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Colombian drops Van Garderen inside the last kilometer on a 14% slope to take a huge solo win and the overall leader in sweltering heat

Photo: Sirotti






14.05.2013 @ 00:48 Posted by Frederik Palle Pedersen

In the first tough uphill finish in this year's Tour of California Janier Acevedo upset the world elite and left behind riders like Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthCare), Mathias Frank (BMC) and Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) on the steep slopes up to the finish line. After two days of racing the  Colombian from the domestic Jamis team now finds himself in the overall lead of America's biggest race with a 12-second gap to Van Garderen who confirmed his status of favourite for the overall win.


If the many world stars in the Tour of California have had the time, it would have been a good idea for them to go through the results in the recent Tour of the Gila whose mountainous course makes it the perfect preparation race for the domestic American teams ahead of their biggest season objective, the Tour of California. If they have done so, they  will have noticed how Janier Acevedo crushed the competition in the tough mountaintop finish in stage 1.


Otherwise, they may very well have been very surprised to find the Colombian at the pointy end of the race in yesterday's first big battle between the favourites for the overall win in the Tour of California. The 199,7km stage finished was raced in sweltering heat and finished with a leg-breaking  6,4km climb with an average gradient of 9,7% and a last km kicking up at no less than 14%.


Catching the day's early break right at the bottom of the climb it was race and home favourite Tejay Van Garderen who took things into his own hands as he asked world champion Philippe Gilbert to set the pace on the lower slopes of the climb. Some way shy of his best form the Belgian was unable to provide his service for long and he quickly dropped off to leave around 20 riders in the front group.


Laurent Didier (Radioshack) was the first to attack but he was unable to get clear and for a moment there was some kind of hesitation among the favourites. Instead it was the NetApp-Endura team who moved to the front. The German team had done plenty of work in the early part of the race and hoped that their young Czech talent Leopold König could shine on the steep slopes.


Behind riders were being dropped thick and fast. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Andy Schleck (Radioshack), race leader Lieuwe Westra and four-time runner-up in California David Zabriskie (Garmin) were just some of the riders unable to keep up with the pace. Up ahead Philip Deignan had no such troubles and he set off on his own with 3km to go to build up a reasonable gap.


Van Garderen now used his last domestique as the Swiss climber Matthias Frank started to chase and he immediately showed his strength. With only around 10 riders left in the group it was now riders like König, Chad Haga (Optum), Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthCare) and yesterday's runner-up Francisco Mancebo (5 Hour Energy) who found the going too tough.


Only 6 riders were now left in the group chasing Deignan with Michael Rogers, Van Garderen, Matthew Busche (Radioshack), Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) and Acevedo all clinching to the wheel of the impressive Frank. Moments later it was too much for Meyer who had to let his rivals go.


With 2,2km to go Acevedo made the first display of strength when he put in an attack with the firm aim of bridging the gap to the lone Deignan. However, the Colombian quickly realized that it would be a waste of energy and he dropped back to the favourites.


With 1,7km to go it was all over for Frank and it was now time for Van Garderen to show his strength. The American race favourite hit the front hard and quickly left Busche behind. When they caught Deignan a few moments later, Rogers also had to give up and last year's best young rider in the Tour de France now only had Acevedo for company.


The Colombian bided his time in Van Garderen's wheel until he stroke with around 800m to go on the steepest part of the climb. Unable to answer Van Garderen was left behind and even though Acevedo seemed to struggle a little bit up ahead, the Colombian was able to keep the gap all the way to the line to take what is the biggest win ever for the long-running Jamis team.


Van Garderen minimized his losses to only 12 seconds while Deignan kept going and only lost 27 seconds in third. Frank was 4th and Rogers 5th. Acevedo is now the race leader with a 12-second gap to Van Garderen.


However, the American race favourite is in a very good position to take the overall win. Acevedo is no strong time triallist and lost the overall win in the Tour of the Gila in the race against the clock. It would be a huge surprise if Van Garderen does not take plenty of time out of the Colombian on the 31,6km time trial on Friday to build up a solid gap ahead of the mountaintop finish on Mount Diablo. Rogers is the closest time trial specialist in the GC but the Australian 2010 winner of the race lost 43 seconds to Van Garderen in yesterday's stage.


The sweltering heat took its toll on the peloton with many riders almost collapsing at the top of the climb and it was another day were hydration as the key to success. The riders will be happy to see the temperatures go somewhat down when they move up towards the northern part of the state and already on Wednesday it should be significantly cooler in what has until now been a torturous hot Tour of California.


The Tour of California continues today with a rolling 177,5km stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita containing 4 categorized climbs. With a long descent to the finish it could be the perfect opportunity for Peter Sagan to take the first victory in a race he dominated with five wins last year.


4 riders on the attack

The 199,7km stage from Murrieta took the riders into the desert to finish in Greater Palm Springs and was always expected to provide the first big showdown between the race favourites. From the gun many of the domestic teams attacked hard in an attempt to join the day's early move.


A few kilometres into the race three of those went clear as Scott Zwizanski (Optum), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis) and Jonathan McCarty (Bissell) moved up the road and they were joined by no less of a figure than Sylvain Chavanal (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). With plenty of firepower in the move it was a surprise to see the gap grow to almost 12 minutes for the second consecutive day until the peloton finally reacted.


The combined efforts of Westra's Vacansoleil team, Cannondale and Champion System started to bring the gap slowly down but the pace was kept modest on the day's first big climb, the category Mountain Center. As soon as they hit the top, it was, however, time for the domestiques to kick into action and the chase was now full on, BMC, Champion System, Saxo-Tinkoff and later also NetApp-Endura all working hard. With Van Garderen, Chris Butler, Rogers and König all four teams hoped to be in the pointy end of the race at today's end.


The escapees attack each other

The gap started to come down at a rapid pace and as it was already down to 3.30 with 24km to go, the breakaway riders knew their destiny and started to attack each other in an attempt to take home the most aggressive rider's jersey. Zwizanski and Jacques-Maynes were the most active with the latter building up a short-lived gap on his companions while Chavanel completely refused to engage in the fun. With 19km to go they were back together and started to cooperate again.


Behind the Optum duo of Marsh Cooper and Jesse Anthony made a strange attack with 15km to go but after dangling a few metres ahead of the peloton for a few kilometres they were brought back into the fold. The battle for position was now intense as they approached the bottom of the day's final climb, BMC taking things into their own hands with Michael Schär and Brent Bookwalter both setting a hard pace.


The pace was already too much on the flat run-in to the climb for riders like Thor Hushovd and Thomas De Gendt who dropped off while the peloton caught the 4-rider move just as they started to climb up towards the finish line. That signaled the start of the huge battle between the favourites from which Acevedo emerged as the strongest climber.



1. Janier Acevedo 5.07.40

2. Tejay Van Garderen +0.12

3. Philip Deignan +0.27

4. Mathias Frank +0.45

5. Michael Rogers +0.55

6. Chad Haga +1.13

7. Matthew Busche +1.15

8. Francisco Mancebo

9. Lawson Craddock +1.32

10. Cameron Meyer +1.40


General classification:

1. Janier Acevedo 5.07.40

2. Tejay Van Garderen +0.12

3. Philip Deignan +0.27

4. Mathias Frank +0.45

5. Michael Rogers +0.55

6. Francisco Mancebo +1.01

7. Chad Haga +1.13

8. Matthew Busche +1.15

9. Lawson Craddock +1.32

10. Cameron Meyer +1.40



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