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Tour of California 2015: Stage 7


Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 6 of the Tour of California - the big mountain finish on Mt. Baldy.

Sorry to be late to the party today, we had some server issues but we hope we're back up and 100% now.

Looks like Daniel Oss has gone off to protect his mountains jersey, he's got some good company: Johann Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka), Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), Gregory Brenes (Jamis-Hagens Berman), and chasing after being distanced on the descent is Smartstop's Chris Butler, then Lasse Norman Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin) and Daniele Ratto (UHC) are ahead of the peloton by a minute.

Today's stage is a tough one - they've already climbed Glendora Ridge Road, where Oss won the KOM over Van Zyl, Morton, Brenes and Butler.

Today's stage will be the last in the yellow jersey for Peter Sagan, who took over the lead with a smashing time trial in Santa Clarita.

It was not the rider anyone expected to win a time trial, but Sagan didn't just win, he crushed the competition, taking over the race lead from young Toms Skujins (Hincapie) by 28 seconds.

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) is a real threat today, but all eyes will be on Sergio Henao (Sky) who is arguably the best climber in the peloton. He's at 55 seconds from Sagan.

The leaders are off in cellular no-man's land, and so information is sparse. Oss is up the road with Brenes and Morton, being chased at 30 seconds by Butler, Hansen, Van Zyl and Ratto and they're 50km into the stage on a long, twisty descent.

There's one rider who everyone should be concerned about today, and that's Joey Rosskopf (BMC). He won the mountains classification in Utah last year, and he's ahead of Henao on GC at the moment by six seconds.

He told Cyclingnews this morning "For me it is basically all the same as it was before the TT. Basically there is 15-20 people tied on time, because 10 seconds is nothing on a club like Baldy. It just comes down to today on the climb."

The gap to the field has gone out to 3:45 at the moment. It won't be up to Tinkoff-Saxo to chase, they won't be fooling themselves about taking home the overall. Sagan and long, steep mountains don't get along.

Sky will be doing the chasing with LottoNl-Jumbo, for sure. Gesink and Henao will be going head to head on the climb.

The route today is a carbon copy of the one in 2012 where Robert Gesink put in his race-winning move.

It's also similar to the stage where Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer went away on Mt. Baldy on its debut in the race, and many jokes about the baldies on Mt. Baldy ensued.

Funny story about that year...

The race had no idea what it was getting into by going through the KOM on Glendora Ridge Road twice. The crowds got so big that the people trapped the cars ahead of the breakaway and over the top, Ryder Hesjedal came screaming down the descent to the San Gabriel reservoir so fast that he very nearly got on the bumper of the media car.

The driver, Andy Paulin, was fabulous and though I thought I was going to die a dozen times over as he screeched the tires around the turns that had 600-foot sheer cliff faces dropping away - he got us down safely.

Hesjedal didn't catch the car, and I needed a moment when we got to the bottom.

LottoNl-Jumbo have confidence in Gesink this year, and are putting on the pressure as the race heads back down to Glendora.

Our six riders are on a fast descent - it has been the undoing of Chris Butler, who didn't look so confident on the downhills on the stage to Santa Clarita, and is losing more ground today. He's just been caught.

60km remaining from 128km

It's a short stage today, only 127km, barely a warm-up for the WorldTour riders. The brevity is made up for by the severity of Mt. Baldy, which is quite steep in the final few kilometers.

The Mt. Baldy climb average over 8%, but the final 5kms kick up to a nearly 10% average. It's definitely a leg breaker.

One person not discounting Sagan is Robert Gesink: he told Cyclingnews this morning, "You never know. With Sagan on the lead it’s going to be a different kind of race. The climbers will have to attack, because he’s pretty good uphill."

Giant-Alpecin is counting on Lawson Craddock for today's stage. Their director told Cyclingnews this morning,

"I don’t know if we expect fireworks (before final climb), but we expect a very high pace on the other climbs. I think it will be a decimated group to that last 8km. From there it’s all or nothing for the GC contenders. If they want to get rid of Sagan and Alaphilippe they have to hurt then early in the stage. They have to put the pressure on. I expect not a lot of attacks, but a really high pace.

