May 16th, ’14. Once again the peloton seem to have been caught napping in the Amgen Tour of California, but this time the time gaps were much shorter as Taylor Phinney won the fifth stage of the race from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara.
May 16th, ’14. Once again the peloton seem to have been caught napping in the Amgen Tour of California, but this time the time gaps were much shorter at the end of the 174km stage 5 from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara. BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney gave the team further reason to cheer after Cadel Evans’ performance in stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia; the American time trial specialist crossed the line while taking a bow as the solo stage winner of the day. The sprint behind him saw Mark Cavendish absent but Peter Sagan of Cannondale most present, just edging Matthew Goss of Orica GreenEdge for second place.
Having apparently learnt their lesson after the previous day, the peloton were much less willing to give any sort of leeway to a breakaway; but that didn’t stop a small group establishing a 2 minute advantage before the major climb of the day up the San Marcos Pass. Danny van Poppel of Trek Factory Racing took off alongside Michael Schar of BMC Racing, Maarten Wynants of Belkin Pro Cycling, Isaac Bolivar of UnitedHealthcare, Iker Camano of NetApp-Endura and Serghei Tvetcov of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis.
Although the day ended with a large downhill to flat section, the major hurdle of the day was expected to dictate whether the day would end in a bunch sprint. Peter Sagan was favourite for the win, with efficient climbing credentials for a sprinter and the likes of New Zealand’s George Bennett to hand, it would be interesting to see how much of a role the boys in green would play on the San Marcos Pass. The answer came swiftly with Cannondale leading the peloton by the scruff of the neck up the climb and ridding a good portion of the field off of their wheels, leaving a much smaller peloton bunched together at the top of the climb with 30km still to cover. Bradley Wiggins was still safely in the main field though, as was stage 4’s winner William Routley of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies who took maximum points over the top of the climb.
And so at this stage it looked like the field would be settling in for a bunch sprint, with the big hurdle successfully negotiated. But Taylor Phinney had other ideas. The American took off on the descent of the San Marco Pass, a descent he knows well. From there it was a matter of time trialling to victory; no easy feat with a 40-strong peloton still on his heels. Still, Phinney gained an advantage of 25 seconds, and even stretched his lead to 40 seconds as it started to look like once again the peloton might have misjudged its efforts. Cannondale had used man power on the climb, Sky were looking after Bradley Wiggins and saw no threat in allowing Taylor Phinney to get away, Orica GreenEdge weren’t abundant in numbers and Omega Pharma-Quick Step didn’t have Mark Cavendish in the bunch. Whatever the reason the peloton couldn’t rally together and although they did manage to close the gap it was too little, too late.
Looking over his shoulder Taylor Phinney time trialled home, sitting up with a few metres to go to savour the win; one he will not be forgetting in a hurry. Afterwards he said, “I kind of pinpointed this race as a target, as a stage I could do well in, I was nervous about the climb. I was nervous about the heat. Once we got on the climb, I knew I was going to be able to stay with the group and at least sprint for top three and maybe get on the podium again. But to do what I did is kind of one of those things where you get to the finish and you’re like, ‘how did I do that?’ and ‘why did I do that?’
After his work early on in the stage George Bennett still had the legs to come home in the main peloton while Jesse Sergent of Trek Factory Racing finished at the head of the large chase group.
Tomorrow is set to be the race-decider, with the final big mountain stage of this year’s Tour of California; and what a stage it’s set to be! 151.8km between Santa Clarita and Mountain High will see the field go from 400m above sea level to over 2000m, with three climbs to take on including the long climb of some 30km to the finish. Expect to see George Bennett close to the head of affairs as Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky will likely come under a great deal of attack from the other climbers in the race in their last serious obstacle of the Tour.
By: Ed Wright