Posted by Editoress on 02/17/09
Our coverage of the Amgen Tour of California made possible with the support of Shimano
On Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California the sprinters finally had a chance to show their stuff, and it was Thor Hushovd, winning for his new Cervelo team, who proved to be the quickest. There was no change to the GC standings, as most of the peloton rolled in together.
However, the continued brutal wet and windy conditions are beginning to take their toll, with nine riders dropping out, and another three disqualified for hanging on to vehicles on the climb for an extended period of time - including Cam Evans (Ouch p/b Maxxis).
The 168 kilometre stage headed east from San Jose to Modesto, and started with the Category 1 climb up Sierra Road that is usually the finish to a stage. This time, the riders went almost instantly from the neutral flat section out of San Jose into a 600m (1930 ft) mountain climb. Of course, it was also raining hard with a cold wind.
Four riders broke clear prior to the climb - Brad White (Ouch), Jeff Louder (BMC), Brian Vandborg (Liquigas) and Bauke Mollema (Rabobank). Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) briefly bridged up to them to take the KoM points before dropping back to the field.
The four carved out a lead of up to six minutes, but Astana was monitoring the gap carefully, and once the race got with 50 kilometres of the finish, the sprinter teams went to the front to pull things back.
Coming into Modesto, Louder attacked the rest of his break companions and only Mollema could follow. The peloton was less than 40 seconds back, but the duo made them work for it, and they were only caught in the final two kilometres. Cervelo seemed to be the only team properly organized for the sprint, with Hushovd crediting Dom Rollin and Brett Lancaster for the successful leadout.
The new team has never practiced leadouts, according the Hushovd, but it appeared to go almost perfectly, with Hushovd coming off Lancaster's wheel with 150 metres to go and immediately opening a gap. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was a bike length behind, with Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia-High Road) third. The favourite, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-High Road) could only manage fifth, and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was a distant 13th. Both were already struggling on the first climb, so the hard stages are taking their toll on the sprinters.
- There were lots of crashes, including Leipheimer taking himself out by running into Armstrong's wheel when the peloton was moving slowly along a straight section. He rejoined immediately, however, three crashes were more serious, leading to abandonments:
Teddy King (Cervelo) - fracture to the upper humerous, crashed in neutral section.
Ian MacGregor (Team Type 1) - stitches to chin and shin after shooting off the road in a turn on the first descent and hitting a truck (see photos).
Omer Kem (Bissell) - multiple contusions, no fractures. Also on the first descent.
- Tomorrow's 186 kilometre stage will again hurt the sprinters, with 5 KoMs in the first 111 kilometres. however, the forecast is for slightly better weather.
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