The final weekend of the 10th anniversary Amgen Tour of California began in Ontario with 133 cyclists and ended with one solo rider, 22-year-old SRAM Best Young Rider Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) of Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team, claiming the stage win and overall race lead at the 6,347-foot summit of Mt. Baldy.
With Sprint and finish line bonus points on offer tomorrow, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan (SVK), who was leading the race 45 seconds ahead of Alaphilippe this morning, is still in contention to win the 8-stage event. His committed ride in the leader group up the slopes of Mt. Baldy leaves him just two seconds down on the new race leader.
An early breakaway of six included BMC Racing Team’s Daniel Oss (ITA) and MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung’s Johann Van Zyl (RSA), a three-time Under 23 South African Champion (two road race, one time trial). Today was Oss’ third in the breakaway, having spent more than 10 hours and 200 miles in front of the peloton this week. He’s been chipping away at the King of the Mountain (KOM) competition, finally taking the jersey today from Hincapie Racing Team’s Toms Skujins (LAT) after breasting the 9-mile Glendora Mountain Road (“GMR”) climb first. Skujins led the race after Tuesday until yesterday when Sagan took the lead with a blazing time trial ride.
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
In the final 20 mostly uphill miles, Team Sky rode at the front of the peloton in support of their Columbian climber Sergio Luis Henao Montoya and kicked up the pace trying to shake riders, especially race leader Sagan, who matched the brisk climb with no problem. Two and a half hours into the race, Van Zyl attacked Oss to take the solo lead for a brief time before they were both reabsorbed on the final 15 miles.
The lead group of just over 25 rode together to the final Mt. Baldy climb, including the youngest cyclist in the race, 19-year-old Geoffrey Curran (USA) of Axeon Cycling Team, as well as the general classification contenders like 2012 race champion Robert Gesink (NED) of Team LottoNL-Jumbo, who shored up the yellow jersey with a win on this same route. In the overall standings at the start of the day, more than half of the top-10 cyclists in the general classification were strong climbers, with most separated by less than a minute.
Mt. Baldy’s 15 switchbacks delivered the cyclists to the summit finish after a climb gaining 3,022 feet in elevation at grades up to 17 percent. The 4.3-mile HC climb almost seems straight uphill. About a mile into it, Team Sky’s Henao attacked, and Alaphilippe answered.
The two toiled up the mountain together, varying the pace and gaining seconds over the rest of the group. With less than 2.5 miles left to ride, Alaphilippe pulled ahead and off to a solo win (3:42:13), his first of the season. Henao finished the stage next with teammate Ian Boswell (USA) (+:23), then Team Cannondale-Garmin’s Joseph Dombrowski (USA) (+:36) and Austrian National Champion Riccardo Zoidl of Trek Factory Racing (+:XX). Sagan pulled over the line in sixth (+:47).
The race conclusion tomorrow will air live on NBC from 10 a.m.-noon PDT (1-3 p.m. EDT). Alaphilippe leads Sagan by two seconds overall. Henao is in third (+:33) followed by Dombrowski (+1:10) and Gesink (+1:11). The race will come down to tomorrow’s Sprint points, including those awarded at the finish line. The Sprint points competition also will be decided tomorrow with Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team’s Mark Cavendish (GBR) leading Sagan by six seconds.
STAGE 7 PODIUM
1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
2. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (COL), Team Sky
3. Ian Boswell (USA), Team Sky
STAGE 7 JERSEY WINNERS
- Amgen Race Leader Jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
- Visit California Sprint Jersey: Mark Cavendish (GBR), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team
- Lexus King of the Mountain Jersey: Daniel Oss (ITA), BMC Racing Team
- Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey: Lachlan David Morton (AUS), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
- SRAM Best Young Rider Jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team