Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 7 of the 2014 Tour of California
Hello and welcome back to the live coverage of the 2014 Tour of California. We've got another brilliant blue sky day in So Cal, heading off for the neutral 3.8km from the Town Center Mall in Santa Clarita.
The Optum team has written "BRAM" on their race numbers today.
Bram is Mike Friedmann's father, says teammate Brad Huff. "He has pancreatic cancer and we're riding for Bram. He's a great guy. He's been supporting Mike his whole career, and me too, actually. Mike and I raced together for several years, and he was always there. He just finished two rounds of chemotherapy, and he is struggling. He had two strokes afterward, and he's really fighting hard. So we're riding for Bram."
144km remaining from 146km
The riders are off and as is the usual course of events, there is a flurry of attacks from the gun. That is the official term for multiple attacks - kind of like a gaggle of geese, a flock of seagulls or a school of fish, attacks always travel in flurries.
Race leader Bradley Wiggins is looking mighty fine in that bright yellow jersey, and he was proud of the way his team rode on stage 6 to Mountain High. You can read more about how the team learned from their mistakes on Mt. Diablo in this article from Cyclingnews' Pat Malach.
The riders will face a rather arduous journey to Pasadena today. They'll head up into familiar territory for the Tour of California, up into the Angeles National Forest. They'll head east to CA14, and cross onto Soledad Canyon road, heading into the National Forest land toward the first sprint of the day, at Acton.
After the sprint the race will take a right turn onto Aliso Canyon Road, then head South on the Angeles Forest Highway. They'll turn onto Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road and then climb up to the Angeles Crest Highway. This road could take the riders to Mt. Baldy, but this year they'll turn the opposite direction to head to Pasadena, downhill.
There are two KOM's along the way, a category 3 climb on the Angeles Forest Hwy and a category 2 one the Angeles Crest Hwy at the end of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon.
138km remaining from 146km
The peloton is hurtling along at almost 60kph, just flying down the road thanks to all of the attacks. Nothing has managed to stick quite yet.
Welcome to the readers tuning in from Colombia today. No doubt fans of stage 6 winner Esteban Chavez, or perhaps looking for Janier Acevedo to show himself again today. The Tour of California has been a real proving ground for Colombian talent, and this year has been no different.
Another Colombian had a stand-out ride today: Julian Arredondo (Trek) was the last man standing from the Giro d'Italia breakaway today. You can read the report here.
Perhaps not wanting to be outdone by the Colombians, Gregory Brenes from Costa Rica (Jamis-Hagens Berman) goes on the attack.
130km remaining from 146km
Brenes wasn't able to get a breakaway going, unlike yesterday when he made the move. At 16km into the stage, the peloton is back all together.
Taylor Phinney has made another move - he went up the road with Scott Zwizanski (Optum) and Eloy Teruel (Jamis-Hagens Berman). They were joined by Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell) and now have 10 seconds.
Not wanting to miss the boat again, Matteo Trentin has given Omega Pharma - Quick-Step a representative in the move by bridging across.
Now Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) is joining the party. All aboard, gentlemen!
125km remaining from 146km
Just over 20km into the stage and our five riders up front have gained only a small advantage. Will Sir Bradley Wiggins call off his troops and let them enjoy their day in the sun? The highest placed rider in the group is Zwizanski, more than half an hour behind.
The answer is no! A bigger group of 10 riders tried to bridge and they only managed to weld the entire peloton back into one.
The attacks are still flying, counters erupting from the field, 8 riders are trying to get a thing going.
It's a hot one yet again, with temperatures soaring into the 90s F, and no shelter here from the baking sun. 11 riders are split off the field with a slight advantage.
This group seems to be having more luck - they're gaining an advantage now.
The group is:
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Benjamin King (Garmin Sharp), Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEdge), Lars Boom (Belkin), Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano), Isaac Bolivar Hernandez (UnitedHealthcare ), José Joao Pimenta Costa (Team NetApp-Endura), Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk), Eloy Teruel Rovira (Jamis - Hagens Berman), Clément Chevrier (Bissell),
Bolivar has been in more than half of the breakaways this tour...
