In Stage 6 in San Jose today, BMC Racing Team’s Tejay van Garderen (Boulder, CO) conquered the most challenging individual time trial course in the history of the Amgen Tour of California to retain his Amgen Race Leader Jersey for a second day. His determined ride bested five national time trial champions of their respective countries to take the stage with a time of 48:52, which increased his overall race lead to 1:47 over 2010 Amgen Tour of California champion Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Saxo-Tinkoff, with just two stages left to ride.
The 19.6-mile time trial course in Silicon Valley was fittingly punctuated by peaks and valleys, including a steep 1.8-mile climb at the end of the race, which gained 1,001-feet of elevation. The difficult climb featured several pitches at more than a 10 percent grade, and added an extra layer of difficulty especially for the sprinters, who are used to the time trial serving as a sprinting battleground. The steep finish faced riders with an equipment conundrum, having to decide whether to continue the climb on a lighter time trial bike, or take the time to switch to a road bike that could make up precious seconds uphill. van Garderen, who held onto a definitive lead throughout the entire course, chose to ride to the finish on his time trial bike, which aided in his becoming the only rider to post a time under 49 minutes.
Photos © Darrell Parks
“I knew I could produce power on my time trial bike so I just put that out of the equation. I didn’t reconsider my decision. It was a very interesting route the Amgen Tour of California chose. Very dynamic – had a little bit of everything,” said van Garderen, who finished fifth overall in last year’s Tour de France. “There were never very many moments in the race to recover. You started on a big climb, then up another climb, and the only time to recover was a technical descent, but you’re holding your breath trying not to crash. The long straight headwind section was harder than the climb itself.”
Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team’s resident national time trial champion Lieuwe Westra (NED), who wore the yellow jersey after Stage 1, finished in second place 23 seconds behind van Garderen with a time of 49:15, with Team Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis (AUS) in a close third-place finish another five seconds back (49:20).
Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers (AUS), a three-time world time trial champion, placed fourth today (+1.05) to bring him to (+1:47) off the lead in the overall contest heading into a brutal day of climbing tomorrow before the race finale Sunday. Rogers’ ride today garnered him the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
“Sure, we will make a go at it tomorrow and see if I can pick up time but we have to be realistic; Tejay is in the shape of his life,” said Rogers. “I feel I had a pretty good ride today and he finished more than a minute ahead of me.”
Noticeably absent from the board was five-time U.S. national time trial champion David Zabriskie of Team Garmin-Sharp, who sustained a broken clavicle during reconnaissance this morning and did not start in today’s stage. Zabriskie is also four-times runner up in the Amgen Tour of California.
Today’s stage saw no changes to the other leader jerseys: Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK) will continue in the Visit California Sprint Jersey; BISSELL Pro Cycling’s Carter Jones (Boulder, Colo.) continues to hold onto the Nissan King of the Mountain Jersey, which he’s worn since the first day of racing; and Bontrager Cycling Team’s 21-year-old Lawson Craddock (Austin, Texas) will once again don the Crunchies Best Young Rider Jersey, which he claimed in Stage 2.
Just prior to the start of the men’s time trial, 15 of the fastest women professional cyclists in the world faced off on the same course for the annual Amgen Tour of California Women’s Time Trial. Favorites for the day included Specialized-lululemon’s Evelyn Stevens (USA), who took the silver medal in the world time trial championships last year, and U.S. national time trial champion Amber Neben, who suffered a crash descending around a tight corner and did not finish the course. Stevens crossed the finish with a time of 55:49 to earn the top spot on the podium. Alison Powers (USA), riding for NOW and Novartis for MS, claimed second place (56:46) for the second consecutive year, and Exergy Twenty16’s Kristin McGrath (USA) took third (57:12).
“You’ve just got to go and push through it. You just have to go as hard as you can,” said Stevens of the win.
Now in its eighth year, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California is running south to north for the first time, covering nearly 750 miles of California’s most scenic highways, roadways and coastlines over eight days, concluding in Santa Rosa, Calif., May 19. With one of the most difficult courses in race history, 111 elite cyclists (127 riders began the race, though several have been eliminated or abandoned due to time cuts, injury or illness) will compete through 12 Host Cities and 60,000 feet of climbing, a record for the race, including a first-time summit finish at Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area.
An important partner since the race’s inception, Amgen returns this year as the race title sponsor.
“For more than 30 years, Amgen has tapped the power of pioneering science and innovation to discover, develop and deliver innovative human therapeutics,” said Rolf Hoffmann, senior vice president of U.S. Commercial Operations at Amgen. “That’s why Amgen is proud to sponsor the Amgen Tour of California and to continue Breakaway from Cancer as a vehicle to raise awareness of the important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship.”
Amgen created the national Breakaway from Cancer initiative in 2005 as a complementary component to its sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California. Through Breakaway from Cancer, Amgen and its four nonprofit partners offer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals.
Today’s activities featured cancer survivor Robert Swan who fired the official start gun to begin the stage, and cancer advocate Giovanna Baldassare had the honor of awarding Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
STAGE 7 TOMORROW, PRESENTED BY NISSAN:
Saturday, May 18 – Livermore to Mt. Diablo Summit Finish (91.4 mi/147.1 km)
Start Time: 11:35 a.m. PT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:48 p.m. PT
This is the stage that spectators and racers have been asking to see for the past seven years. In all likelihood, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California will be won or lost on the climb to the peak of Mt. Diablo. The 91-mile route will feature Morgan Territory Road, one of the more spectacular roads the race has ever used. The race will also return to Patterson Pass Road and its infamous “wall” climb before returning to Livermore for the first Sprint of the day. The route to Mt. Diablo from Livermore is the same that was used in 2012, when the crowds were among the largest ever seen along a mountain route for the race. In 2013, the race will add an additional five miles of climbing to the actual summit. Mt. Diablo has one of the greatest viewscape of any mountain in California – on a clear day you can see nearly 200 miles in any direction. The racing, as well as the views, should be epic as the peloton toils to the finish.