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Tour of California 2012: Stage 6

 Good day race fans and welcome to CyclingNews.com's Live Coverage of the sixth stage of the Amgen Tour of California, a 187.3-kilometer race from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake.

I'm Charles Pelkey, and I'm back for the second of four guest appearances here for the Amgen Tour.

Today's route features four ranked climbs:
The Category 4 climb up Mt. Emma, which summits at 22.2km;
The Cat. 1 climb at Wrightwood, which summits at 69.6km;
The Cat. 3 on California 138, which summits at 122.4;
The Cat. 3 on California State Highway 1B, which summits at 139.1km.

The road continues upward after that last rated climb, but it's a relatively flat ride over the last 30km to the finish at Big Bear Lake.

With that flat run to the finish, there are likely to be quite a few riders in the mix at the end of the stage.

Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) expects that to be the case:

"Historically, this has been a bunch finish," he told CyclingNews. "It could be more selective, like a group of 20 or 30 instead of 60. It's nothing like (Mt.) Baldy will be, though."

 

The peloton is still in the neutral zone and we should be seeing the start here soon.

Will the wind be a factor today? Optum Pro Cycling director Jonas Carney said that last time the ATOC visited this route, "everyone was worried about the wind. It turned out to be a tailwind, which helped."

But even with the help of a tailwind, Carney predicts "it will be nuclear" on the slopes of the Category 1 climb today.

 

And they're off!

The attacks came quickly and we already have a group of six riders off the front.

 

 

It's Garmin taking up the chase in the peloton.

 

 

United Health Care's Marc de Maar said he expects there to be some serious action on the big climb today and on the long uphill approach to Big Bear.


"Two years ago, RadioShack drilled it with 60k to go. Today kinda depends on what they want to do."
 

 

RadioShack has Gregory Rast in the break.

He is joined by Mickaël Chérel (Fra), Ag2r; Yukihiro Doi (Jpn), Argos-Shimano; David Boily (Can), SpiderTech; Jeremy Vennell (NZl), Bissell and Andrew Bajadali (USA), Optum

 

At 10km, the gap is 45 seconds.

 

At 12km, the gap is now 1:10.

 

 

We have a rider from Colombia-Coldeportes attacking out of the peloton, hoping to bridge up to the group ahead.

 

No huge panic in the field. Our race leader has stopped to respond to a call from nature.

 

 

We're moving up to the day's first climb.

The pace has been relatively brisk, at around 44kph

 

168km remaining from 186km

 Our latest time check gives the men in the break an advantage of 1:45.

As our leaders head up to Mt. Emma, they've an advantage of 2:15 over the peloton.

 

It's clear and sunny today and not nearly as warm as it was yesterday.

It was quite windy at the start, but it appears to be a bit calmer on the slopes of the climb.

The forecast calls for temperatures around 70 at the finish in Big Bear. All in all, it should be a nice day for a bike race.

 

 

165km remaining from 186km

The new time check gives the men in the break an advantage of 3:05.

 

Our six leaders are coming up to the KOM mark on Mt. Emma. They are holding on to an advantage of 3:05.

 

 Our leaders are now coursing down the descent of Mt. Emma. From here it's a long 60k or so to the day's big hurdle.

It looks like we are going to have an interesting KOM battle today

Results of the KOM at Mt. Emma:
1. David Boily, Spidertech
2. Sebastian Salas, Optum Pro Cycling
3. Andrew Bajadali, Optum Pro Cycling
4. Gregory Rast. RadioShack-Nissan

 

160km remaining from 186km

The leaders have extended their advantage to 4:06

 

150km remaining from 186km

The leaders are making their way through the big, wide-open flats between Mt. Emma and the hills ahead.

It's pretty open here, with the landscape dotted by Josha Trees ... and even the occasional pocket of dedicated fans. 

The gap is now 4:10.

 

 Omega Pharma-Quick Step director Wilfried Peeters told CyclingNews today that he also expects RadioShack to pour on the gas today.

"At this point, they have nothing to lose," he said, referring to Chris Horner's time losses over the past days. Horner had a tough time trial yesterday, losing 2:50 to race leader Dave Zabriskie.
 

