.  Meanwhile back in the peloton, the two Fly V chasers were re-absorbed.  That leaves us with our 8 men off the front, and they've increased their gap to 3:20.

200m to go until the KOM. Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) is trying very hard, but obviously suffering.  We'll see how long he can hang with these guys, especially with their Tour de France experience and legs.  On the steeper, harder parts, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), an amazing climber, has been driving the break.  He is getting help from his teammate Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank).

170km remaining from 213km

Second KOM (CA Rt 2) results are
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack)
3 Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team)
4 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
5 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)

We're over 5,000 feet of altitude.  Off to our right,w e can see the fog bank near Los Angeles.  There's also a good view of the snow atop the mountain range that looms over Los Angeles.

Of our eight leaders, George Hincapie (BMC) is the highest place on the GC, in 21st.  His gap at the start of the day was 3:12 and now with the break's advantage at 3:45, he is the virtual leader on the road.  Hincapie is the current US Road National Champion and therefore wears the stars and stripes jersey.

However, Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank) isn't much further behind virtual yellow leader Hincapie.  Fuglsang started the day in 24th on the GC, at 3:18.  The rest of the break riders started the day from 13:22 to 37:38 behind yellow jersey Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia).  The Danish Fuglsang used to be a mountain biker.  Before transitioning to the road, he was the Under 23 cross country World Champion (in 2007).  Last year he won the overall of the Danmark Rundt and the Tour of Slovenia - as well as taking a stage win in each.

Following the second KOM just crossed by the leaders, comes, well, another KOM.  Surprise, surprise.  Number three of the day summits at 6,924 feet (2110m) and is called the Cloudburst Summit.  It comes at mile 39.8 (km 64.1).

Earlier today in Italy, hometown hero Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF) won a Giro d'Italia stage (13) devoted Marco Pantani - another famous local.  Check out all the action, including a report, photos and full results here.

160km remaining from 213km

We're up among more of a coniferous tree type of forest, and the eight leaders have extended their advantage to 4:00.  Last time we caught a glimpse of the field, they were climbing, strung out single-file, with the team of yellow jersey Michael Rogers - HTC-Columbia - at the front of the line with its several riders.

We talked to Jonathan Vaughters, DS of Garmin-Transitions earlier today and asked him about his strategy for today. He coyly replied, "We can't say what our tactics will be because you'll put it in your live coverage and then everyone will see it!"  He admitted to having a rough plan, but would only say that he believed the stage would be unpredictable and that his team would have to go with the flow.  Their David Zabriskie sits in second place overall though he is tied on time with leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia).  The yellow jersey was decided by who finished first of the two at the end of yesterday's stage.

154km remaining from 213km

The gap keeps increasing to the leaders, who see 5km to go to the third KOM of the day.

Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step) has dropped back from the rest of the leaders. He's about where the team cars are, but it's too early to tell if he's done for.  He may just be getting some support from his team.

150km remaining from 213km

Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step) has come to a complete stop. Apparently, he's decided he's done with this break and is headed back to the peloton.  That leaves us with seven break riders: Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack), Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank) Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team).  They see 1km to go to the KOM.

The rest of the break's riders don't look like they are suffering too much, despite all this climbing.  However, that's not true for some of the other riders.  We've had more abandons including sprinter and former trackie Theo Bos (Cervelo Test Team), Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1).  Boily's legs may be fried after some quality time off the front in other stages.

173km remaining from 213km

KOM #3 (Cloudburst) results are
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team)
3 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
4 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)

At the top, Jakob Fuglsang was leading, but he pulled aside just before the line to let Thomas Rabou take the KOM top points - which should help him take over the mountains jersey after today's stage if he keeps riding like this.  The gap to the leaders is over five minutes for the first time today.

We talked to BMC DS Mike Sayers this morning. He predicted, "All the GC guys will have a hard time today. HTC-Columbia will be trying to defend the lead, and keeping the guys who are GC favorites up there may require some combination of efforts from various teams. I think the race will really split up, as the altitude will make it difficult. We are working for George Hincapie - we want to get him a stage win." So far, the team is doing just that, having placed Hincapie in what looks to be a very strong break for the day.

Cervelo Test Team directeur Jean-Paul van Poppel backed up Sayers' thoughts.   Van Poppel was a little more specific and thought the race would break up on the first climb - which it did.  He noted that his team doesn't have any riders up there in the overall GC.  He was happy to point out, however, that Philip Deignan who was sick early on, is feeling better now and rode well yesterday.  He also thought his rider Oscar Pujol Munoz was climbing well yesterday.  Brett Lancaster has been doing well for the team in this year's Amgen Tour of California, but the rider is not thought of as a climber, so we don't expect to hear from him today.

