Sagan sizzles for stage win in Paso Robles

Liquigas-Cannondale's Peter Sagan has claimed his fifth win of the season, winning the Amgen Tour of California's fifth stage between Seaside and Paso Robles in a fast and furious dash to the line. The result didn't have a bearing on the top of the general classification, with Chris Horner again wearing the leader's jersey heading into tomorrow's stage six time trial.

Sagan, wearing the Tour's green jersey for leading the sprint competition, managed a slight edge on Australian young-gun Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) and Sky's Ben Swift. The challengers pushed down the Slovakian's left and right sides – the win was a narrow one but Sagan's wheel hit the finish line first.

"I'd like to thank my teammates, without their work, this win wouldn't have been possible," he said following his win "I'd like to thank Cannondale because the race is so important to them - I'm very happy for them."

Sagan commented that the he was relieved to see that two of his major challengers in the sprint, HTC'S Matt Goss who was suffering with cramp, and Garmin-Cervelo's Thor Hushovd who retired earlier due to fatigue, were not there when it came to the dash to the line.

Asked where today's win stood alongside his win at last year's sixth stage at Big Bear Lake where he sprinted away uphill from Rory Sutherland and Michael Rogers, Sagan still held fond memories of his win as a neo-pro.

"I rate my victory at Big Bear [last year] higher because it was so hard, but with this being so tough and long it's satisfying as well."

Meantime, with his current return to form after a run of crashed and injury in recent months Sagan is hopeful that we're yet to see him at his peak.

"I hope that I'm not actually in shape right now because my main objective is further ahead at the Tour of Switzerland, but I hope this form continues through the end of the season," he admitted.

The final kilometres of the Tour's longest stage were highlighted by a spirited attack from Bissell's Jeremy Vennell and constant counter-attacks from Liquigas-Cannondale and HTC-Highroad which was enough to split the bunch approaching the stage finish.

Team Sky hit the front as Vennell came back, with Mathew Hayman and stage 3 winner Greg Henderson leading out Ben Swift, but it was HTC-Highroad's Leigh Howard who opened up the sprint first, admittedly a bit too early and he was passed by the surging Slovak.

"It was a really good opportunity for me today," Howard told Cyclingnews. "I've been sprinting for Matt Goss all week, and he didn't quite have the legs today, and when opportunity like that comes up you have to take full advantage. I had the opportunity and I just missed. But at the same time it makes me more hungry - on Sunday I know how hard the course is, and I showed today I have the form. Hopefully we can pull off the win for the team."

Swift said he found himself in the wrong position heading into the sprint, behind the Liquigas lead-outs. "Unfortunately I had to get around Oss's lead-out man before I could contest for the sprint. It was a good race, and a fantastic lead-out by Hayman and Henderson, and it was unfortunate I couldn't pull it off."

Swift echoed comments that came from just about every rider on how hard the stage truly was. "It was harder than yesterday because it was just about the GC guys yesterday and the rest of us sprinters just tried to take it as easy as possible. Today you're trying to get to the finish, which makes it really hard."

Tour's longest stage fast and furious

The fifth stage of the Amgen Tour of California, originally planned to run along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, was re-routed not because of current bad weather like the first two stages of the race, but because late winter storms made the road impassable for the race. The weather over the race finally turned the corner on stage five, offering up classic sunny skies and pleasant temperatures instead of the snow, cold, drizzle and wind which plagued the early stages.

The Tour's longest stage, from Seaside to Paso Robles, 217.4km in length, offered up three classified climbs in the first 50km - a feature that played into making the start of the race extremely aggressive as domestic teams and those down on the overall standings hoped for a day to shine.

It was a stage for race leader Chris Horner of RadioShack to sit behind his team and stay safe, allowing the opportunists and sprinters a chance to fight for the stage glory.

Mountains jersey war lights up stage

The teams looking to battle for the mountains classification put riders into the move today. Spidertech C10, with current leader Pat McCarty and Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth with Jesse Anthony, engaged in a battle royale after bridging up to a break containing Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Chris Froome (Sky), Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) and Chris Baldwin (Bissell).

Also along for the ride were Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Martin Velits (HTC-Highroad), Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team), Stefan Denifl (Leopard Trek) and Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare), making an 11-man move that gained a maximum of just over three minutes.

It was a day where getting into the break took a great amount of effort, and the battle for the king of the mountains jersey only heated up the first hour of racing.

"It was very fast from the start," said mountains leader McCarty. "I was a way back and didn't get any points on the first climb. Then Tuft got me across to the break when it was at 45 seconds, which was perfect timing."

Anthony, who came into the stage three points behind knew he had to follow him across. "McCarty got launched from one of his teammates and I knew I had to go. I wasn't feeling great at the time, but I knew I had to go and I ended up making it."