145km remaining from 186km

The gap is now up to 5:01. Considering the road ahead, that's not a lot and a catch is likely, for sure. For now, though, it's to everyone's advantage to let them dangle out there for another 100km or so.

 

143km remaining from 186km

The leaders are now 5:15 ahead of the peloton.

 

144km remaining from 186km

The temperatures are not nearly as high as yesterday (what do you expect in Bakersfield?). Right now it's a pleasant 77 degrees.

The gap is now up to 5:20

 

Peeters said he's not expecting that his team's Tom Boonen will be in the mix at the finish today, noting that the course doesn't exactly suit Boonen's skill set.

 

136km remaining from 186km

The gap continues to climb, albeit rather slowly. Our seven leaders are now 6:03 ahead of the main field.

 

Our leaders are passing through Valyermo, home to St. Andrew's Abbey, the Bendictine Monastery. 

The medical car has rolled up to the break to offer help to one of the riders up there.

 

The men in the break are continuing to build their advantage over the field. They're approaching 7:00 as they are working their way up the lower slopes of the day's big climb.

 

Jeremy Vennell is getting a wheel change from the Bissell team car. He's lost contact with the break and has to chase back on by himself.

 

Our own Laura Weislo says she passed by a big group of Team Helen's riders, who are doing the route ahead of the peloton, hoping to share in the experience, I guess.

 

130km remaining from 186km

Vennell is back up with the break.

 

129km remaining from 186km

The gap appears to have stabilized at around 7:15. Let's see how that looks at the top of this big climb, which will summit here in about 13k.

 

 

For those of you waiting for the video feed, that is slated to start at 2:00 p.m. local time, so we'll be able to see some of the action on the last climbs and the big race to the finish in Big Bear. 

Be sure to check that out on the RadioShack Tour Tracker at http://radioshacktourtracker.amgentourofcalifornia.com/

 

128km remaining from 186km

This is a long, long climb. The crowds are sparse out here, mostly because this area is well away from major population areas.

The guys in the break just passed a sign noting that the altitude is 5280 feet, so they're at eye level with Denver residents.

 

128km remaining from 186km

This is a long, long climb. The crowds are sparse out here, mostly because this area is well away from major population areas.

The guys in the break just passed a sign noting that the altitude is 5280 feet, so they're at eye level with Denver residents.

The top of this climb to Wrightwood will put riders at 6888 feet ... not even up to Laramie levels, as we Wyomingites would gladly point out.

 

123km remaining from 186km

 At last report, our leaders have an advantage of 7:35.

Our lead group is cooperating nicely as they labor their way up the climb.

Oh wait! This is CyclingNews! They're actually labouring up the climb.

 

Our seven escapees are about 5 kilometers ... errrr, kilometres from the summit of the climb.

 

121km remaining from 186km

The seven escapees have pushed their advantage beyond 8:00 now. 

The summit is in about 3.2km.

 

120km remaining from 186km

The chase is not frantic, as you can see from the gap. The peloton is riding at about 25kph on this climb and, thus far, no one has been dropped.

 

119km remaining from 186km

The leaders are now within 1.5km of the summit.

 

117km remaining from 186km

And they're over the top. KOM results soon.

 

With Salas and Boily in the break, we're especially interested to see how that shook out on the top.

 

115km remaining from 186km

Our leaders are on the descent and have and advantage of 7:36 on the main field.

 

KOM Results - Category 1

1. Sebastian Salas, Optum
2. Andrew Bajadali, Optum
3. David Boily, SpiderTech
4. Gregory Rast, RadioShack
5. Sylvain Georges, Ag2r
6. Yukihiro Doi, Argos-Shimano

Optum played it perfectly. Salas attacked, Boily couldn't hang with him and then Bajadali countered and edged out the SpiderTech rider for second.

 

Argos-Shimano's sprint ace, Marcel Kittel, has dropped out of the race.

So, too, have Juan Pablo Suares (Colombia-Coldeportes) and Laurens ten Dam Rabobank)

 

Interesting news from  Team Type 1 at the Tour of Norway today. Apparently, the team bus hit a moose while driving on a transfer after the stage today. All people on board bus are fine, bus took a big hit. The moose, apparently, took a much bigger hit, of course. Services for the moose are pending.