144km remaining from 213km

The riders just passed through a feedzone at mile 42.8.  They'll have another one later in the race, when they are more than twice as far along, at mile 87.  It's important to stay hydrated and well fed on a very demanding stage like today.  Since the race moved to its new May date, it can now travel higher up into the mountains and bring riders bigger climbs - more like what they find in the Grand Tours.

141km remaining from 213km

We just passed through two tunnels at mile 45. We're riding along a ridge and it's not very steep going up at the moment. We can see highway 39 - which goes back down to Los Angeles off in the distance, but we'll continue on our way west toward Big Bear Lake.

What's next in the race is another KOM, the fourth of today.  It comes at mile 52.2 at Dawson Saddle, which is at 7,900 feet elevation.  The air at the top of this Cat. 3 climb will be starting to seem a little thin.  Riders who live at altitude may have an advantage as they will be more acclimated to the thinner air.

It looked for a moment like Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team) was on the attack, but then we realized he was just trying to get ahead a bit in order to give himself some extra time for a nature break.

134km remaining from 213km

The break riders see 5km to go until the feed zone.  Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) and Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack) are sitting on, doing little or no work.  The real workhorses of the group are both men from Saxo Bank, George Hincapie (BMC) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1), but then they have the most to gain from this.
 

Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack have no reason to push within the break as both teams are working for their respective leaders, David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer, back in the peloton whereas Saxo Bank riders would enjoy a stage win as would Hincapie, and Rabou will want to secure the mountain leader's jersey for the duration of the race with a strong ride today.

As the leaders approach the KOM at Dawson Saddle, they have a gap of 5:40 on the peloton.  At some point, the peloton will have to get serious about chasing the leaders if they want to successfully defend the favorites' chances - those of Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie.  Going into the day, Hincapie was down 3:12, so he's comfortably in virtual yellow as race leader on the road right now given that the gap is 5:40.  The favorites wouldn't want to let Hincapie get too much of a gap because he is a good time trialer, and the favorites would only be able to make up so much time on him in tomorrow's TT stage if it came down to that.

129km remaining from 213km

KOM 4 (Dawson Saddle) results are
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack)
3 Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team)
4 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)

On the way up to the KOM we saw the Team Fatty of Fat Cyclist.  We're not sure if he was actually out here.  We also saw plenty of riders from Cal Tech and SC Velo, who'd climbed their way up to 7,900 feet.  One of them was carrying a sign saying "Hi to the Pres". Which president?  Well, we're not sure.  Maybe the president of their club or of the US, for all we know.  As we roll along, we can see the Central Valley down to our left - to the north.
 

In breaking news, Team RadioShack just released further emails from Floyd Landis, who launched accusations at some of its riders and staff (as well as those of several other teams) in recent days.  Read this article to get the latest developments.

On the way up to this last KOM, we saw some "Go Levi" signs as fans expressed their support for Leipheimer.  We didn't see any signs cheering on Lance Armstrong, so fans must have gotten the news that he had to abandon after a crash yesterday in stage 5.

Speaking of Floyd Landis, we also saw some signs with messages for him on the way up to that last KOM.  Unfortunately, we can't repeat what they said given the language used, so we'll just have to summarize and say that they were not friendly.

117km remaining from 213km

There is a group of a about 15 riders that got split off the back of the peloton on that last KOM, and they are trying to catch back up, but they haven't yet - despite a descent and the start of this next KOM climb.  Up front in the break, the leaders see 1km to go to the Blue Ridge KOM, which comes at mile 60.3 and tops out at 7,302 feet (2226m).

We've updated the latest news item on the release of emails from Floyd Landis by Team RadioShack to include the emails themselves.  Read them here.

A few more riders have abandoned, including Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo), Guillaume Boivin (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy) and Francois Parisien (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy).  Chicchi leaves the race after having one stage 4.  His teammate Peter Sagan carried on his winning ways by taking victory in yesterday's stage 5.

After this Blue Ridge KOM, racers will enjoy a period of respite - downhill generally for awhile, about 20 miles.  They drop all the way back down to about 3,000 feet before the final third of the race, which will again be mostly uphill.

