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Tour of California 2015: Stage 4


Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 4 of the Tour of California - a 173.1km stage from Pismo Beach to Avila Beach on the Southern California coast.

Hello, we're back again for stage 4. Today's 173.1km stage from Pismo Beach (and all the clams you can eat!) to Avila Beach has three intermediate sprint points with time bonuses, and time bonuses at the finish. The sprints come in Guadalupe at km. 22.8, Orcutt at km. 41.2 and Arroyo Grande 139.3km into the stage.

The riders get a unique send-off from the Pismo Beach pier, and have 1.8km of neutral before the racing begins.

The start and finish are only about 15 minutes apart on the shore of the San Luis Obispo Bay, but the riders will head south into Santa Barbara County, heading inland to the only KOM, then back west and northwest to Avila Beach. They'll run nearly into San Luis Obispo before heading south to the finish in a slightly different approach than the time Jens Voigt soloed to victory here in 2013.

The riders lined up on the Pismo Beach pier, then rolled out for the neutral to big crowds lining the roads.

Immediately, four riders attack at kilometer 0.

The team of race leader Toms Skujins will be tested early this morning and will have to control what attacks go up the road.

The four attackers came back, and were countered by a Cannondale rider, but that too was neutralized.

All attackers were caught, and countered by a rider from MTN-Qhubeka. He doesn't succeed and is passed by four riders on the attack.

164km remaining from 172km

It's sunny but cool today - and the temperature isn't expected to rise much. The wind might be a factor today - that was what helped Voigt to the win two years ago. At the finish it will be an almost 20mph headwind on the approach to Avila Beach.

Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin), Matthew Brammeier (MTN - Qhubeka), Thomas Soladay (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), and Gregory Daniel (Axeon Cycling) are the riders on the attack.

There are many attacks coming from the field as this quartet has only five seconds.

159km remaining from 172km

It's been a fast and furious opening to this stage, flying at 29mph past strawberry fields.

We've got another group trying to get off the front. Christian Knees (Sky) has had to get a new wheel after a puncture.

So to recap the standings:
Young Toms Skujins (pronounced SQUENSZ) leads the race by 32 seconds over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who will be keen to end his run of second place finishes and finally get a stage win today.

1 Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Racing Team 14:04:01
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:32
3 Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 0:00:43
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:44
5 Daniel Jaramillo (Col) Jamis - Hagens Berman
6 Dion Smith (NZl) Hincapie Racing Team 0:00:47
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
8 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team
9 Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Alpecin
10 Jay McCarthy (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo

154km remaining from 172km

150km remaining from 172km

149km remaining from 172km

Sorry that was three riders, not bib number three, Deignan. There are four riders attacking now with a gap, being chased by two: William Clarke (Drapac), Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), Jesse Anthony (Optum), and Gregory Daniel (Axeon Cycling).

The results at sprint 1:
1. Gregory Daniel (Axeon Cycling)
2. Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)
3. William Clarke (Drapac)

147km remaining from 172km

This is the break of the day, as the field has stopped for a natural break. Vanmarcke is 15 seconds from making the lead group.

Correction, it's not Vanmarcke, it's Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN - Qhubeka). I know, they're really hard to tell apart.

Teklehaimanot is an excellent time trialist and shouldn't have this much trouble getting across. The four up front must be going quite hard. They've opened the gap to 1:40 and it's growing. The MTN rider is 20" back.

While the peloton sits up and lets this break have its way with the race, why not refresh your memory of yesterday's amazing ride by Hincapie's Toms Skujins. It was one of the most impressive rides in the 10 years of the race.

136km remaining from 172km

Although Teklehaimanot is a mouthful to say, he isn't even in the running for longest surname in professional cycling. That has to go to Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour from the Tabriz team. I hope to never have to tackle that in a live coverage...

Teklehaimanot came over to MTN-Qhubeka after a two year stint with Orica-GreenEdge.

The reason this group has been let go is they are no threat to anyone's GC hopes: Greg Daniel is the top rider at 8:00 behind Skujins, Teklehaimanot is at 15:45 on GC and the rest are more than 20 minutes in arrears. But that doesn't mean the peloton will give them more time - Sagan wants a win, and he's not going to put the breakaway out of reach.

Crash in the field! A number of riders went down, some from Jelly Belly, Novo Nordisk, Sky...

Phew, the crash was just a bit of nonsense in the bunch and everyone was able to get back on their bikes and chase back.

Don't forget to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter @laura_weislo

Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) is in need of a new wheel, but we don't know if he was part of that crash.

The Hincapie team was celebrating last night after Skujins' triumph, and sponsors George and Rich Hincapie got on a plane as soon as they heard about the team's exploits. That is extra motivation for the team to keep the race lead:

124km remaining from 172km

The big news today is the weather forecast: California needs rain since it's in an historical drought, but does it have to storm on the race? Tomorrow's stage might be rained on, and there is a strong chance that the Big Bear time trial will be under a foot of snow on Friday.

