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Tour of California 2014: Stage 4

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You're joining us for live coverage of the Tour of California's stage 4.  Today's stage covers 102.6 miles from Monterey to Cambria.

Hello and welcome to today's live coverage.  Racers start in Monterey, rolling out with a neutral start at 11:50 am local time.

The stage will kick off with a 2.1-mile neutral section through Monterey.  We're expecting 114 rides to take to the start.

Some of you may recognize Monterey as the town neared to where the Sea Otter Classic is run at the nearby Laguna Seca race way.  Each year, the annual festival features mountain bike and road racing and riding and recently, it also added some cyclo-cross.

The 2.1 miles of neutral start do not count toward today's overall distance of 102.6 miles.  The stage odometer gets reset to zero at the official start.

It's another scorcher today and still getting hotter by the minute although with the route hugging the coast, maybe it will feel a little bit cooler than it did atop Mt. Diablo yesterday.  The forecasters have issued a heat advisory for this afternoon.

Due to a non-race related car crash, the neutral start will be extended slightly.  It's been great to see so many people out today, but with so many roads closed for the race, there's been a lot of traffic jams locally.

Today's route, which starts in Monterey, rides south along the coast all the way to Cambria. We'll see one intermediate sprint and three KOMs.  First up will be the sprint at mile 30.1.

Relatively speaking, today's stage is much flatter than yesterday - even with those three KOMs.  They are nothing like Mt. Diablo.  At the start, you could tell that the racers were much more relaxed for having yesterday's queen stage behind them.  Today will probably be more of a cruise with the next decisive stage expected to be tomorrow.  But then, it is bike racing, and anything can happen.

Racers are officially started!

We wouldn't be surprised if we see another classic Tour of California road stage - where a break gets away for much of the stage before they are caught at the end for a final sprint.

In fact, the racers are already at it, with three riders trying to escape and having a very slight advantage.

As a reminder, the GC ahead of today's stage was
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 10:03:57
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:24
3 Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura 0:01:05
4 Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:21
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:10
6 Peter Stetina (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:24
7 Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing 0:02:25
8 Carter Jones (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 0:02:27
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:29
10 Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Garmin Sharp 0:02:30

Bradley Wiggins had gained the yellow jersey in the stage 2 time trial and he defended it yesterday, but lost some time to stage 3 winner Rohan Dennis (Garmin Sharp).  Wiggins has 24 seconds of advantage left to defend.

After yesterday's stage, Wiggins said, "It was difficult to know who was in the group riding on the front. That was probably the only mistake I made as Rohan Dennis took a little bit of time. I perhaps underestimated that he'd be there so we just need to keep a closer eye on him on the next ones."

Bradley Wiggins also said, "It doesn't get much hotter than in a race and my biggest concern was just exploding. I was drinking all day and the boys were just incredible. They rode all stage and minimised the break. Hopefully today was about as hard as it should get for the boys. I think the next two days should, fingers crossed, be a bit more straightforward. Friday is the next big challenge and then it's into the weekend."

Click here if you'd like to read more from his post-stage 3 interview.

With today's first and only intermediate sprint coming at mile 30.1, let's take a look at the sprint standings.  We've got the following:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 15 pts
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 12
3. Thomas Leezer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 10
4. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 10
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 7

157km remaining from 168km

Seven miles in, the peloton is together except for one rider on the attack.  It's a beautiful day along the coast - definitely a bit cooler here than it was in town at the start.

Matthew Hayman (Orica GreenEdge) gets a bike change - not a bad time for one with the peloton spread wide.  Hayman was a rider who crashed yesterday.  We wonder how he's feeling today.

Today's stage is all about being on Highway 1.  There'll be great coastal views all day, not that we expect the riders to do much looking around.  The first sprint is in the town of Big Sur, a popular coastal resort destination.