116km remaining from 213km

KOM #4 (Blue Ridge) results
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team)
3 Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions)
4 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)

The racers are flying downhill to the first sprint of the day, at Wrightwood.  The racers pass an elementary school with all of its kids out front screaming at the tops of their lungs.  We wonder if Hincapie will try to go for this sprint - to get a time bonus - which may help him ultimately in the GC competition.

There are just two sprints today. The one here in Wrightwood and one later in Crestline at mile 98.0.

106km remaining from 213km

Sprint #1 - Wrightwood results are
1 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
2 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
3 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)

104km remaining from 213km

The racers are at the halfway point of today's stage.  Once they finish this monster descent, between 75 and 80 miles in, they'll start climbing again.  There will be some ups and downs for awhile, but the rest of the stage will be mostly uphill until the end in Big Bear Lake.

The break safely negotiated a steel grate after the sprint.  Fortunately, it's dry out today, so that wasn't treacherous.

The long series of climbing and KOMs took its toll on many.  The break has worked its gap up to 6:15, the highest yet so far in the race.  Within the peloton, many couldn't hang and a large grupetto has formed off the back of the peloton at 8:45 behind the leaders.

This downhill is fast!  At places, the gradient is 10 percent.

Last time we checked, the race was 15 minutes behind the slowest predicted schedule.  Maybe the riders can make up some time before they get back to climbing?

If you want to check out some photos from the start line of today's stage six, click here.

94km remaining from 213km

There are two more KOMs and a sprint still to go before the end of the day.  We're streaming downhill toward Cajon Pass, which separates the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains.

89km remaining from 213km

The race is still one minute slower than the slowest predicted timetable, but some time has been made up on this downhill.  As we cross I-15, there are strong winds. We were warned about them this morning before the race, but this is the first point during the race when we've noticed significant wind.  The breakaway is still working together pretty well - riding a steady tempo as the roads begin to flatten out again for a bit.

This Queen Stage is taking its toll on the peloton.  There are more abandons by Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team), Juan Jose Haedo (Team Saxo Bank) and Karl Menzies (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis). 

We zoom under a high transmission power line and can hear it buzzing overhead - doesn't sound that different from freewheels.  We're in canyons, but can see to the top - toward Big Bear, which is ahead with snow.  It's above the clouds, but here, it is still sunny.

The route will ascend through Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, taking them onto the "Rim of the World" highway. Entering the Big Bear area, the riders will take the northern route around Big Bear Lake and then tackle the last rise to the finish at a more than 7,000-foot elevation at the Snow Summit ski area for the race's first-ever alpine finish.  All total, today brings over 12,000 feet of climbing.

Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team) is dropped from the break.

And then there were six left from the original break: Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack), Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank) Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1).  Clement is 15 seconds back, but really, there are riders everywhere today.  The peloton is at 6:00, and the grupetto is at 9:15.  Even further behind are some stragglers, still hanging on, at 12:00.  With the rest of the stage mostly uphill, the gaps are only going to increase for those at the rear.

78km remaining from 213km

Clement is losing more time as he heads toward the second feed zone, which will come at mile 87.

Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini talked with race leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) this morning. "I think we showed yesterday that we are one of the strongest teams or the strongest team," he said.  Rogers took over the GC from Garmin-Transitions Dave Zabriskie, though the two riders are tied on time.

"I’ve got some strong guys with Tony Martin, Tejay, Bak, Grabsch and Bernard.  They can pull all day today, so we are quietly confident. The hills aren’t so steep, and kind of suit my team a bit better."

We just passed a sushi restaurant.  Hmm, here in the desert, that's interesting. Wonder where they are getting their fish?

73km remaining from 213km

We're entering San Bernadino National Forest.  Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) is leading the break through the feedzone.

Back in the peloton, Levi Leipheimer only has two RadioShack guys with him according to a report from Casey Gibson.  HTC-Columbia has several guys and so does Garmin-Transitions, making the numbers game, at least, not in RadioShack's favor.

69km remaining from 213km

7km to go until the sixth KOM on CA Route 138.  The break takes a turn and suddenly there is a strong cross wind.  Should RadioShack want to pull one of their split the break moves, this could be a good place when the peloton gets to this point.

HTC-Columbia is driving the peloton, which is single file.  Oops, there is a crash in the feedzone, involving two BMC and one Fly V riders.

Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies), who was leading the mountains classification at the start of today, is dropped from the gruppetto.  However, on the road, Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) has already taken over the mountains classification lead.

Correction:  Casey Gibson reports that there are actually five RadioShack riders in the peloton, so presumably, Levi Leipheimer is in there, surrounded by his teammates.  That sounds a little more like what we were expecting.  The leaders are at mile 90.2 while the peloton is at 88.3 miles.

