May 17th, ’14. New Zealand’s George Bennett put in a brilliant performance on the tough mountain finish in stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California. The Kiwi finished 9th on the stage from Santa Clarita to Mountain High as Orica GreenEdge’s Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio took the win; continuing the Orica GreenEdge run of form of late.
May 17th, ’14. New Zealand’s George Bennett put in a brilliant performance on the tough mountain finish in stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California. The Kiwi finished 9th on the stage from Santa Clarita to Mountain High as Orica GreenEdge’s Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio took the win; continuing the Orica GreenEdge run of form of late. Chaves Rubio finished ahead of David De La Cruz Melgarejo of Team NetApp-Endura and Thomas Danielson of Garmin-Sharp in the finale. Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky finished ahead of his closest rival – Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis – while also rounding out the top 5 overall to all but secure overall victory with two substantially less taxing days remaining.
The break of the day established itself after 25km of the race with six riders jumping off the front. Tom Danielson, De La Cruz and Chaves Rubio were joined by Jack Bobridge of Belkin Pro Cycling, Christopher Jones of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling and Javier Megias Leal of Team Novo Nordisk. With more than 50km covered the six already enjoyed 4.20mins of advantage over the peloton with not a huge amount of action to be spoken of; although Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish did crash on one corner, he was quickly back up and in the peloton though. Although none of the riders in the break posed an enormous threat to Wiggins’ overall lead Jonathan Clarke was sitting in third place in the mountains classification. It was also advantage Garmin-Sharp with Tom Danielson in the break, his presence meant that Garmin-Sharp would not need to take responsibility for any chase efforts.
With 60km remaining the peloton held the break at 3.30mins as the roads were set to kick onwards and upwards from here on in. The gap continued to hover for a few more kilometres before the peloton began to claw back the gap. The breakaway continued to work hard together though as they started the climb up Mountain High. The average gradient for the climb is 6.3% with the final run to the finish being significantly less taxing than that of stage three. With an anticipated showdown between Bradley Wiggins and Rohan Dennis it was expected that Wiggins might have the upper hand here, with the flatter sections of the climb in stage 3 seeing him in brilliant form and really forcing the pace.
As the gap closed to the leaders, the men who had been out front all this time began to feel the bite of the climb and it started to become clear who had the legs and who didn’t. After taking mountains points along the route Christopher Jones was one of the early riders to drop off the pace, as was Javier Megias. As the riders went through 8km to go the lead to the peloton continued to shrink as Team Sky set the pace at the head of the bunch. Ben King of Cannondale had tried to bridge across from the peloton to the leaders but the increasing pressure from the bunch saw him brought back to heel. With 6km remaining the remnants of the breakaway had 2.05mins in hand on the Sky-led peloton, with Sky’s Josh Edmondson and Joe Dombrowski being prominent on the front in their work for Bradley Wiggins. So hard was their work, in fact, that the ‘peloton’ was now only 10-15 strong in the final stages.
With less than 5km to go Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio saw his opportunity to attack. None of his breakaway companions could respond and so Chaves Rubio simply carried on solo, building a lead of 15 seconds over his nearest challenger, which was now David De La Cruz Melgarejo; who had shaken off Thomas Danielson. Behind them Sky’s Joe Dombrowski worked persistently for Bradley Wiggins right up until the final two kilometres, leaving his leader just 2km to race on his own and defend his lead against his rivals. But no one could put time into him. As the peloton caught up to Danielson and Belkin’s Jack Bobridge, Rubio soloed to victory. Wiggins finished behind Orica GreenEdge’s Adam Yates, the two Brits finishing 53 seconds behind Rubio. Two seconds later Rohan Dennis crossed the line.
George Bennett came home a minute and a quarter behind Rubio, having kept the pace with the Wiggins group brilliantly for much of the climb and only being dropped very late in the stage. Bennett’s ride was enough to cement his top 15 performance in the GC. Jesse Sergent of Trek Factory Racing rounded out the top 50, leading home a group that contained Taylor Phinney of BMC Racing, and GreenEdge teammates Matthew Hayman and Matthew Goss.
Tomorrow’s stage, although testing in the mid-section, shouldn’t see too much change in the overall standings with the last 50km being almost entirely downhill or flat. Santa Clarita to Psadena is the route the riders will be tackling, and all 142.8km in between. If Wiggins and his Sky teammates can successfully defend the jersey over the climbs and not be caught out by any surprises they ought to win the race outright. Expect to see someone like Peter Sagan close to the front again, but stage 7 might also suit a breakaway so keep your eyes open!
By: Ed Wright