 

107km remaining from 186km

The leaders have an advantage of 8:01.

 

105km remaining from 186km

The speeds are quite high on the descent, with riders approaching the 100kph mark at times.

The gap has narrowed, with the peloton now at 6:33

 

95km remaining from 186km

Our leaders have reached the bottom of that long descent.

We have two more Category 3 climbs ahead. Interestingly, CyclingNews' Laura Weislo reports that the steepest stretch of road she's encountered while driving today's course comes not on any of the ranked climbs, but on the road leading to the intermediate sprint at Crestline. 

"It's short, but I bet it hits 15% at some points," she said.

 

92km remaining from 186km

The men in the lead group are making their way along highway 15. The gap is now down to 6:10. 

There were some attacks in the lead group, but those appear to have stopped as someone may have reminded the attackers that they still have 92km of riding ahead.

 

91km remaining from 186km

The leaders have about 40km of mostly flat and rolling terrain ahead of them before they summit the third KOM of the day.

 

91km remaining from 186km

The men in the break have passed through the feedzone. They seem to be cooperating again.

Hey, maybe the attackers were just hungry and trying to get lunch.

 

89km remaining from 186km

The gap has stabilized again. It's now 6:20

 

Race Radio has just reported the abandonment of rider 111, that's SpiderTech's Patrick McCarty. He's had a tough early season as he has been battling mononeucleosis this year and hasn't managed to get a lot of racing time.

 

80km remaining from 186km

The gap is back up to 6:45.

 

80km remaining from 186km

Given the distance and the terrain ahead, that buffer of 6:45 probably won't be enough. 

We'd imagine the wagering types out there are betting on a catch well before the finish.

 

Our seven leaders are passing by Silverwood Lake. The gap is 6:40.

There is a good crowd at the Silverwood Country Store.

 

76km remaining from 186km

The temperature is a pleasant 79, almost perfect weather for a bike ride.

 

74km remaining from 186km

The guys in the break are riding along at 38 to 40kph, as they ride through the San Bernadino National Forest.

 

Our seven leaders are now 8.3km from the top of the next KOM

 

70km remaining from 186km

The TV guys are on route, and we should get video in about 20 minutes.

 

AG2R named Sylvain Georges as one of their men for the break today before the start, so looks liike he's done his job.

 

67km remaining from 186km

2km to the top of the KOM.

 

The big news of the day is that Sebastian Hinault finally ended the AG2R win drought with his stage win today in Circuit de Lorraine.

 

66km remaining from 186km

The seven leaders are 7:09 ahead of the peloton.

 

It looks like Salas drove the group to the top of the climb. More points for the KOM leader?

 


Results of the day's third KOM:
1. Sebastian Sala, Optum
2. David Boily, SpiderTech
3. Andrew Bajadali, Optum
4. Yukihiro Doi, Argos-Shimano
5. Sylvain Georges, Ag2r

 

62km remaining from 186km

At last report, the peloton has increased its speed and the gap is now down to 4:19

 

There is a big split in the field, too, meaning that we may be seeing a few sprinters losing contact with the main group.

I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that Peter Sagan is not among those struggling.

 

As a reminder, our seven escapees are

Sylvain Georges (Fra), Ag2r
Yukihiro Doi (Jpn), Argos-Shimano
David Boily (Can), SpiderTech
Jeremy Vennell (NZl), Bissell
Andrew Bajadali (USA), Optum
Sebastian Salas (Can), Optum

 

61km remaining from 186km

Our seven leaders are on that tough approach to the intermediate sprint.

 

The leaders are not dashing to the line. They are 5:40 ahead of the peloton.

 

59km remaining from 186km

Darwin Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes) is attacking out of the peloton.

Race radio reports the gap to be 4:05 to Atapuma and 4:20 to the peloton.

 

Atapuma has been pulled in again.

 

57km remaining from 186km

The peloton has crested the climb to the sprint.

 

We're getting conflicting time splits, but the one we believe to be most reliable puts the break 4:04 ahead of the field.

 

 

55km remaining from 186km

The gap is 3:45.

RadioShack's Tiago Machado has had a mechanical, but he's working his way back to the field.