5km to go to the KOM at CA Route 138 for the leaders.  In the peloton, there are HTC-Columbia riders, RadioShack riders, United Health Care riders and some Liquigas-Doimo riders.  The latter are working for the young Peter Sagan, who is leading the young rider classification.  He's doing well overall, too, in fourth place at the start of today at 15 seconds.

It's super gusty.  Riders will have to be paying attention and keep a grip on their bars. Stef Clement (Rabobank Cycling Team) is about to get caught by the peloton.  He's just in front of them, even after the peloton stopped to let the yellow jersey wearer take a nature break.

The break is through the KOM, we'll get you results as soon as we can.  The peloton sees 5km to go until that same KOM.  The few riders who crashed in the feed zone are working their way back up to the peloton.

HTC-Columbia just lost one guy.  After pulling hard, he swings off and may be done with his time in the peloton.  Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) is watching yellow jersey Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) like a hawk.  Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) moves up a bit.  This climb is hard.

Sprint #2 comes soon after this KOM.  It's in Crestline at mile 98.0.

Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) is in the peloton.  He crashed here last year and broke his hand, according to Steve Hegg.  Earlier today, he told us, "I've felt great all week, and I'll do my best to stay with the GC guys.  If I can do that, I'll make use of my TT skills tomorrow. Today, I'll conserve as much as I can to keep a high place overall in the GC."  He started teh day overall in 14th at 31 second down on the leader.

62km remaining from 213km

It was stupidly steep at the top of that KOM.  RadioShack has come to the front of the peloton to set the pace for awhile.

KOM #6 (CA Rt 138) results are
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack)
3 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)
5 Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions)

60km remaining from 213km

The leaders see 5km to go until the sprint in Crestline.  This is the final sprint of the day.

55km remaining from 213km

The leaders cross the sprint line in Crestline.  Results are

1 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
2 Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack)
3 Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions)
4 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)

Hincapie attacks his fellow break mates right after the sprint.

Meanwhile, Lucas Euser (Spidertech) attacks the peloton.

Hincapie is still off the front of the break, but Euser is caught by the peloton.

The peloton has shrunk to 25 riders.  It's been a stage of attrition.

Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) takes a pull at the front of the peloton and rides off the front of it.  It's not clear that he intended to do so - he may have just been too strong.

Hincapie's gap is about five seconds and sees that he is getting caught by the break.  So much for that attempt.  We'll see if it has cost him too much or if he just hops back into the break.

Tony Martin is also back in the peloton although he's still at the front of it., setting the pace.  The peloton has closed the gap to 4:25.

52km remaining from 213km

The five leaders' gap has shrunk to 4:00.  Looks like the peloton is much more interested in bringing them back.

51km remaining from 213km

Here is what is left of the peloton: Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack), Janez Brajkovic (Team Radioshack), Christopher Horner (Team Radioshack), Michael Rogers (Team HTC-Columbia), Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia), Tejay Van Garderen (Team HTC-Columbia), Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank), Paul Martens (Rabobank Cycling Team), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank Cycling Team), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions), Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Transitions), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Transitions), Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions), Steve Morabito (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team), Rory Sutherland (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Lucas Euser (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy), Christopher Jones (Team Type 1), Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1)

47km remaining from 213km

1km to go until the final KOM of the day on California Route 18.  It's a Cat. 3 climb topping out at 5,628 feet.

50km remaining from 213km

Kirsten Frattini talked to RadioShack's Chris Horner before the start today.  He outlined the team RadioShack's status at the start of today.  "Levi needs 10 seconds. He is already in the hole now, so we’ve got to find a way to get him 10 seconds. Maybe that will happen today."  Leipheimer has been accompanied by his teammates for the entire day so far.

Hincapie gets a little Madison-style handsling from Garmin's Matt Wilson, who wants his place back at the rear of the break.

46km remaining from 213km

Final KOM results (#7 - CA 18) are
1 Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)
2 Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions)
3 Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
4 George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank)

48km remaining from 213km

Three minutes and dropping!  The remnants of the peloton have closed in more on the leaders.  48km to go

While Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) was previously the strong man of the break, his teammate Jakob Fuglsang has taken over duties at the front.  It seems as if the two Saxo Bank riders are switching roles.  Within the break, Saxo Bank is the only team that had two riders throughout.
 

