February 23/06 11:38 am - Tour of California: Stage 4 Report and Photos
Posted by Editoress on 02/23/06
Tour of California
Reports made possible by the support of MAXXIS tires
To no one's surprise, stage four of the Amgen Tour of California came down to a sprint finish, with Toyota United's speedster JJ Haedo taking his second win of the Tour, and the Sprint Jersey. Overall, race leader Floyd Landis (Phonak) finished comfortably in the pack, and there was no change to the top of the general classification.
This was the longest stage of the Tour, at 210.7 kilometres, and possibly the most scenic; heading south from Monterey along the Pacific Coast Highway and through such famous areas as Carmel and Big Sur. Unfortunately, the riders didn't get much chance to enjoy the sights, with attacks beginning almost immediately, and not letting up for the first half of the race. The statistics tell the tale: nearly 50 kilometres covered in the first hour (which included a Category 4 climb), and an average speed for the entire stage of 44.8 kilometres an hour for the entire distance.
Landis had said the day before, after donning the leader's jersey, that he expected other teams to be aggressive, and they were. It took a while for a break to establish itself, but finally two riders got away at the 98 kilometre mark- David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and Lars Bak (CSC). They were joined in twos and threes over the next eight kilometres by nine other riders: André Greipel (T-Mobile), Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Hayden Roulston (Health Net-Maxxis), Glen Chadwick (Navigators), Davide Frattini and Mark McCormack (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home), Jean Marc Marino (Crédit Agricole) and Craig Lewis (TIAA-CREF). (Note: in-race reporting had some incorrect names in the break, such as Tom Danielson)
Phonak wasn't willing to expend the energy to chase this group, since no one was threat. However, this didn't suit the sprinters' squads (and they didn't want to expend the energy either). So, according to Davitamon-Lotto's Freddie Rodriguez "Chris (Horner) made a good tactical move by going up to the break, which forced Phonak to chase." Horner's jump occurred just after Landis had to come back up from receiving service for front wheel problems.
Horner was only 2:17 down on GC, and too serious a threat to ignore. While the break never managed to get more than 1:15 over the peloton, it was too much for Phonak, and they began to reel it in. At 155 kilometres there were only six riders left in the front group, and ten kilometres later it was down to two - Gusev and Chadwick. This pair hung on until the bitter end, and were only reeled in with less than ten kilometres to go.
Toyota-United had gone to the front to help at this point, as had some other sprint squads. The Davitamon-Lotto squad set up a train for Rodriguez, but Haedo and his team had done their preparation:
"We had a team meeting last night to discuss the finish. We used Google Earth last night to see the finish (Google Earth provides satellite images) and knew that the last corner was tight.
I think Gord (Fraser - Health Net) was second coming into the corner behind Freddie, but they had to brake too hard so I could come up on the inside. I came out of the corner with the inside line on Freddie's wheel and saw the 200 Metre sign, so I said ' Okay, I've got to go now.' "
Haedo began celebrating a little early, and almost got caught on the line as Rodriguez dived by on the left, but the victory was his.
- Is Haedo the fastest man in the race? "I can't say that ... you can say that..." He is an ex-trackie, with multiple Argentine medals and Pan Am medals. His specialty was the Kilo, "so I can go long in the sprint." Given the interest the Euros are showing in him, he may not be long for North America.
- Practically all of the sprinters were dropped on the first KoM and had to fight back on the descent - something doubly difficult for Haedo, since he flatted on the descent.
- Colavita-Sutter had problems with two of their riders crashing. Zach Grabowski crashed in the first 10 kilometres and is out of the race. Tyler Wren crashed in the final 60 necessitating a bike change and had a long, lonely ride into the finish, but made the time cut.
- One rider who didn't make the time cut was Martin Gilbert (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada), who is now out of the race.
- Tomorrow's stage is 169.4 kilometres long, and runs from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara. The race stays away from the coast (and the on shore winds), but there are a series of climbs, culminating in the Category 1 climb over San Marcos Pass at over 2000 feet (610m). While it is a tough climb, it is expected to be less decisive then the Stage 2 Sierra Road one. This climb is longer (7.5 kilometres versus 6 kilometres) but considerably shallower (5% as compared to 8%).
Landis: "The climb tomorrow doesn't appear to be long enough or hard enough to be really selective, so we will only have to watch a limited number of riders."
- The race organization is saying that the total number of spectators thus far is at 680,000. This puts them on track to have their hoped for million by the final day.