Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan, the winningest cyclist of the Amgen Tour of California, seized the overall race lead along with the Individual Time Trial at the 10th annual race.
Due to snow at Big Bear Lake on the original time trial course, the Amgen Tour of California Time Trial, presented by Lexus, moved to Santa Clarita and Six Flags Magic Mountain. The blistering fast and flat 6.6-mile course saw a lot of action today, hosting both the Men’s and Women’s Time Trial events.
In the men’s event, the fairly short course with virtually no elevation made the winner difficult to predict – would it be a specialist rider, or someone looking to take over the general classification with the valuable time bonus for placing first today?
The 2010 Dutch Time Trial Champion Jos Van Emden (Team JumboNL-Lotto) laid down a phenomenal time of 12:46 early in the day, which kept him in first place for nearly two hours. Not until (second to last rider) Sagan’s determined ride was Van Emden unseated by 15 seconds, though several other riders came very close: 22-year-old SRAM Best Young Rider Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team placed third (+19); BMC Racing Team’s Joseph Rosskopf (USA) came in fourth (+:20) and Sagan’s teammate Daniele Bennati (ITA) finished fifth (+:22). Other favorites for the day, two-time U.S. National Time Trial Champion Tom Zirbel of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies and Team Sky’s Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (COL), finished sixth and seventh respectively (+:26).
“Today, my biggest objective was to take the leader jersey,” said Sagan, who increased his career Amgen Tour of California stage wins to 13 today. “I wanted to do my best for today, and I am very happy for the victory and also for the yellow jersey.”
Today’s time trial result set up a tight leader board for both the overall win and the jersey competitions. Sagan has won the Sprint points competition for five years running and will be battling Sunday to earn the lead back from Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team.
In the general classification, the top-9 cyclists are separated by less than one minute. Sagan’s performance today puts him in the overall lead by 28 seconds. However, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to defend the yellow jersey on tomorrow’s mountainous stage as many are waiting in the wings to strike, including former race champion Robert Gesink (NED) of TeamLottoNL-Jumbo, who remains in the general classification top-10 by placing ninth today. Toms Skujins (LAT), Hincapie Racing Team’s 23-year old rider who has led the field since Tuesday, slipped to second place overall (+:28) after today’s time trial. Alaphilippe is nearby in third (+:45).
“Tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes… In the end, it will come down to those last 7k,” said Skujins of his chances of taking back the Amgen Race Leader Jersey tomorrow. “Right now I’m feeling good, but tomorrow’s another day… I’m looking forward to tomorrow and trying to move up in the GC that one spot.”
WOMEN’S INVITATIONAL TIME TRAIL LED THE DAY OFF
Prior to the men’s Individual Time Trial, 22 of the best women time trialists in the world rode one-by-one from the Six Flags Magic Mountain parking lot and back at the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Invitational Time Trial empowered with SRAM. The race was ranked 1.1 by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the highest race classification behind a World Cup.
The strongest assembly of women cyclists in race history, the roster of the fifth annual women’s Invitational Time Trial included past race winners and World, National and Olympic Champions. The podium took shape late in the race with 2013 Amgen Tour of California Champion and two-time National Time Trial Champion (2010, 2011) Evelyn Stevens, also part of the reigning Team Time Trial World Champion team, second to last to leave the starting gate. Racing for Boels Dolmans, she blazed to a time of 14:12, dispatching Team TIBCO-SVB’s Lauren Stephens, who ended up second by four seconds.
“Today was incredible. I live in California, so to race in my home state is really special… And just to go bombing through the gate to Six Flags [Magic Mountain] was really fun,” said Stevens. “It’s really special to be out here and to race on the same day as the men with all these amazing fans… It’s just a sign that women’s cycling is continuing to grow.”
American riders took the top-5 slots today. Two-time Amgen Tour of California Time Trial winner and Olympic Champion Kristin Armstrong’s ride earned her third place (+:7). Amber Neben, who has held multiple national and world titles in road racing and time trial, finished in fourth for Visit Dallas p/b Noise 4 Good (+:8) with Velocio-SRAM’s Tayler Wiles, who placed third in last year’s Amgen Tour of California Invitational Time Trial, taking fifth (+:9). Velocio-SRAM’s Lisa Brennauer (GER), reigning Individual and Team Time Trial World Champion, ended the day in eighth place (+:21).
STAGE 6 PODIUM – WOMEN
1. Evelyn Stevens (14:12)
2. Lauren Stephens (+:4)
3. Kristin Armstrong (+:7)
STAGE 6 PODIUM – MEN
1. Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff-Saxo
2. Jos Van Emden (NED), Team JumboNL-Lotto
3. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
STAGE 6 JERSEY WINNERS
- Amgen Race Leader Jersey: Peter Sagan (SVK), Tinkoff-Saxo
- Visit California Sprint Jersey: Mark Cavendish (GBR), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
- Lexus King of the Mountain Jersey: Toms Skujins (LAT), Hincapie Racing Team
- Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey: Danilo Wyss (SUI), BMC Racing Team
- SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
Photo © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com