45km remaining from 213km

Before the start today, defending race champion Levi Leipheimer said to Cyclingnews, "I’m looking forward to today and tomorrow, which are two of the most important days of the race. I think that today might not change the GC, but it is going to affect the time trial tomorrow for sure, because it is a long hard day."  With the race seeming to come back together at present, Leipheimer's assessment seems to be spot on.

44km remaining from 213km

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has just dropped off the pace of the break.

That leaves five men in the break.  A few of the leaders are looking over their shoulders, as if to double-check that it really is true that Schleck is no longer with them.  Who's left? George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack), Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank), Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1)

43km remaining from 213km

Kirsten Frattini tells us that on the way to the finish at Big Bear Lake, there is snow on the sides of the mountains, as we get closer to the top.  It's clear and sunny at the finish - very beautiful.

43km remaining from 213km

Two riders attack the remnants of the peloton.  Looks like Janez Brajkovic (Team Radioshack) initiated it, and another rider followed, but their move does not succeed.

The break's advantage is down to 2:30.  The bunch catches Andy Schleck.

41km remaining from 213km

Janez Brajkovic (Team Radioshack) attacks again and then is caught.

Now Chris Horner (RadioShack) takes a turn.  He's caught, too.  But we can tell everyone is on high alert - as the RadioShack riders take turns trying to wear the others down.

That flurry of attacks brought the leaders back to 1:40.

41km remaining from 213km

Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack) attacks the break!  He's been sitting on much of the day and takes a turn in the RadioShack assault.

George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) and Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) bridge up to McCartney, but the other break away riders have slipped back.

39km remaining from 213km

Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) is having a lengthy chat with team director Bjarne Riis at the team car.

35km remaining from 213km

Jakob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank) and Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) are re-absorbed by the peloton.  The remaining three break riders, George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Jason McCartney (Team Radioshack) and Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), get a bit of their advantage back - it's 1:30.

At the front of the peloton, it's HTC-Columbia with one rider, followed by three Garmin-Transitions riders.  Former break riders Jakob Fuglsang and Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) are having a chat at the back of the peloton.

32km remaining from 213km

Today's stage ends in Big Bear.  Those of you mountain bikers reading this may recognize the location as having hosted the US National Mountain Bike Series (which has had several names such as the NORBA series, the NMBS series and in its most recent incarnation, the US Pro XCT) and the national mountain bike championships in the past.  The high altitude venue has not featured in the series in recent years, however.

30km remaining from 213km

There is a strong tailwind along Big Bear Lake, which riders will be next to for the end of the stage.  There are no finishing circuits.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) gets an impressively fast bike change. The mechanic actually takes it off the car while he is hanging out the window and the car is still moving (note: don't try this at home). The car rolls to a stop next to Sagan, who hops from one to the other, dropping back only a few seconds.

28km remaining from 213km

Janez Brajkovic (Team Radioshack) attacks the peloton.  He takes three riders with him.

The attack is having a shattering effect on the remnants of the peloton as riders feel the pain.

The four off the front off the peloton are Janez Brajkovic (Team Radioshack), Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia), Tejay Van Garderen (Team HTC-Columbia) and Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Transitions).

Danielson covered the move and then the peloton catches them.

27km remaining from 213km

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) attacks!  Chris Horner (RadioShack) matches him and the two have a slight advantage over the peloton.  The leaders are still off the front, 1:30 ahead.

Best young rider runner-up Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions) is blown out the back of the peloton.

26km remaining from 213km

HTC-Columbia pulls back Horner and Hesjedal, so the peloton is back together.  The efforts of the duo have helped reduce the gap to the leader to just 40 seconds.

RadioShack attacks the peloton again.  Then Garmin goes.  It's caused a split in the peloton, but the few that are off the front start looking at each other to see who's going to do what.

25km remaining from 213km

The peloton comes back together, but then Radioshack attacks.

Now the peloton is wide across the road - all reunited.  We see the yellow jersey of Rogers in there safely.

24km remaining from 213km

Danielson attacks and RadioShack covers him.

24km remaining from 213km

Just 20 seconds separate the three leaders from the peloton.  The three leaders are standing on their pedals.

The leaders are caught, but Rory Sutherland (United Health Care) attack and gets a gap.

Correction:  It's Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), not Rory Sutherland off the front.  He's got 20 seconds.  He's in fifth place overall in the GC - that could sound some alarm bells among the favorites.

This is not the first time we've seen the Dutchman off the front.  He's been a familiar figure at the head end of this edition of the Amgen Tour of California.