 

53km remaining from 186km

The gap is at 3:55 and Bajadali is fading off the back of the lead group.

 

52km remaining from 186km

The gap is 4:05

 

54km remaining from 186km

Andrew Talansky has had a pair of wheel changes, one of which he received from Heinrich Haussler. He's back in the field.

 

50km remaining from 186km

Vennell (Bissell) is fading back as Boily and Salas pick up the speed on the climb for KOM points.

 

136km remaining from 186km

Vennell has been in all but one of the breaks this week.

Oh man, Boily has popped... he's trailing now.

Salas is riding ahead with Sylvain Georges in the hunt for points.

 

Yukihiro Doi is the third rider on the road, resplendent in the Rising Sun jersey of Japanese national champion. He just recently earned that honor as the Japanese hold their nationals a little earlier than most in order to accommodate the European schedules of their top pros. 

 

48km remaining from 186km

The Liquigas team is driving it at the front of the peloton. Is Sagan in the hunt for another stage win? Darn right, he is.

 

49km remaining from 186km

Our leaders are now about 1km from the summit.

There's a gradual climb after that, but it's not going to break things up.

 

46km remaining from 186km

Our leaders are now about 0.5km from the summit.

There's a gradual climb after that, but it's not going to break things up.

 

Salas takes the KOM, with Georges on his wheel.

 

Salas is happy about that. He has really done a lot to help lock in that jersey ... probably all the way to L.A.

 

45km remaining from 186km

The peloton is now at 4:45, still being driven by the efforts of the Liquigas team.

 

Salas only started racing bikes three years ago. Before that he ran. He was a climber there, too. He specialized in mountain runs and those goofy tower runs where competitors run up all the steps in a major skyscraper. The scenery is better in cycling, to be sure.

 

Salas, meanwhile, has what he wants out of the day, so he sits up and Sylvain Georges (Ag2r) is facing the final 44km on his own.

 

42km remaining from 186km

The peloton crests the climb at 5:03.

 

According to CyclingNews.com's Laura Weislo, Salas has pretty much locked up the jersey.

"By my calculations, unless Boily got 1 point on that KOM (which he did not) he cannot beat Salas even if he wins both climbs tomorrow and Salas gets 0 points," Laura notes.

"So if my calculations are correct, Salas has 65 points, while Boily has 48. There are a max of 16 points in the two Cat 2 climbs tomorrow, she concludes.

 

 

41km remaining from 186km

Boily did not get any points on that last climb.

 

Gregory Rast (RadioShack), Sebastian Salas (Optum), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano) have joined forces and are pulling Georges back.

With 41k to go, five heads are better than one ... or rather 10 legs are better than two.

 

39km remaining from 186km

The lone leader is about 20 seconds ahead of his closest pursuers.

The peloton is 5:15.

 

38km remaining from 186km

Georges is holding his own out there. He's 5:15 ahead of the peloton and the chasing foursome .... at 15 seconds.

 

Correction. Georges is doing even better than I thought. The four chasers are actually two minutes back.

 

35km remaining from 186km

5:20.

Breaking News.

Sure, we're supposed to be reporting on cycling, but Laura is also on the hunt for the press room joke of the day.

A bear walks into a bar and says, "I'll have a vodka ...

... ... and tonic."

"Sure, " says the barkeep, :but why the big pause?"

"I don't know, I've always had them".
 

 

30km remaining from 186km

Georges is now 2:10 ahead of Rast and Vennell.

He is 3:10 ahead of Salas and Doi and 5:05 ahead of the peloton.

 

30km remaining from 186km

Okay, Georges is a solid five minutes ahead of the peloton, which is led by Garmin and Liquigas.

He must be making some folks nervous. If they aren't, they should be.

 

Appropriately relieved of joke duty, Laura Weislo issues a clarification on her KOM calculations:

"Correction to my calculations regarding the KOM tomorrow, I neglected to mention the points for the HC climb to Baldy.
That's another 12 points, but we doubt that Salas and Boily will be contesting this against the main GC contenders[3:57:56 PM] Laura Weislo: And none of the contenders are within striking distance of the KOM jersey. So a total of 28 points for the final stage and no KOM's in Los Angeles..None of the contenders are within striking distance of the KOM jersey. So a total of 28 points for tomorrow's stage and no KOM's in Los Angeles."