The pair fought fought the three remaining mountain sprints, with McCarty taking the first and Anthony the second, bringing the battle to the final climb with 33km to go. McCarty attacked to gain the maximum points, leaving Anthony with the daunting task of chasing the jersey on the Mt. Baldy stage.

"Pat's a classy rider. It was fun going head to head with him. I was just glad to make the break today and give it a try. We've got to fight to the bitter end, but it's going to be hard."

Losing break companion ends Freire's hopes

After the top of the final climb Denifl attacked, drawing out Freire as the RadioShack-led peloton held the gap just over two minutes. Anthony wasn't able to make the junction and was left behind with the rest of the breakaway.

Meanwhile, the life span of the lead group was being limited by RadioShack and Liquigas, who pulled steadily to reel in the attackers. Freire was looking to gain a stage victory for Rabobank, who was sponsoring the stage and had hundreds of representatives from the company on site to cheer for the team.

He and Denifl held a slim 25 second advantage heading into the final 20km over the rest of the break, while the peloton hovered two minutes behind. A crash by Denifl left Freire to make the dash for home on his own at around 16km to go.

The remnants of the break were caught with around 10km remaining, with RadioShack and Liquigas-Cannondale sharing duties to drive the front of the bunch.

With 7.4km remaining, the peloton had worked to bring the gap down from the magic minute as HTC-Highroad took their turn on the front. The pressure from within on the long stage resulted in Brent Brookwalter, Jeff Louder and Andy Jacques-Maynes clashing wheels and hitting the deck with minor road rash being the trio's only concern.

"In the last kilometers we thought the group would break up more than it did," Sagan admitted. "In the end it was still a good size group, and there was some confusion with the number of sprinters still in the race. Fortunately I was a little less tired than the other sprinters in the group."

Sagan also praised the efforts of his team for doing the hard yards so he could be in contention, following the day's long breakaway.

"When Oscar was off on the break, it was really Liquigas, RadioShack and then HTC doing the lion's share of the work."

Freire's best efforts were in vain, with the high pace of the HTC-Highroad train, splitting the peloton swamping the Spaniard with around 2.5km to go.

"The biggest burden in the last part - with two riders it would have been easier to stay away. In the last climb I lost almost 40 seconds, if we were together there was a good chance to stay away.

"In the break there were a few riders higher up in the classement so the peloton was always controlling the gap. I knew there wasn't a good chance to arrive, but when you're in the break you have to try. I almost won, but the last 3km I saw the peloton and they were stronger."