22km remaining from 213km

Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal attacks from the peloton, which finally decides to react to Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) after he got a 50 second lead.

21km remaining from 213km

De Maar is off the front.  30 seconds behind him, a small group chases.  The peloton is at 50 seconds.

20km remaining from 213km

Marc De Maar's advantage drops to 30 seconds as the peloton with the yellow jersey regroups behind him.  20km to go.

A Garmin-Slipstream rider launches off the front of the peloton.  The action we're seeing today is incredible.  It's one attack after the other.  De Maar is still off the front on his own.

18km remaining from 213km

So we have Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis), then Matt Wilson (Garmin-Slipstream) at 25 seconds, then the peloton at about 10 seconds.

Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) is looking very good on his own at the front. His hands are in the drops. He's pedalling smoothly.  Behind him, Matt Wilson (Garmin-Slipstream) is on his own, too, in a tuck on a descent.

16km remaining from 213km

Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) is the new virtual yellow jersey on the road.

15km remaining from 213km

Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) is caught by Matt Wilson (Garmin-Slipstream). The two riders are working together, off the front at 25 seconds.

The peloton is racing along next to the lake - mostly single-file.  It's rolling from here until the finish.

12km remaining from 213km

Marc De Maar (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) made an impressive move. It was well timed, taking advantage of the favorites all watching each other. He's got 35 seconds. He was at 28 seconds down on the GC at the start of the stage, so if he can stay off with Wilson, it'll be close as to whether he could take over yellow.

If the two stay off, there are also some time bonuses they could collect at the finish - that could also affect the GC.

9km remaining from 213km

Leipheimer, Zabriskie and Rogers are all in the chasing peloton, which is rather small after all climbing in today's Queen stage.  There are about 20 or so riders left in the peloton - it's not the usual mass of riders to chase our leaders.

8km remaining from 213km

The two leaders have 30 seconds with 8.5km to go.

7km remaining from 213km

De Maar and Wilson are trading pulls.  But the gap has dropped to 20 seconds.  That means he is no longer the virtual yellow.

7km remaining from 213km

15 seconds.  HTC-Columbia is at the front of the peloton, driving the chase with three riders in a row.  Rogers is sitting in third.  BMC's George Hincapie is sitting at the rear of the peloton.

5km remaining from 213km

With the race so close, at this point, any of the favorites could end up in yellow at the end of the stage.

5km remaining from 213km

5km to go and the racers are right next to the lake.  It's fairly flat, a little rolling until the end.

Ten seconds and dropping as the leaders take a right turn.

They're crossing a causeway, racing toward the finish.

Spectators are on every corner they take.

2km remaining from 213km

Eight seconds with 2km to go.

The break is on the right side of the road, the peloton on the left.  They are so close.

Tony Martin closes the gap.  They are caught.  1km to go.

HTC is still driving it.  Who finishes in what order will decide the jersey tonight.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas) can sprint and he is well positioned in the train of the HTC-Columbia riders leading.  Zabriskie is marking Rogers.

It's an uphill sprint.

Oscar Pujol Munoz (Cervelo Test Team) goes for it.

The favorites mark each other and don't react.

Peter Sagan lauches

It's Peter Sagan (Liquigas) taking the win.  It's his second stage win here at the Amgen Tour of California.

Looks like Rory Sutherland gets second and Michael Rogers third.  We're working on confirming.

With his stage win, Sagan also helps secure his lead in the best young rider classification.

We've confirmed Rory Sutherland gets second and Michael Rogers third on the stage.  Leipheimer is fourth and Hesjedal is fifth.

For GC, updated standings are Rogers leads. Zabriskie is four seconds back and Sagan moves up into third overall, at 9 seconds. Leipheimer is fourth at 14 seconds and Sutherland is fifth at 29 seconds.

Top 10 for Stage 6 (Provisional Results)

Top 10 GC - Provisional

That wraps up our live coverage for today. We are set up for an exciting time trial stage 7 tomorrow (Saturday).  We hope you'll join us.  The race starts at 1:00 pm local (Pacific) time and we'll begin our live coverage just before the start.

Provisional Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo6:07:08
2Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis
3Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia
4Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack
5Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions
6Phil Zajicek (USA) Fly V Australia
7Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
8David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions
9Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank
10Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions

General classification after stage 6
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia29:04:03
2David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions0:00:04
3Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:09
4Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack0:00:14
5Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis0:00:29
6Marc De Maar (Ned) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis0:00:32
7Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions0:00:35
8Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack
9Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
10Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions

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