Regarding Craddock, "Carter [Jones] will stay with him as long as he can. Stay with the best climbers here, Gesink and Henao, and then we’ll see what will happen in the end."

Haimar Zubeldia (Trek) is 10th overall at 1:04, and Alain Gallopin said the time trial really shifted the dynamic of the race.

"Like you see last year Wiggins made a big TT, and he can control after. I think on Mt. Baldy we have the experience of four years ago when Levi and Chris arrived alone.

I know it’s difficult. It’s difficult after a lot of mountains during the stage. Guys like Henao and Gesink – I watched him do well in Romandie – could be the big favourtites. In my team we have Zubeldia, Busche and Zoidl who can do well. We’ll see during the race who controls who, and then we’ll decide. The riders know what they have to do. I f we can take the opportunity we will take it."

Right now Trek is taking a back seat, and it's all LottoNl-Jumbo, who are really pouring on the pressure.

49km remaining from 128km

The back of the peloton is full of unhappy riders who have been punished by this pace of Lotto. They're down in the town of Glendora with Sky leading. All the sprint points will be taken by the leaders who are 2:40 ahead.

Sagan is keeping fueled up with a gel as the pace lets up a little bit in Glendora. The gap to the break is 2:40.

From the sprint point, they'll take a left turn and head immediately up Glendora Mountain. It's a nasty switchback-laden ascent that has been used for years in the San Dimas Stage Race, previously known as the Pomona Valley Stage Race. Before there was a big fire near the top, it used to be a 9-mile long uphill time trial, but these days it's only 4.5 miles.

It's not terribly steep, averaging about 5-6%.

Expect Lotto to continue to put the pressure on to break Sagan.

Trek have moved up, as have Axeon. Really, any climber within a couple minutes of Sagan has to consider himself a stage or race winner still.

Rob Britton (Smartstop) is one of those riders:

"The last 7km climb will be the most decisive point, but the previous 113k before that will make it a hard day. We were here in February to recon the whole course, and it’s so easy to come into that final climb gassed. It’s a real trick to try and come in fresh, relatively speaking."

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon) is 11th overall, and is hoping to movem up today.

"We sat right all week for today so I just look to get stuck in and try and be there with some of the biggest names in the sport for as long as possible," he told Cyclingnews. "The aim is to do as good of a ride as possible, the time gaps up until now will be fairly insignificant after today."

Lasse Norman Hansen isn't looking too spry as they head through the feed zone. He won the intermediate sprint over Brenes and Oss.

Oss takes charge as the breakaway heads up Glendora Mountain Road.

Once upon a time I raced up this with Genevieve Jeanson starting two minutes behind me. I think she passed me after two miles. She ended up beating me by more than 7 minutes - she made it up the climb in 32:46.

Morton is up and out of the saddle, he has some fancy hinged sunglasses that he can open and close.

Ratto doesn't look to be enjoying the climb but he's hanging on for now.

39km remaining from 128km

Of our leaders, Brenes is the rider with the best climbing history, but it's Van Zyl who attacks first! He gets a gap.

Morton is forced to chase, Hansen has been jettisoned. Ratto gets in front of Oss while Brenes just bides his time.

As expected, Lotto have upped the tempo in the field and Sagan is falling further and further from the front.

Team Sky are on the wheel of Laurens ten Dam, with Gesink third wheel at the moment. Trek line up behind Sky's two riders, and then Tinkoff-Saxo are trying to keep Sagan in the mix, but this pace has to hurt.

37km remaining from 128km

Oss is going away in pursuit of Van Zyl.

Oss has caught van Zyl, and riders are being spat out of the peloton at an alarming pace.

This is a rough 9.2-mile stretch and unlike most climbs, there isn't a descent to speak of to recover on. Once they get to the KOM, they'll bounce along the ridge for a few miles and then have to start climbing to the next ridge before the real climb to Baldy.