 

28km remaining from 186km

Sylvain Georges is riding like a man possessed (to steal an oft-used phrase).

He's 28km from the finish and still 4:50 ahead of the peloton.

 

Salas and Doi are about to be pulled in by the main field.

27km remaining from 186km

A nice move from GreenEdge's Peter Weening. He attacks out of the peloton. He's 2:07 down on G.C.

26km remaining from 186km

Weening's move did not elicit a response from the peloton. 

Meanwhile Georges is 4:25 ahead of the peloton.

 

Garmin is still doign the work with Liquigas in behind. Weening is coming back but there's a counterattack from Kelderman, Weening's old Rabobank teammate.

Now that's a strong attack, too.

 

Kelderman is a quality rider who came up this year from the Rabo Conti team. He won the Thüringen Rundfahrt and Tour of Norway last year.

 

24km remaining from 186km

Georges still has 4:15.

 

Vennell is now dropping back from Rast. 
 

 

The peloton is only one minute behind Rast, but Georges is still 4:10 up the road.

 

Well, we thought Weening was getting pulled back, but he gave it another kick. He's now caught and passed Rast.

 

21km remaining from 186km

The gap to Georges is 4:10.

Weening, Rast and Kelderman have joined forces and are trying to trim the three minutes they're behind the Ag2r man.

 

18km remaining from 186km

The gap to Georges is still at 4:00.

 

17km remaining from 186km

News from the back of the race is that the gruppetto is at 19:20.

Maybe Mr. Kittell quite too soon.

 

The peloton has 20k to go, but Georges has just 16.8k to go.

 

Well, win, lose or draw, Georges will be getting the most aggressive rider prize today.

 

14km remaining from 186km

The gap to George is now 3:40.

Come on folks, let's cross our fingers. He deserves this win.

 

13km remaining from 186km

The gap is 3:30 as Georges is riding along the shore of Big Bear Lake.

 

10km remaining from 186km

 He's still got 3:05.

9km remaining from 186km

He looks like he's actually going to pull this off.

He started the day 2:52 out of the lead, he's now 2:55 ahead of the peloton.

 

8km remaining from 186km

Georges is going to give his team its second win of the season ... the first of which came earlier today.

 

7km remaining from 186km

2:45.

 

6km remaining from 186km

He's losing time, but Georges still has 2:15.

 

5km remaining from 186km

Georges is only a minute on his nearest pursuers.

 

 

5km remaining from 186km

Georges is 2:10 ahead of the peloton.

 

4km remaining from 186km

2:00

 

3km remaining from 186km

He's 2:00 ahead of the peloton and the chasers are at 55 seconds.

 

3km remaining from 186km

Georges is now 1:45 ahead of the peloton, which is about to catch the trio of chasers.

 

2km remaining from 186km

The three chasers are caught. 
Georges is 1:30 ahead.

 

2km remaining from 186km

He's 1:25 ahead.

 

1km remaining from 186km

Wowie... Jens Voigt is driving it hard now. He's 1:20 behind Georges. Sagan is there, too.

 

1km remaining from 186km

One kilometer to go!

 

It's uphill, but he has a minute.

Can he make it?

 

Attacks are coming out of the field.

 

0km remaining from 186km

HES GOING TO MAKE IT!!!!

 

Sylvain Georges wins the stage!

 

Wowie. If ever there was a deserving winner, it has to be Sylvain Georges. He's been on the attack for 184 of 186.7km and he barely makes it.

 

Peter Sagan, surprise, surprise, wins the field sprint. His teammate Peter Velits takes third.

 

Dave Zabriskie keeps the leader's jersey, easily finishing with the main field.

 

1. Sylvain Georges (F) Ag2r
2. Peter Sagan (Svk), Liquigas, 0:28
3. Peter Velits (Cz), Liquigas, at 0:28

 

Okay folks. That was an impressive show.

I will be back tomorrow and follow this race to what promises to be a spectacular finish on the slopes of Mt. Baldy.

Until then, cheers. Have a great weekend.

 

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