147km remaining from 168km

So far, it's been pretty quiet without any attacks that have stuck.  We've got six riders trying to get away at the moment - they have  just a few seconds on the peloton.

We asked some of the riders before the start about whether a sprint finish was likely for today.  Greg Van Avermaet (Team BMC) told us, "We will see how it goes. It depends a little bit on what the sprinters' teams are thinking. We will be ready to work in the sprint for Taylor [Phinney] because he's been feeling pretty good the whole week already. We will be up there to make a good result and try to do something in the final."  If you'd like to hear more from Van Avermaet, check out this article and video.

143km remaining from 168km

A group of six riders has escaped and gained 50 seconds.   We'll get you rider IDs shortly.

The leaders are approaching the world famous Bixby suspension bridge.   According to Wikipedia, prior to the opening of the bridge in 1932, residents of the Big Sur area were virtually cut off during winter due to the often impassable Old Coast Road that led 11 miles (18 km) inland.  The concrete bridge spans 320 feet and is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world.  Lots of photographers are in position and ready to capture images of the racers crossing it.

Our six men in the break are
Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team)
Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
Kevin De Masmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk)
Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman)
William Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
 

With the highest place GC rider being Greg Daniel, who is 48th and 14:02 down on race leader Bradley Wiggins, there are no GC threats off the front and this just might be the break of the day.

If some of those names sound familiar, you might be thinking of Jonathan Clarke or Will Routley, both of whom were in yesterday's break.

The presence of Will Routley is especially interesting because he's currently leading the mountains classification and there are three KOMs today.  It's a good move to defend his KOM jersey, if the break sticks.

And sticking is looking very likely as the break's riders have grown their lead to a size-able 3:50.

The racers have about 10 miles to go until the intermediate sprint.

Although today's course is relatively flat compared to yesterday, it's by no means flat.  It's quite "lumpy" as described by our Pat Malach, who's onsite following the racers today.  "It's not going to be an easy day for these guys as it's never really flat," said Malach.

The Tour of California isn't the only big race happening at the moment.  The Giro d'Italia is also underway.  Click here to find out what happened in today's stage 5.

133km remaining from 168km

The break is flying at 42mph on a descent.  They're working well together and have increased their lead to 4:05.

Prior to today's start, we spoke with Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare), who is in the break. He told us, "Everyone thinks it will be a sprint today with Cav and some other sprinters' teams like Giant-Shimano. We have Ken Hanson and John Murphy. Ken got second in Santa Barbara, so he knows this race well. We'd like to see a sprint, but we're still game for the breakaways."

Chris Jones also said, "The KOM jersey is still up for grabs, so there's that. There's also the most aggressive jersey and we have enough of a well balanced team to handle both responsiblities. But at the end of the day, if we can only have one, we'd like to see Ken or Murph on the podium." It'll be interesting to watch and see if Jones goes for those KOM points now that he's off the front.

116km remaining from 168km

The break is coming up on the sprint in Big Sur. We'll see if they bother to sprint.  None of them is currently contending in the points classification and the 3, 2 and 1-second time bonuses on the line won't mean much to riders as far down the GC as they are.

Results of the sprint are as follows:
1. Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
2. Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3. Kevin De Mesmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk)

Seems like taking the sprint might be part of Chris Jones' strategy to go for titles like the most aggressive rider.

What's up next is our first KOM of the day.  It comes soon, at mile 34.3.  Also considered to be in Big Sur, it's a Cat. 4 climb.

If you've been wondering how the teams are stacking up so far in this year's race, we've got standings for you below:
1. Garmin-Sharp 30:17:19
2. Orica GreenEdge 0:00:45
3. Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:29
4. Trek Factory Racing 0:05:18
5. Team NetApp-Endura 0:09:29

The leaders are on the KOM as because they are climbing, but the peloton isn't yet, the gap is closing somewhat.  It's at 3:45 presently.

Part of the reason it's so beautiful along this coastal Highway 1 is that things like billboards are banned along it. 