Oss will want to cement his mountains jersey with maximum points atop this climb so the stage winner doesn't eclipse him.

There aren't any climbs on the final stage tomorrow.

Luckily the bad weather has moved off and although there are clouds in the distance, the roads are dry and it's sunny.

Cavendish is being dropped in a group with some other sprinters. Sky have taken over from Lotto and are continuing to punish Sagan. He's hanging on, though. Tough nut to crack, that guy.

32km remaining from 128km

Oss and Van Zyl are keeping the trio chasing them at 20 seconds, while Hansen is back in the bunch. They're snaking up Glendora Mountain, just 4km to go to the KOM for the leaders.

Brenes has decided to jump away from Morton and Ratto, who are quickly losing ground.

Sagan in his crazy color combination - yellow, blue, red, neon yellow - is looking less than smooth but still hanging tough as they reach the steeper section of the climb.

Sky are trying to break him but it's not enough yet. He even smiled for the camera.

Danny Page has his jersey open and flapping in the breeze - something that might be illegal for that detail-oriented team... he sees 5km to the KOM.

Marginal gains, Danny! That flapping jersey has to be costing you at least 0.5W.

Morton is about to be caught by the Pate-led peloton.

31km remaining from 128km

Ratto is still up there in no-man's land, and as for Brenes the time is showing at 25 seconds to the leaders, but they said 35 for Morton and he's just been caught.

The peloton is at 1:35 with 31km to go.

Oss and Van Zyl will be the ones taking the points on the climb.

The peloton are playing Pac Man with the breakaway, having caught Morton, their next snack is Ratto.

No mercy - Pat is out of the saddle and positively drilling it, the peloton is single file all the way down the mountain. At the back, Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) is holding on but gaps are starting to form.

Pate pulls off and Sky still have four more guys to burn up on this climb, although they have yet to break Sagan. He seems to be having little difficulty , now on the Jumbo train with one teammate at his side and one up on the Sky train.

It has to be McCarthy up ahead, Oss and Van Zyl are still trying to get to the KOM, now 1:35 to the field, 40 seconds to Brenes.

wokka wokka wokka. There goes Brenes.

Oss can see the fans ahead of the KOM. It's a trick - they've still got a bit more to ride. Oss gets no competition from Van Zyl - he'll get the points.

27km remaining from 128km

The leaders get a very short respite, Oss wins the KOM over Van Zyl.

The peloton are only a minute behind. The two men up front will be swept up by the Sky train soon.

Oss did what he needed to do and immediately sits up to go back to the bunch, now just 45 seconds behind Van Zyl who has more to give.

Team Sky's pace is relentless, they have three riders still ahead of Henao and are not causing any damage quite yet. But the bunch are single file across the ridge.

No mercy - Pate is out of the saddle and positively drilling it, the peloton is single file all the way down the mountain. At the back, Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) is holding on but gaps are starting to form.

There has been more damage at the back than the front, and there are probably 50 riders left in the front bunch and riders being dropped all the time.

Will Clarke (Drapac) is the rider dangling at the back.

Van Zyl has 35 seconds only now.

There has been more damage at the back than the front, and there are probably 50 riders left in the front bunch and riders being dropped all the time.

Will Clarke (Drapac) is the rider dangling at the back.

Van Zyl has 35 seconds only now.

Sorry for the duplicates, our system continues to surprise us with how it acts.

Oss is going quickly to the gruppetto, throws the devil horns for the camera before dropping off.

Van Zyl's breakaway is nearly over, Sky can see him now and Zandio is the one in charge of bursting his bubble.

21km remaining from 128km

Just over 20km to go and Van Zyl goes backward quickly as Sky sweep past.

The rest of the stage will be a battle of wits and strength for the climbers. They've got some dizzying views as they traverse the side of the mountain.

They're just undulating along the ridge, not climbing much and having a descent or two to spin out the legs, but it's not a recovery. Clarke is holding on for dear life at the back of the bunch.