Cyclingnews' Pat Malach cornered Ian Boswell about Sky's tactics for today. Here's what he had to say:
"The stage is shorter, but that doesn't mean it will be easier by any means, especially since there's a lot of climbing.
"Hopefully today we'll get a little bit of help from some teams that need to win a stage here. Cannondale and Belkin haven't won a stage, and they both have sprinters who can climb. Hopefully we'll get a bit of help from them. Both yesterday and Diablo were big days. The team morale is good, but it's still a close race, so anything can happen. But we're mostly there now."
Well the breakaway was too big to live and has been caught. Martin Velits (OPQS) got tangled up in the confusion with a BMC rider, and both went down. Velits had to get a new bike but both are up and riding.
114km remaining from 146km
A group of three riders are now trying to escape from the field ahead of our sprint - they're about 10km from the sprint in Acton.
Well the magic number has seem to been chosen and that number is seven. Seven riders are off the front and Sir Bradley deems it good, and has called for a mass nature break. They have 50 seconds.
One more we have Greg Van Avermaet in the move. The BMC rider is joined by Ben King (Garmin Sharp), Lars Boom (Belkin), Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano), Isaac Bolivar Hernandez (UnitedHealthcare), Luis Enrique Lemus (Jelly Belly) and Eloy Teruel (Jamis - Hagens Berman)
A lot of familiar names in there! Lemus, Bolivar and Teruel have been very aggressive this race.
The official results list Luis Lemus as Luis Davila, but the two-time Mexican champion goes by his paternal surname.
107km remaining from 146km
5km to go to the first sprint of the day and the lucky 7 have 0:55.
The gap had gone up to 1:30, but once the peloton got rolling again after the nature break, it quickly went back under a minute.
The weather has been so hot - all of California is in a drought but this area is in exceptional drought. The very hot, dry winds blowing in from the desert to the east make it a potential powder keg for wildfires. There are fires burning in San Diego to the south, and the Angeles National Forest has had numerous fires over the past decade.
The heat has been hard on the riders. Trek's Matthew Busche lost more than two minutes yesterday.
This morning he told Pat Malach:
"It's going to be another tough day like every day has been so far. On paper, 50 km from last climb to the finish, theoretically it should be a sprint, but nothing has been predictable in this race so far."
The team cars are being allowed forward to the breakaway, so it is looking pretty good for the lucky 7. They are enjoying another tailwind day today, so the Cannondale and Sky teams might want to keep them on a tight leash today.
1 Ben King (Garmin Sharp)
2 Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
3 Eloy Teruel (Jamis-Hagens Berman)
The landscape here is quite barren - very dry and brown, with only some sage and scrub oak eking out a living on the rocky land.
Bissell's Greg Daniel had a great result on stage 5 to Santa Barbara, showing his promise as a sprinter. The American spoke with Pat Malach yesterday for this video interview.
96km remaining from 146km
50km into the stage and the leaders only have 1:25.
Speaking of videos, Cyclingnews has a virtual treasure trove of videos for you to view all of them here on our YouTube channel. Subscribe today!
The breakaway is now passing a section of the mountains that burned not too long ago. The wildfires can be destructive, but they can also cause wildflowers to spring forth from the ground that haven't been seen in decades. This happened this year on Mt. Diablo.
As we predicted, Cannondale has a keen interest in keeping this move close, and are keeping the pace high and holding the seven to a 1:40 lead. Peter Sagan definitely wants to add to his record today, because tomorrow's finale is a very tough circuit that may not suit him.
The breakaway is now having a snack from the feed zone, tapping out their pace, keeping less than two minutes on the bunch.
88km remaining from 146km
Our breakaway will be fortified for the category 3 climb by their lunch, they now have less than 5km to go to the summit.
Giant-Shimano rider Chad Haga was signed to the WorldTour team after a break-out year with Optum. He was top 10 overall in Tour of California last year, but this year is working for teammate and fellow American Lawson Craddock.
Giant-Shimano coach Aike Visbeek told us this morning that on the Mountain High stage, the team fought hard. "We really wanted to conserve until the last 2km, and we still had three guys up there near the end. Lawson fought his way up to the finish and moved up."