Break rider Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman) is a proven climber.  The second year pro won the KOM in Colorado last year.  He'll definitely be one to watch at each KOM today.

107km remaining from 168km

The break is through the KOM and we'll get you those results as soon as we find them out.

Matt Cooke was also second recently in the first stage of the Tour of the Gila.
 

KOM #1 results are in
1. Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
2. Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
3. Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
4. Kevin De Mesmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk)
 

Those KOM points will only help Will Routley defend his KOM jersey.

Points at that first KOM were 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively.

What's up next is another Cat. 4 KOM, but the riders have awhile.  It's not until 28.9 miles to go.  In the meantime, we can expect the peloton to keep close tabs on the break and perhaps everyone will enjoy a bit of time at some point for some lunch.

The young rider classification is always an interesting one to follow and often gives us a glimpse of who we'll be watching in the coming years.  Current young rider standings are as follows:
1. Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 10:05:18
2. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:49
3. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:34
4. Daan Olivier (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:47
5. Clément Chevrier (Fra) Bissell Development Team 0:05:50

After coming in third during stage 3, which finished at the top of Mt. Diablo yesterday, Lawson Craddock said that he's shooting for an overall podium result. "I think after today it has definitely become more of a reality," Craddock said. "I just have to stay safe these next couple of days and try and be up there on [the stage 6 finish atop] Mountain High."

You can read more on Craddock in this article.

What's impressive about both Lawson Craddock and Adam Yates is both are doing so well also in the overall GC.  Craddock is third and Yates is fourth.

94km remaining from 168km

46 miles in and the racers have averaged 24mph so far today.  Given their progress thus far, we're estimating a finish time of 3:56 pm.

Sky is clearly staying on top of gap management.  The break has 3:40 - not too little, not too much - for them to feel good about protecting Bradley Wiggins' race lead.

In our pre-race interview with Bradley Wiggins, he recalled a similar stage when the race was held in February, back in 2008. That day the stage went on so long - almost seven hours! - that the airplane that relayed the race radio signals had to fly off to refuel, leaving us with no information about the race status for more than an hour.

That 2008 stage was held in horrible conditions - cold rain, a driving headwind, bitter cold. It was won by Dominique Rollin. Relatively speaking, the racers can't complain about the weather today. Turns out Rollin retired after 2013 and is living in Girona, Spain, working with a bicycle touring company.

86km remaining from 168km

The break has made its way through the feed zone.  They've also just rolled through a section of road that is pretty much carved into a cliff.  Although not so much is going on in the race at the moment, it makes for spectacular scenery.

We had thought Sky might let the break get a bit more time, since the top placed rider is relatively far down the GC (at 14:02), but they've not allowed them to get too far away.  In the past few miles, they've tightened it up a little more, with the gap now at 3:15.

The peloton gets through the feed zone and is now enjoying some lunch.  Clad in yellow, Bradley Wiggins is at the front, eating some food and re-stuffing his pockets.

It's pretty calm out there today - not much wind to speak of.  It's also still bright and sunny and hot, but not too hot - being next to the coast is helping.

The Giant-Shimano riders in the peloton are having a bit of a pow-wow.  Maybe checking on their strategy for the later part of the race?

Still another 20 miles to go until the next KOM.  The last two come pretty close together, with one at 28.9 miles to go and one at 25 miles to go.

After yesterday's stage win, Rohan Dennis (Garmin Sharp), who is second in the GC, said, "In the overall it does give me a bit of confidence. I think Sky will be able to work from now on, and now they'll almost ask us to probably help out. And tactically that's going to keep more of their guys for the finishing climbs and whatnot. So it's going to be harder to isolate Brad from here on in I think."

68km remaining from 168km

"It's not very often that I win a hilltop finish," Dennis, 23, also said. "I usually crack with a couple km to go. It's always good for my head to see that a year older and a year stronger, and I can not just get the top 10 here but I can actually win the stage. So it shows that my progression as a rider has gone really nicely, and I'm really happy.

