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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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,

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

49km remaining from 128km

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.

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.

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

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

39km remaining from 128km

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

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

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

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.

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.

31km remaining from 128km

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

It's all about power to weight ratio now.

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

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

14km remaining from 128km

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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

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

3km remaining from 128km

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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