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"I started the stage feeling pretty average but I really turned it on in the last 500 meters and was happy with my ninth place finish. I think I’m in good condition to help Peter succeed over the next two days.”

Photo: Sirotti




17.05.2014 @ 15:32 Posted by Andy Pedersen

There was one thing certain when the pack rolled out of Santa Clarita to tackle Stage Six of the Amgen Tour of California; it was going to be a barn burner. Not only did the mountain top finish at Mountain High 156.1km (97mi) away mean that the favorites for overall victory would be throwing down with all their might, but that the temperature was certain to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C) for most of the day.


With Peter Sagan comfortably ensconced in the Green Jersey of points leader, Cannondale Pro Cycling could almost enjoy the day. So long as none of his rivals for green got into an early breakaway, the team largely just needed to finish, and keep themselves from dehydrating or getting sunburned. They have bigger objectives over the next two days. One Cannondale rider couldn’t rest. Their young Kiwi, George Bennett. As a climber, this was one of his few chances to shine in California.


A break of six went up the road early. Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp), Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge), Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team), Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team), David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura), and Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk) escaped the clutches of the peloton. The composition was important, as Danielson, Chaves, and De La Cruz, all had teammates in contention for overall victory. It gave those teams reason not to help Team Sky of race leader Bradley Wiggins when Sky wanted to chase.


The break gobbled up both intermediate sprints, and both early climbs. They were even far enough ahead, four minutes at one point, that a few of the riders were virtually ahead of the race leader. But everyone knew Sky would hunt them down.


The final climb is a brute. For most of the final 27km (16.8mi), the road tilts uphill. Sky kept up a hard tempo, shedding riders off the back. Bennett and teammate Kristijan Koren held on as riders overheated, overtired, and dropped anchor. Garmin played some team games to see if they could crack Wiggins. The pace only increased.


Up front, Chaves dropped everyone. Behind, Wiggins was meeting every attack thrown at him. Eventually Koren wilted. Bennett hung tough until the final kilometer (.62mi), when he was the last rider to get dropped from Wiggins group.


Chaves won. Wiggins finished fifth and lost no time to his main rivals. Bennett came in ninth, losing 22 seconds to Wiggins, but cementing his fourteenth place overall.


Bennett showed once again that he can climb with the best, proof that he’s developing as a rider.


“Today was good—I excel on stages like today when it’s hard all day. I started the stage feeling pretty average but I really turned it on in the last 500 meters and was happy with my ninth place finish. I think I’m in good condition to help Peter succeed over the next two days.”


Koren was also pleased with his result, 21st.


“Climbing is my strength, and I felt especially strong in the last ten kilometers. I went a lot faster than I thought I could and I helped George keep good position.”


For Stage Seven, the riders again start in Santa Clarita for another day of climbing in the desert. Only here, the climbs are a bit easier, there’s a long descent into Pasadena, and three circuits in downtown Pasadena before the finish. Sprint points are in Acton, the first Pasadena circuit, and the third and final Pasadena circuit for 142.8km (88.7mi). This is a course that Sagan can rock, and with the descent far enough from the finish, it’s unlikely that another person will try to escape on the drop to Pasadena



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