Craddock is now third overall, having moved up ahead of Tiago Machado of NetApp.
Following the abandon of Tom Boonen yesterday, his doppelganger Guillaume Van Keirsbulck has abandoned.
The breakaway is seeing 1km to the KOM.
83km remaining from 146km
Lemus sprints ahead to take the KOM points.
1 Luis Enrique Davila (Mex) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
2 Isaac Bolivar Hernandez (Col) UnitedHealthcare
3 Chad Haga (USA) Team Giant-Shimano
4 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
5 Benjamin King (USA) Garmin Sharp
The breakaway is now plummeting off the category 3 KOM, with Lemus taking home the prize money. Their lead has edged up to 2:35 but Orica and Cannondale are helping Sky nail that back.
This descent is not one for the feint of heart - they are tipping the speedometer needle to 100kph.
And to the left of the peloton is a sheer cliff hundreds of meters down... do not screw up, gentlemen.
The peloton speeds past a stand of former trees - the area possibly one of the many thousands of acres that burned in the 2009 Station Fire.
Cameron Wurf of Cannondale is trying to maximize his aerodynamics by pedaling while lying on his top tube, but I'm not sure the silliness of this style warrants the advantage.
... but cyclists do plenty of silly things to go faster.
Ben King and his POC helmet is quite visible on the front of the breakaway, speaking of silly.
The peloton is taking that hard left onto Upper Big Tujunga road, 14km to the KOM point. They were going so fast, and the turn was around a bend, so the marshals warned them with whistles and flags, and CAUTION signs on the sides of the road.
The mountains classification leader Will Routley is bouncing out of the saddle, sitting in the bunch, not worried. The breakaway won't threaten his lead in that classification.
UnitedHealthcare's Lucas Euser is back near Routley. He had an asthma attack on the final climb yesterday and lost more than six minutes. Luckily the medics were there to help him out so he could finish.
A very Happy Birthday to Greg Van Avermaet, who is on the breakaway right now. He turns 29 today.
We wonder if Van Avermaet can get a present for himself by winning this stage today. We have great admiration for the Belgian, who was on the podium in both the Tour of Flanders and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, both times second place.
In the Omloop, Van Avermaet finished the race which was held in horribly cold and wet conditions, wearing just one glove. For two months we wondered why? Why only one glove? It turns out, as Pat Malach found, that Van Avermaet's hands had gone numb with the cold, and he took one off to see if it would help, but it didn't, so he left the other glove on.
65km remaining from 146km
We're past the halfway point, and the breakaway is motoring along 2:35 ahead of the field.
Once again it's Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Ben King (Garmin Sharp), Lars Boom (Belkin), Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano), Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare), Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly) and Eloy Teruel (Jamis - Hagens Berman) at the head of our race.
Another rider still looking for a win this year is Lars Boom (Belkin). He broke his elbow in a crash at Paris-Nice earlier this year, and it put a damper on his Classics season. He last won a race at the ZLM Toer last year.
We're afraid that 2:35, which is their current gap, will not be enough to hold off the sprinters today. They've got three 9.9km finishing circuits, so it won't be that steady tailwind that has aided the breakaways on stages 4 and 5.
57km remaining from 146km
Peter Sagan not only holds the record for stage wins at the Tour of California, he also has the record for most days in the green jersey - 25. He's in the jersey now, with a 3 point lead over Will Routley and Mark Cavendish.
Opes we have lost someone from the breakaway - Lars Boom, Luis Lemus and Eloy Teruel have dropped off, with King, Haga, Van Avermaet and Bolivar continuing on.
57km remaining from 146km
The climb is very fast, 1km to go to the summit.
The grades are getting a little steeper as we head to the KOM, but it's not enough for the breakaway riders to get out of the saddle. They're taking it steadily.
Van Avermaet is at the back, looking less of a natural climber than the other three, but he's hanging on, knowing that it's all downhill from here.
Can Van Avermaet duplicate that amazing performance of Taylor Phinney of stage 5? It's a little bit more difficult from the top of the climb, as they have 56 whole kilometers still to go from this line.
Bolivar leads Van Avermaet across the line at the KOM.