Two Cannondale riders have worked their way up to the back of Sky's train - they still have Sagan behind, and some SmartStop guys - BMC has four, UHC has one - that has to be Brajkovic.

Word is Skujins is back in the gruppetto.

Alaphilippe is in there, as is Wyss... Hernandez is looking pretty spry near Sagan, he's Contador's mountain domestique so he'll have no trouble on the climb.

Knees, Deignan, Kennaugh and Henao continue to lead with 18km to go.

Michael Woods is stuck at the back of the group, the Optum climber is going to want to move up if he can, but Sky are making it impossible.

Sorry it was Earle not Zandio who was up for Sky, with Knees, Deignan and Kennaugh.

Clarke finally gave up and is popped.

It's all about power to weight ratio now.

Spotted in the bunch: Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon Cycling) and Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis - Hagens Berman).

Pretty sure Rob Britton is in there with one teammate, too, as are King and Dombrowski for Cannondale.

Also in the bunch:
Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare)
Dion Smith (Hincapie)
Lachlan Norris (Drapac)
Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN - Qhubeka)

I'll continue to try and grab some numbers as we get brief overhead shots.

Rosskopf is still in the group but not seeming very comfortable.

Knees looks like hell, but he's continuing to ride. We can confirm Brajkovic is still in this group, also:

Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis)
Carter Jones (Giant-Alpecin)
Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin)
Rob Britton (SmartStop)
Ben Hermans (BMC)

14km remaining from 128km

Finally Knees gives up and pulls off. Sagan is still in the same place, hanging on despite Sky's relentless pace.

Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN - Qhubeka) is in the group still, as is Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) and Geoffrey Curran (Axeon Cycling) - though the latter are dangling at the back.

Whoopsie! Deignan almost goes off-road on a bend, he hit a patch of gravel and had to veer from his line. He stayed upright, thankfully. That brought the pace down a hair.

Sky's pace is keeping anyone from attacking ahead of the climb, but it's also serving to keep the heart rates of everyone high so that nobody will come into the climb feeling fresh.

That will take the sting out of some of the lesser climbers and prevent any unexpected attacks, and give the advantage to the elite - Geisnk, Henao... few others in here can match them at their best.

Sagan has moved up to the wheel of Dombrowski, nown sixth wheel behind Deignan, Kennaugh, Boswell... Henao has dropped back to keep an eye on Gesink.

The big banner over the road means 10km to go, and the climb will begin soon.

They make the hard turn onto Mt. Baldy and Deignan is out of the saddle sprinting into the climb!

Remarkably, Sagan is still here but a gap is forming behind Gesink.

The insane pace of Sky is shattering riders - Brajkovic is out the back, Busche is out the back.

Schär is out the back. Only about 25 riders survived that push. Jay McCarthy is at the back. Craddock, too.

Alaphillipe is glued to Sagan's wheel as a Cannondale rider heads quickly backwards.

King went backwards, but Dombrowski is on Kennaugh with Sagan (?!!) in fourth wheel.

Sagan is out of the saddle now, this has to hurt, but he's not showing it.

Only about 12 riders left in the bunch and one is not Barguil. He's done.

Oh dear oh dear, three riders were gapped out by a race motorcycle, possible on the barrage.

Gesink looks in trouble!

Boswell is drilling it, has Dombrowski, Sagan (?!!), Alaphilippe and Henao, and then a gap!! Gesink is getting dropped!!

Boswell drops everyone but Zoidl!

Dombrowski is fighting his way back, but Sagan is done. Well done to make it to 5.5km to go but it's over.

Henao has now come up and taken the place of Boswell, and Zoidl sticks to him, the two alone at the front.

Henao and Zoidl are together with 5km to go, then Dombrowski is fighting to get back to Boswell behind. A gorilla chases the leaders. Or is it Bigfoot?

Unbelievably, Sagan is still in sight of Dombrowski as Henao has another dig.

Sorry it's Alaphilippe not Zoidl, the white jersey threw us off.

Alaphilippe raises his pace and Henao cannot hold on?!

