Posted by Editoress on 02/19/09
Our coverage of the Amgen Tour of California made possible with the support of Shimano
Mark Cavendish made it two-for-two on stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California, easily outstripping rival Tom Boonen (Quick Step), with Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Rabobank) taking the third spot on the podium. The overall saw no changes, as the top contenders all rolled across the line together.
This was the longest stage of the race, at 216 kilometres. It was prairie flat for the first 90 kilometres out of Visalia, followed by a slow, steady upward tilt of the road for the next 60 kilometres. The altitude topped out at 500 metres, but it was so gradual that no KoM was awarded, and almost no one was dropped. Once over the highest point, it was rolling for 40 kilometres before a steady descent into the finish in Paso Robles.
The rain again stayed away, and it actually began to heat up significantly, with temperatures topping out at nearly 20 degrees Celcius. The rain is even expected to hold off now for tomorrow's time trial.
The obligatory break went at the 11 kilometre mark, with six riders getting clear: Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Jeff Louder (BMC), Cam Evans (Ouch p/b Maxxis), Matthew Crane (Jelly Belly), Curtis Gunn (Fly V Australia) and Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing).
By the feedzone at the end of the flat section the group was nearly seven minutes up on disinterested peloton led by Astana. In the early part of the climb the gap went up to almost eight minutes (Weening was the virtual Yellow Jersey), but cracks were starting to appear, as both Louder and Gunn dropped off the group.
Astana continued to apply steady, relentless pressure, and with ten kilometres to go the gap was below 90 seconds, and Team Columbia-High Road was ready to start setting things up for Cavendish. Just under five kilometres from the finish the break was finally swallowed up. The sprint teams began to set up their trains, but Tim Johnson (Ouch p/b Maxxis) tried to derail things with a late attack, followeded by Jens Voigt (Cervelo). However, they were both brought back, and Team Columbia delivered Cavendish and his leadout man Mark Renshaw into perfect position for the Isle of Man rider to explode off the front of the peloton with 200 metres to go.
- We spoke briefly with Cam Evans about the whole DQ'd - not DQ'd incident [for holding onto a vehicle], and the subsequent fine and time penalty for supposedly drafting behind a team vehicle for an extended period.
"The holding on was completely wrong, because I wasn't back there [among the vehicles] at all. The drafting thing I didn't even know about until you told me, but my team manager says that they [officials] say that I was drafting in the vehicles on one of the downhill sections, which I don't remember happening. But, I'm just happy to still be in the race at this point."
- AToC organizer AEG is saying that they have now surpassed the one million spectator mark. While claims in previous years raised quite a few eyebrows, this number could quite easily be true for the current edition. The crowds on the finishing routes are impressive, and the climbs - even in the miserable weather - were large.
- Tomorrow's time trial will likely be the crucial stage. The first 16 riders are within 53 seconds of the lead, however, the real battle is likely to be between current leader Levi Leipheimer (Astana), second placed Michael Rogers (Team Columbia-High Road) at 24 seconds and third placed David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) at 28 seconds. All of these riders are time trial experts. A further bit of intrigue will be how well Lance Armstrong (Astana) does - sitting in fourth at 30 seconds, Armstrong used to be the best in the world at stage race time trialling.
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