Hincapie's director Craven said he was expecting help from the sprinters' teams today, but right now his team is doing the work.

Hincapie is doing all of this work despite the fact they are a man down. Ty Magner had to drop out after getting a concussion in the crash in Lodi.

109km remaining from 172km

The peloton will be hoping to get a better read on the gap to the breakaway today. They haven't been very happy with the time board, and Cannondale-Garmin's Joe Dombrowski felt yesterday was particularly bad.

105km remaining from 172km

Etixx-Quickstep have come up to help Hincapie with controlling the breakaway, so Craven's prediction has come true.

Cyclingnews has an exclusive video look at Alberto Contador's Giro d'Italia bike, with Contador's personal mechanic Faustino Muñoz.

Well it looks like video embeds won't work here, so here is the link to that exclusive video coverage of Alberto Contador's bike!

Although today's climb on Tepusquet Canyon road is said to be 4.7mi long, it starts out with a gradual ascent that the breakaway are experiencing now.

There is less wind in the hills, and the climb isn't too hard, so will not be particularly selective. It averages less than 5% until the final kilometer, which is steeper at nearly 7%.

Smartstop missed the breakaway today, but before the stage Travis McCabe told Cyclingnews he hoped the climb would be selective:

Mark Cavendish leads the points classification, and the Etixx-Quickstep team is helping to control things to help get him another stage win.

There are other teams here besides Etixx, Tinkoff and Hincapie, however, and BMC is one team that has been on the offensive, with Daniel Oss in the breakaway twice so far.

The climb is helping the peloton as the leaders struggle with the steep section near the top of the KOM, down under 3:00 now.

I hope the denizens of Avila Beach are all on board with the Tour of California's arrival. Two years ago some business shut down - including a coffee house! - because they thought the traffic and all the people would prevent access to their business. Shortsighted! The people that were there gave a very warm welcome, however, and it was a cool little town I'd like to return to one day.

91km remaining from 172km

Want to know more about what the race will do if there's a ton of snow falling in Big Bear Lake before the time trial on Friday? Frankly, we do too, but you can read the organisers deftly dodge the question here.

88km remaining from 172km

The time trial might look a bit like this on Friday...

The results of the KOM:
1. Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
2. William Clarke (Drapac)
3. Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)
4. Gregory Daniel (Axeon Cycling)
5. Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN - Qhubeka)

Both peloton and breakaway are enjoying the long, gradual descent from the KOM, and the gap is completely manageable at 2:40. 

Riders don't seem too concerned about the time trial possibly being snowed out.

Team Sky's Sergio Henao wasn't concerned either.

76km remaining from 172km

The riders pass by the Twitchell Reservoir, which, thanks to the extreme drought, is at 0% of capacity, ie. It is completely empty.

70km remaining from 172km

The Hincapie team is doing a great job of lining out the peloton as they roll through the brown, rolling hills. So far they haven't had to rely on Etixx, Tinkoff or LottoNl to pitch in, they've got the breakaway on a short leash at 2:20.

The peloton are now going over a big bridge that seems to make no sense, with green ground below. That's the reservoir, and it should be full of water.

The leaders look to be heading straight into the wind, and Greg Daniel gets a break from his pull.

65km remaining from 172km

The pace in the field slows down enough that a BMC rider stops to answer the call of nature. They've got a little hill to traverse.

The whales have come into the San Luis Obispo Bay to see the finish of the Tour of California today. Wonder what they make of all the hullabaloo?

The bunch has bunched back up and riders are looking very relaxed now that the gap is just 1:40. Not quite time to catch the leaders yet.

61km remaining from 172km

The Drapac car comes up to talk to Will Clarke, who has to be tired after all of the attacking he's done this week.

One team that hasn't had to do a thing today, thanks to Teklehaimanot's presence in the break, is MTN-Qhubeka. The last time the race finished in Avila Beach, one Tyler Farrar won the sprint behind lone-escapee Jens Voigt.

56km remaining from 172km

The wind en route to the finish isn't measuring up to expectations. While some gusts around 20mph are showing up, the steady wind is only 5mph or so.

52km remaining from 172km

50km remaining from 172km

That attack from the Dutch team has mixed up the peloton, where it was nicely OCD-organized into matching jerseys, they've been shaken up like a bag of skittles.

50km remaining from 172km

They're 15km from the final intermediate sprint in Arroyo Grande and the gap is only 50 seconds. There's been an easing of the pace as Etixx has reformed at the front, with Drapac, Sky and LottoNL-Jumbo all lining up.

Peter Sagan is making his way to the back of the Tinkoff train, the gap at 1:05 with 10k to the final intermediate sprint.

Cannondale are now on the front with Lasse Norman Hansen pulling - the little hill at the finish could suit Alex Howes quite well.

