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."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale||5:16:03|
|2||Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Alexander Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell Cycling||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Alexander Gottfried (Ger) Team NetApp||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Luis Romero Amaran (Cub) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Alejandro Alberto Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Martin Mortensen (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Matthew Busche (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Laszlo Bodrogi (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Procycling||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Zachary Bell (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard Trek||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Valeriy Kobzarenko (Ukr) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Martin Pedersen (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Brian Vandborg (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Danny Pate (USA) HTC-Highroad||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Charles Wegelius (GBr) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Lucas Euser (USA) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||David Zabriskie (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling||0:00:10|
|47||Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Cycling||0:00:18|
|48||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard||0:00:40|
|49||Anibal Andres Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:00:42|
|51||Andrew Talansky (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo||0:00:47|
|52||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Rob Britton (Can) Bissell Cycling||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Christian Meier (Can) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Andrew Pinfold (Can) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Anders Lund (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Benjamin Day (Ita) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Nick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Sergio Hernandez (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Andreas Dietziker (Swi) Team NetApp||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Tom Zirbel (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Timon Seubert (Ger) Team NetApp||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Edward King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Svein Tuft (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Jacob Rytlewski (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Timothy Duggan (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Andy Guptill (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Michael Creed (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) Bissell Cycling||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Paul Mach (USA) Bissell Cycling||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Reid Mumford (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Jason Donald (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Andrew Bajadali (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Ken Hanson (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Bernard Van Ulden (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Dan Bowman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Will Routley (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Timothy Roe (Aus) BMC Racing Team||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:01:01|
|99||Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:02:21|
|100||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack||0:02:36|
|101||Ben King (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|102||Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShack||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|103||Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||0:03:18|
|104||Jeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:03:42|
|105||Jesse Anthony (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||0:03:59|
|106||Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||Robert Förster (Ger) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|108||Roman Kilun (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Cycling||0:04:10|
|111||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp||0:04:31|
|112||Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Team NetApp||0:07:13|
|113||Jan Barta (Cze) Team NetApp||0:07:31|
|114||Shawn Milne (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||Phillip Gaimon (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||0:09:57|
|116||William Dickeson (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|117||James Stemper (USA) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||Alex Hagman (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|119||James Driscoll (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|120||Stefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard Trek||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|121||Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|122||Michael Friedman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|123||Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|124||Jesús Del Nero Montes (Spa) Team NetApp||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|125||Kevin Lacombe (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|126||Jason McCartney (USA) Team RadioShack||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|127||Karl Menzies (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 126 - Cell 2|
|128||Bradley White (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||Row 127 - Cell 2|
|129||Martin Gilbert (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||0:11:08|
|130||Luca Damiani (Ita) Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder||Row 129 - Cell 2|
|131||Jose Fernando Antogna (Arg) Jamis - Sutter Home||Row 130 - Cell 2|
|132||Ryan Anderson (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10||Row 131 - Cell 2|
|133||Alastair Loutit (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||0:13:33|
|DNF||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 133 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Bert Grabsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad||Row 134 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 135 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 136 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Cycling||Row 137 - Cell 2|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||5||pts|
|2||Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||5||pts|
|2||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Jesse Anthony (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale||15||pts|
|2||Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad||12||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling||10||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|4||Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team||7||Row 3 - Cell 3|
|5||Michael Creed (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth||6||Row 4 - Cell 3|
|6||Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||5||Row 5 - Cell 3|
|7||Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||4||Row 6 - Cell 3|
|8||Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team||3||Row 7 - Cell 3|
|9||Frank Kevin Pipp (USA) Bissell Cycling||2||Row 8 - Cell 3|
|10||Alexander Gottfried (Ger) Team NetApp||1||Row 9 - Cell 3|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team||4||pts|
|2||Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo||2||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|4||Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling||1||Row 3 - Cell 3|