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Stage 5 results
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale5:16:03
2Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-HighroadRow 1 - Cell 2
3Ben Swift (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 2 - Cell 2
4Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Alexander Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 4 - Cell 2
6Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank SungardRow 5 - Cell 2
7Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 7 - Cell 2
9Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell CyclingRow 8 - Cell 2
10Alexander Gottfried (Ger) Team NetAppRow 9 - Cell 2
11Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShackRow 10 - Cell 2
12Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 11 - Cell 2
13Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 12 - Cell 2
14Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 13 - Cell 2
15Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 14 - Cell 2
16Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Luis Romero Amaran (Cub) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 17 - Cell 2
19Alejandro Alberto Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 18 - Cell 2
20Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 19 - Cell 2
21Martin Mortensen (Den) Leopard TrekRow 20 - Cell 2
22Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 21 - Cell 2
23Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShackRow 22 - Cell 2
24Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 24 - Cell 2
26Matthew Busche (USA) Team RadioShackRow 25 - Cell 2
27Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank SungardRow 26 - Cell 2
28Laszlo Bodrogi (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 27 - Cell 2
29Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky ProcyclingRow 28 - Cell 2
30Zachary Bell (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 29 - Cell 2
31Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 30 - Cell 2
32Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetAppRow 31 - Cell 2
33Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard TrekRow 32 - Cell 2
34Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard TrekRow 33 - Cell 2
35Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-HighroadRow 34 - Cell 2
36Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing TeamRow 35 - Cell 2
37Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-HighroadRow 36 - Cell 2
38Valeriy Kobzarenko (Ukr) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 37 - Cell 2
39Martin Pedersen (Den) Leopard TrekRow 38 - Cell 2
40Brian Vandborg (Den) Saxo Bank SungardRow 39 - Cell 2
41Danny Pate (USA) HTC-HighroadRow 40 - Cell 2
42Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShackRow 41 - Cell 2
43Charles Wegelius (GBr) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 42 - Cell 2
44Lucas Euser (USA) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 43 - Cell 2
45David Zabriskie (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 44 - Cell 2
46Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling0:00:10
47Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Cycling0:00:18
48Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard0:00:40
49Anibal Andres Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 48 - Cell 2
50Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:42
51Andrew Talansky (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:00:47
52Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 51 - Cell 2
53Rob Britton (Can) Bissell CyclingRow 52 - Cell 2
54Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-HighroadRow 53 - Cell 2
55Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 54 - Cell 2
56Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-HighroadRow 55 - Cell 2
57Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank SungardRow 56 - Cell 2
58Christian Meier (Can) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 57 - Cell 2
59Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 58 - Cell 2
60Andrew Pinfold (Can) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 59 - Cell 2
61Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 60 - Cell 2
62Anders Lund (Den) Leopard TrekRow 61 - Cell 2
63Benjamin Day (Ita) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 62 - Cell 2
64Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 63 - Cell 2
65Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 64 - Cell 2
66Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 65 - Cell 2
67Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 66 - Cell 2
68Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 67 - Cell 2
69Nick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank SungardRow 68 - Cell 2
70Sergio Hernandez (USA) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 69 - Cell 2
71Andreas Dietziker (Swi) Team NetAppRow 70 - Cell 2
72Tom Zirbel (USA) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 71 - Cell 2
73Timon Seubert (Ger) Team NetAppRow 72 - Cell 2
74Edward King (USA) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 73 - Cell 2
75Svein Tuft (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 74 - Cell 2
76Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 75 - Cell 2
77Cameron Wurf (Aus) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 76 - Cell 2
78Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard TrekRow 77 - Cell 2
79Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard TrekRow 78 - Cell 2
80Jacob Rytlewski (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 79 - Cell 2
81Timothy Duggan (USA) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 80 - Cell 2
82Andy Guptill (USA) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 81 - Cell 2
83Michael Creed (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 82 - Cell 2
84Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) Bissell CyclingRow 83 - Cell 2
85Paul Mach (USA) Bissell CyclingRow 84 - Cell 2
86Reid Mumford (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 85 - Cell 2
87Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell CyclingRow 86 - Cell 2
88Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 87 - Cell 2
89Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 88 - Cell 2
90Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 89 - Cell 2
91Jason Donald (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 90 - Cell 2
92Andrew Bajadali (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 91 - Cell 2
93Ken Hanson (USA) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 92 - Cell 2
94Bernard Van Ulden (USA) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 93 - Cell 2
95Dan Bowman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 94 - Cell 2
96Will Routley (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 95 - Cell 2
97Timothy Roe (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 96 - Cell 2
98Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:01:01
99Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team0:02:21
100Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack0:02:36
101Ben King (USA) Team RadioShackRow 100 - Cell 2
102Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShackRow 101 - Cell 2
103Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis0:03:18
104Jeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team0:03:42
105Jesse Anthony (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth0:03:59
106Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-HighroadRow 105 - Cell 2
107Robert Förster (Ger) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 106 - Cell 2
108Roman Kilun (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 107 - Cell 2
109Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank SungardRow 108 - Cell 2
110Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Cycling0:04:10
111Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp0:04:31
112Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Team NetApp0:07:13
113Jan Barta (Cze) Team NetApp0:07:31
114Shawn Milne (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 113 - Cell 2
115Phillip Gaimon (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder0:09:57
116William Dickeson (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 115 - Cell 2
117James Stemper (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 116 - Cell 2
118Alex Hagman (USA) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 117 - Cell 2
119James Driscoll (USA) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 118 - Cell 2
120Stefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard TrekRow 119 - Cell 2
121Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly p/b KendaRow 120 - Cell 2
122Michael Friedman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealthRow 121 - Cell 2
123Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi AventisRow 122 - Cell 2
124Jesús Del Nero Montes (Spa) Team NetAppRow 123 - Cell 2
125Kevin Lacombe (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 124 - Cell 2
126Jason McCartney (USA) Team RadioShackRow 125 - Cell 2
127Karl Menzies (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 126 - Cell 2
128Bradley White (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro CyclingRow 127 - Cell 2
129Martin Gilbert (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C100:11:08
130Luca Damiani (Ita) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by GeargrinderRow 129 - Cell 2
131Jose Fernando Antogna (Arg) Jamis - Sutter HomeRow 130 - Cell 2
132Ryan Anderson (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10Row 131 - Cell 2
133Alastair Loutit (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda0:13:33
DNFThor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFBert Grabsch (Ger) HTC-HighroadRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFAlex Dowsett (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFGustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank SungardRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFBen Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell CyclingRow 137 - Cell 2
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Sprint 1 - Carmel Valley - km 23.6
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team5pts
2Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 2 - Greenfield - km 91.1
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling5pts
2Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Jesse Anthony (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 3 - Finish - Paso Robles - km 217.4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale15pts
2Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling10Row 2 - Cell 3
4Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team7Row 3 - Cell 3
5Michael Creed (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth6Row 4 - Cell 3
6Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard5Row 5 - Cell 3
7Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team4Row 6 - Cell 3
8Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team3Row 7 - Cell 3
9Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell Cycling2Row 8 - Cell 3
10Alexander Gottfried (Ger) Team NetApp1Row 9 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 - Laureles Grade - km 14.3
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team4pts
2Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountain 2 - Carmel Valley Rd. - km 41