I'd have picked Kiel Reijnen for the win today, had the break stuck, but at 1:10 the peloton is just letting the break dangle, knowing they can sweep them up with minimal effort.

Cavendish will want to cheer up the Etixx manager Patrick Lefevere with another stage win. Lefevere had to watch his GC man Rigoberto Uran lose more time in the Giro today.

As the break heads into Arroyo Grande, the big creek, they've only got 40 seconds, now inside 5km to the final sprint.

Sad news from USADA, a Lees McRae collegiate mountain biker has been banned for using hGH and testosterone.

35km remaining from 172km

Cannondale's Hansen is still leading the bunch through Arroyo Grande, keeping the gap at 45 seconds. They're on a four-lane highway.

Evan Huffman's mullet vector is pointing the way to the caravan - the Smartstop rider deserves his position at the back of the bunch after a big ride yesterday.

The profile looks flat, but the reality is less friendly. There are some ups and downs, in particular the sharp climb to the last corner in Avila Beach which makes today's stage not necessarily one for a pure sprinter.

Our first attack from the break, it's Greg Daniel who wants to pick up the pace.

31km remaining from 172km

Reijnen had a crash in the Tour of the Gila on the final day and dropped out of that race, but this would be a great stage finish for him if he was tip top.

Reijnen has been dropped, and now it's Greg Daniel and Will Clarke alone at the front.

28km remaining from 172km

Daniel takes advantage of a descent to get low on the bike, trying to keep his advantage growing.

Greg Daniel fancies himself a contender and is going all in - but can he hold off the pace of Yves Lampaert?

Anthony, Reijnen and Teklehaimanot are swept up by the bunch that are lined out in pursuit of Clarke and Daniel.

The peloton is using this solo attack as a chance to ease up and catch their breath - one rider against dozens should be even easier to catch.

Will Clarke is trying to get on terms but not quite making it. He's at 20 seconds with the bunch now at 1:20.

We haven't seen hide nor hair of Tinkoff near the front as Hincapie continues to pull with Etixx taking the occasional turn.

Greg Daniel is a good time trialist, was fifth at the Tour of the Gila TT this year, and was a junior national champion in the discipline.

20km remaining from 172km

His style is resembling that of Voigt at the moment, he's throwing the bike left and right desperately trying to wrangle some more power out of his legs.

Daniel is doing an impressive ride here, keeping the peloton at 50 seconds with 19.5km to go. Hincapie is having to work quite a bit harder now.

Etixx-Quickstep take over and nearly half the gap to 30 seconds - Daniel seems to be hurting as he's taken the turn directly into the wind.

A handy wind-sock shows that there is some wind and it's in the peloton's right ear at the moment, but not enough to inspire Etixx to gutter the bunch. They can see Daniel ahead on this straight, flat road.

There's a big difference in the peloton that wants a bunch sprint, and one that wants to split the field. Etixx has the whole peloton sheltered behind their train, but one flick to the left and it's the gutter for them.

15km remaining from 172km

Etixx and Cavendish are worried, and they just catch him before the race goes back straight into the wind.

Tall trees offer a wind break here. They'll flip directions now and the wind will be in their left ear, another chance for Sagan to split the bunch.

Etixx is now hammering along, pinned to the right side of the road. So far no echelons yet.

Team Sky makes a second train as the race heads south toward Avila Beach, they're in between some hills so no wind... yet.

10km remaining from 172km

It's not only a lumpy sprint to the line, it's quite technical, and Sagan looks confident today. Unitedhealthcare is moving John Murphy up, and Optum is up there for Boivin, who amazingly was 2nd on the mountain finish on stage 1 of the Tour of the Gila. Clearly he's on form.

7km remaining from 172km

It seems Oss was most courageous yesterday but since he's in polka dots, Schär gets to wear that jersey.

5km remaining from 172km

Jelly Belly are at the front, perhaps for Rodriguez, though he's had a lot of bad luck lately with crashes. Maybe Jacob Rathe is feeling feisty.

3km remaining from 172km

Graeme Brown is the lead-out man for Wippert, but Drapac have been washed away.

Etixx are getting argy-bargy as Trek tries to come over for Danny van Poppel

Cavendish in third wheel, Sagan just behind. The bunch spreads out...

UHC trying to get ahead, but Etixx has the speed. Drapac has gotten it back together. ATTACK.

1km to go! it's Oss!

Trek are chasing, Oss doesn't have a big enough gap. U-turn into Avila Beach.

Oss takes the right hander, 300m to go with Van Poppel being led out behind.

Can he do it? Here comes Sagan!

At last! Peter Sagan WINS a race!

It was a perfect sprint for Sagan, who overhauled Oss just before the line. He treats the fans to a wheelie before heading off to the green room.

Thanks for following along with Cyclingnews. We've got another sprint-friendly stage tomorrow before we figure out what's happening with the possibly snowed-out TT.

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