3km remaining from 128km

It's another amazing ride by Alaphilippe, who has only just been finding out what his qualities are as a rider. They're pretty darn good, we think.

Henao is about to be caught by Dombrowski.


Boswell is catching Henao as is Dombrowski, but Alaphilippe is just pulling away.

Unreal - Sagan can SEE the Dombrowski group ahead.

3km remaining from 128km

We have Alaphilippe, amazing - powering up the steep climb.

Behind, Henao is keeping Boswell and Dombrowski, Sagan is behind them.

Gesink is next, chasing with Kennaugh, Zubeldia and another Trek rider..

It looks like Henao has gotten a second wind, and he's one bend behind Alaphilippe, who might have gone out too hard. The altitude will be starting to bite.

The last few kilometers have some steep, nasty pitches and Henao is determined. Sagan is losing a lot less time than expected, and he's riding himself inside out.

Alaphilippe has to get 45 seconds on Sagan today, that shouldn't be a problem, Henao was 10 seconds down on the Etixx rider, so it doesn't look like he'll get that back today.

1km remaining from 128km

Less than 2km to go and Sagan is making Alaphilippe work for that yellow jersey. 

There's some bits of snow still left on the side of the road, it's much chillier up here.

Alaphillippe is big-ringing the flatter section past the lodge and still has 1.8km of suffering.

Alaphillippe is drooling on himself, but thankfully wipes it on his shoulder. Henao behind him has his face in a rictus of pain.

This is a phenomenal ride by Alaphilippe, who was second in both Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne. He's never shown himself to be a high mountain man, but at 22 years of age he's still experimenting.

1km remaining from 128km

1km to go and Sagan seems to be losing ground more quickly now. Boswell is about to catch Henao under the 1km to go banner.

It's Zoidl for real now, catching Sagan just behind Boswell and Henao.

Sagan is looking at his bottom bracket, wondering if maybe there is something he can find for inspiration. Maybe a sticker of Oleg Tinkov's face on the downtube...


Alaphilippe, out of the saddle, hammers past the parking lot and over the potholes. Just two more turns to go.

Sagan, if he finds enough, could keep this within time bonus distance for tomorrow.

300m to go for Alaphilippe - he's going to win the stage.

Sagan is in the final stretch, he's out of the saddle and sprinting.

Dombrowski comes in for second at 37 seconds, Zoidl then Sagan at 47.

He's kept it within the reach of a time bonus tomorrow!

Sagan collapses on the ground, an AMAZING ride by him. Just phenomenal - this has to be the hardest he's ever ridden up a mountain.

If he's only 2 seconds down on GC, that's just one intermediate sprint tomorrow. WOW!

Sagan goes to the barriers, realizing that stopping and lying down was a BIG MISTAKE. The lactic acid rushed in and his lunch came straight up.

Zubeldia came in 7th, Gesink behind 1:00 down on Alaphilippe.

This will make tomorrow very interesting. Will Cavendish go for the win and try to deny Sagan the points? Will he take care of Alaphilippe instead?

What about Sky? They have to be disappointed after all the work they did today.

Sagan rides his bike into the green room, he probably can't walk. It's confirmed, he's 2" down on Alaphilippe in GC, with Henao at 33" and Dombrowksi in fourth.

1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 03:42:13
2 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 00:00:23
3 Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky 00:00:23
4 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 00:00:36
5 Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory Racing 00:00:45
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:00:47
7 Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 00:00:53
8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:01:00
9 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky 00:01:17
10 Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:01:26

General classification after stage 7

Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 25:58:21
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:00:02
3 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 00:00:33
4 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 00:01:10
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:01:11
6 Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 00:01:12
7 Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky 00:01:19
8 Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory Racing 00:01:20
9 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky 00:01:40
10 Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 00:02:06

Tomorrow's 105km stage from LA to Pasadena is flat flat flat, they'll have some rolling hills around the finishing circuits but nothing to favor the climbers. It should make for a far more exciting final stage than we normally see here.

Come back tomorrow for the early stage - starting 9:15PDT and finishing just two and a half short hours later.

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