"I don't think the Tour de France and Olympic champion is going to crack," Rohan Dennis said. "He's a level above - I believe - all of us. But if we play our cards right like we did today, it can play into our hands. It's more of the tactics for us, and if we don't play it smart, his ride [in the time trial] will definitely win the tour for him."

Read more in this interview.

We've gotten into an area where there are more beaches, which means more surfers and sunbathers. We passed one person with a surfboard painted with the message "Go Jens" for Jens Voigt. His fans are everywhere! We also passed a rather interesting looking tree house.

61km remaining from 168km

With about 38 miles to go, the gap has shrunk a bit more.  The break has 2:45 on the peloton.  There's a pretty good chance they'll be allowed to scoop up the KOM points, but we suspect they won't make it to the end.

We spoke to Sky Team Director Kurt-Asle Arvesen today. He said that race leader Bradley Wiggins was really happy with his final climb yesterday even though he lost a little time. "We learned our lesson yesterday because going into the climb, we knew Wiggins was strong, but we didn't know how strong Rohan Dennis was. Now that we know, we will change our plan for the big climb on Friday so that Wiggins doesn't lose any more time then. Perhaps we'll keep a rider or two with him for that stage - yesterday we burned all our riders going into the climb. We'll be more prepared for Rohan Dennis. Wiggins is pleased to be in yellow. He knew coming into the race that he was strong, doing well and a contender to win."

54km remaining from 168km

The leaders have about five miles to go to the next KOM.  Meanwhile the gap is holding pretty steady at 2:45

The stage finishes in Cambria - an adorable little town, very quaint. There are tons of people here to watch the race. Heading toward the coast today for the finish, there were lots of cyclists descending into Cambria, according to our Kirsten Frattini, who is at the finish today.

The break is drawing closer to the top of the second KOM.  We'll get you results as soon as we know them.

Will Routley surges toward the KOM and nets himself some more KOM points.  He's looking pretty comfortable in that polka dot KOM jersey.

45km remaining from 168km

KOM #2 results are as follows:
1. Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)  4pts
2. Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman)  3pts
3. Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)  2pts
4. Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team) 1 pt

There's not too much more distance to go until the final KOM of the day - about another 2.5 miles.

Seems like they've slowed down in the second half of the race.  If they continue at the current average speed, they'll finish in a little over an hour.  So much for our earlier prediction of finishing at 3:56 pm.  Organizers had originally expected them to finish in Cambria sometime between 3:33 pm and 4:34 pm.

They're just a few hundred meters from the last KOM.

Will Routley surges again for the top points again.

Final KOM results are as follows:
1. Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 6pts
2. Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman) 5 pts
3. Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)  4 pts
4. Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)  3 pts
5. Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team) 1pt
 

The break is putting down the hammer, trying to go for the stage win.  Their gap is 3:25 - it's been holding steady for awhile.

28km remaining from 168km

The sprinters teams are much more interested in catching the break now.  They've got 18 more miles until the finish - it's time to get serious.

As mentioned earlier, BMC will be working today for a sprint finish for its rider Taylor Phinney. Before the start, we asked Phinney if he thought he could be up there in a final sprint. He said, "We'll see. I'm not necessarily a match for [Mark] Cavendish, [Peter] Sagan and [John] Degenkolb on their best days. Buy maybe I can surprise them and do something. It's nice to race at home, and I get a little extra motivation, so we'll see."

24km remaining from 168km

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) so far has no stage wins to his name - a bit unusual for the Tour of California. If the break is caught and today ends in a sprint, maybe it will be Sagan's day? We asked his teammate Ted King before the start if he expected to do a lot of work today for Sagan. "Time will tell," said King cryptically.

Both the break and the peloton are looking pretty organized, but the gap is still at 3:25.  The peloton is not making significant progress on reeling in the break so far.  At the same time, the break isn't getting any more time.