Back in the field, Mark Cavendish has been tailed off on the climb, unless he can rejoin he will not be challenging Sagan for that green jersey today. He's got some time to get back, but is missing two teammates now.
54km remaining from 146km
The chasers are holding at 15" from the four leaders, but the field is coming for them. Led by Cannondale, with Trek in two, they've pulled it back to 1:35.
It's not "all downhill" from here, actually, they only went down a dip and have a small leg-breaker to go up before beginning the descent in earnest.
1 Isaac Bolivar (UHC)
2 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
3 Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano)
4 Ben King (Garmin-Sharp)
5 Lars Boom (Belkin)
Bolivar had a tough patch on the climb but muscled his way back up to the other three. Haga's pace was too much for him, but the road flattened out some. Now King heads to the front and pushes the pace.
Good morning Australia! Congratulations to your Cadel Evans for taking the lead in the Giro d'Italia. Find out what Cadel had to say about it here.
The team cars are moving in to feed their riders while they can, since the descent will make it impossible, and by the time they get on the circuits feeding will be closed.
The three chasers, Boom, Teruel and Lemus are in sight of the peloton, while the four ahead are still climbing and losing ground on the chase.
The leaders have a "doozy" of a descent in front of them according to Pat Malach, who compares it to the Glendora Mountain road used in previous years. It seems to never end. It's probably a lot more fun on a bike than in the car getting motion sickness, however.
Looks like Matt Goss is also in the gruppetto with Cavendish, as is Fred Rodriguez. No word on how far back they are.
The peloton is in a long, sinuous line, snaking down this twisty descent at breakneck speeds. Fingers crossed everyone gets down safely! The roads are quite wide, however, compared with those of the European races so there's room to maneuver.
The landscape is changing rapidly as the breakaway moves through the different ecosystems - while it was quite barren at the top, there are more trees and wildflowers at the lower elevations.
45km remaining from 146km
The gap is 1:20 according to the Tour tracker, but they are still showing a chase group at 20 seconds. That seems to be Lars Boom, who wasn't caught, although Lemus and Teruel were.
42km remaining from 146km
The descent is leveling off now, only 5% grade, and the peloton bunches up in response. Boom has reached the four leaders - thanks to the flattening. We now have five up front.
They're on another little climb that interrupts the descent, and there are a number of fans at the intersection to cheer them on.
The five-man breakaway is chased down the road by a man carrying the California flag. They've got a beautiful view up ahead of the mountain range, but no time to take it all in...
Cannondale is back on the gas with a lead foot, stringing out the peloton. The gap went from 1:20 to 1:05 in very short order.
The leaders have now lost enough of their advantage that it's under one minute, so it is not looking very good for them.
37km remaining from 146km
The Cannondale green is omnipresent at the head of the peloton, working like a machine to bring the gap down - now 45 seconds with 37.8km to go.
The second peloton with Cavendish, Goss and US champion Fred Rodriguez is still not able to make contact.
Ugh. If Lucas Euser had asthma yesterday, I hope he has his inhaler today. The brown haze over the valley is visible against the blue sky up ahead.
Just 35 seconds now, and still 34km left to race. Cannondale is using the force of gravity to help them chase down the five leaders. By the time they reach the bottom this breakaway will be over, and then they'll need to control the inevitable counter-attacks.
Riders will want to avoid getting too close to the side of the road here, as the unstable cliff sides litter the pavement with rocks.
The breakaway has found civilization! They're down in the tony town of La Canada Flintridge, one of the priciest neighborhoods in the USA.
No time to stop and shop for real estate, however, as the breakaway has just 25 seconds. They're on a five-lane wide road now and using every inch of it.
25km remaining from 146km
The five leaders are still hammering along, but they've lost a lot of ground. The gap is small and getting smaller.
Cannondale is happy to keep the pressure on: Degenkolb is in the front group but they'll want to keep Cavendish from rejoining, if he hasn't already.
The peloton still appears to be smaller than normal, that gruppetto may not have rejoined yet, but we've had no information from the race caravan on Cavendish.
Trek is keeping a strong presence near the front, we wonder if Jens Voigt might be planning a cheeky counter-attack when this break is caught.