20km remaining from 168km

Race veteran and Californian Fred Rodriguez told us before the start today, "I really have a good feeling about [a sprint]. It's probably the only stage left where the real sprinters have a chance. after this it's going to be all more Peter Sagan's type, you know, get over a 5km climb and sprint with a smaller group. So today's going to be the last big rush where you have 100-150 guys sprinting for the line."

They're passing a massive sea lion beach with some very very large beasts.

Fred Rodriguez also said, "I still have a busted rib. I've been taking it easy for the last three days, just conserving. Yesterday I was racing at home. I took it easy just helping my teammates and waiting for the later stages. I feel confident things are getting better. I know this stage really well. We used to race into San Luis Obispo, where I got second and a s couple of podiums in the past. The course isn't as long as it used to be, but it's still a beautiful ride."

16km remaining from 168km

It's pretty much flat to the finish - about 10 miles to go.  The peloton is flying now with its effort to catch our six leaders.

The riders in the break are starting to show signs of fatigue - they're not rotating as smoothly as they were, clearly some of the riders are feeling the fatigue from their day off the front.

The peloton has made back a bit of time, with the gap at 2:55.  Omega Pharma Quick Step has decided to join in the chase.

In case you're just joining us for the finish, we've got six men who've been off the front pretty much all day:
Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team)
Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
Kevin De Masmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk)
Matt Cooke (Jamis - Hagens Berman)
William Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)

The peloton is setting a quick enough pace that riders are getting shelled from it.  The question is whether they have enough distance to make up the 2:45 deficit.

The riders in the break clearly believe they have a chance to make it to the finish.  There appears to be a bit of a crosswind as the riders in the break are in a diagonal line across the side of the road.

10km remaining from 168km

10km to go, and the gap is at 2:20.  Yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins is still safely within the peloton.

The finish town Cambria is about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's hosting the Tour of California for the first time.

The peloton has back off a bit, and the six leaders have a real chance of staying off.  It's too far from the line for them to play games, but each rider will be thinking of his tactics.

UnitedHealthcare is the only team with two riders at the front: Chris Jones and Jonathan Clarke.  They may be able to work together and leverage their numbers.

The gap is now sub-two minutes.  It's 1:55.

4km remaining from 168km

There's a tailwind on this section, which will help the peloton in its chase.  If the peloton hadn't waited quite so long to close the gap, they wouldn't have to be flying as much as they are right now.

3km remaining from 168km

One of the UnitedHealthcare riders puts in an attack with 3km to go, but he's caught.

Omega Pharma Quick Step is still at the front of the peloton, but the chase seems less serious. The peloton may have given up on the chase. Perhaps no one wanted to deliver the likes of Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan to the finish line.

2km remaining from 168km

Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) surges again, but Kevin De Masmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk) closes the gap. 2km to go.

1km to go.

A UnitedHealthcare rider leads the break through a downhill turn.  800m to go.

The riders are trying to time their sprint just right.

Kevin De Masmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk) makes the move.

But it's William Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) who comes around him and makes it the perfect day with the stage win.

The 19-year-old Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team) takes second place.

Here comes the peloton.

Mark Cavendish takes the field sprint ahead of Peter Sagan.  They'll settle for 7th and 8th today - no stage win for them due to the peloton's miscalculation on the chase.

Bradley Wiggins finished in the main bunch and will defend his yellow jersey.

So our top three finishers on the stage are

1 Will Routley (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
2 Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development Team )
3 Kevin De Mesmaeker (Team Novo Nordisk)

Unofficial GC results after stage 4 are
1 Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
2 Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp)
3 Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura

That wraps up our live coverage for today's Tour of California stage 4.  Thanks for tuning in! You can join us again tomorrow for live coverage of stage 5 at 11:50 am local time.  Stage 5 will cover 107 miles Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara

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