Trek also has a good sprinter in Jasper Stuyven, so they may be keeping him in position for the finish.
20km remaining from 146km
Just over 20km to go and this breakaway of five are still holding onto that 20 second break. It's five against five as Cannondale is really the only team pulling in the peloton.
Cavendish's group has most certainly not rejoined the field. He's back there with a couple Giant-Shimano riders and some others. But Degenkolb is in the main peloton ahead - but is short on teammates.
Bolivar attacks into a turn and Boom and Haga get tailed off. it's a 180-degree turn and they can see the peloton coming in the opposite direction... they're very close to being caught.
Van Avermaet doesn't want to give up, and King is the only rider who can hold the Belgian's wheel.
King is pretty determined, too. He took his US Pro championship a few years ago with a very gutsy solo attack. But we think this chase is a tad more organized.
15km remaining from 146km
King and Van Avermaet will at the very least be able to battle for the sprint points at the start of the circuit.
There are thousands of fans lining the 5km finishing circuit that they'll do three times. Van Avermaet is pushing the pace, it's out to 15 seconds now.
King has been able to stretch his abilities a bit more since moving to Garmin-Sharp from the Radioshack/Trek team. He's been in quite a few breakaways this year, including one in Tirreno-Adriatico that went to the line. He ended up third on the stage.
King is from Virginia - east coast, represent!
The two leaders have managed to eke out another 10 seconds, to total 25 seconds on the field, but it is just the calm before the storm.
10km remaining from 146km
King leads Van Avermaet up to the line for two laps to go, but the peloton is just making the turn behind them, 10 seconds back. Sky has taken the lead, keeping Wiggins safe, but they'll sit up and let the sprinters do their thing with 3km to go.
Bissell has a man up front for Greg Daniel - he's pretty speedy and showed it in Santa Barbara. Pat Malach interviewed Daniel - you can see it here.
The Bissell team is led by Axel Merckx, son of the legend Eddy Merckx, but who has made his own name developing young talent. Ben King, in our breakaway, is one of his prodigies.
We're afraid that these two riders are just minnows for the big fish behind. The peloton is just waiting to swallow them up, and the catch is imminent.
A NetApp rider has bridged across to the duo.
The bunch got very close, but the NetApp rider is helping to keep the break clear.
A Jamis rider has attacked from the field, caught the break and gone up the road.
Oh no - the Jamis rider obviously did not realize there was another lap to go and he celebrated the victory but it was one lap to go.
It's embarrassing, but perhaps it's a bit of a language barrier.
Regardless, at one to go the breakaway was caught and now it's all Cannondale, all the time.
Cannondale took a back seat, and now UnitedHealthcare takes over.
Rather that was the most courageous jersey. Now Trek is up there for Van Poppel.
2km remaining from 146km
2.2km to go and there isn't very good organization in the bunch. Attack from Garmin. Looks like Acevedo.
Optum has a few riders still in this bunch, but where has all the green gone?
1km to go and BMC's Phinney is leading out Hushovd.
Lots of turns going into the final 200m.
Sagan dives the inside and moves up into fourth wheel.
Trek has a rider up there and Hushovd goes!
But Sagan gets the jump out of the last turn.
Van Poppel was right up there in third, and then Degenkolb shakes his head, just couldn't navigate the turns.
That win will likely seal Sagan's green jersey for the year.
The top 10:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team
3 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
4 Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Team NetApp - Endura
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano
6 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
7 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica Greenedge
8 Nick van der Lijke (Ned) Belkin
9 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team
10 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
Ted King leads the gruppetto around the circuits, he'll get the news that his teammate has won.
That was a tricky, tricky finish and perfect for Sagan.
No change on the GC - all the top 10 were in that group.
General classification after stage 7
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 25:28:15
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:30
3 Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:48
4 Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura 0:02:02
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:14
6 Peter Stetina (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:30
7 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:39
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:03:01
9 Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Garmin Sharp 0:03:05
10 David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura 0:03:00
Thank you all for reading, and be sure to join us for the final stage, it's an early one at 8:45am PDT, right after the end of the Giro d'Italia. Brew a big pot of coffee and stick with Cyclingnews all morning!
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