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A fantastic Phinney attacks on the descent 25km from the line and single-handedly holds off the combined efforts of Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale to take a beautiful solo win in Santa Barbara

Photo: Sirotti












16.05.2014 @ 01:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Taylor Phinney (BMC) denied Peter Sagan (Cannondale) a carefully planned victory in today's fifth stage of the Tour of California when he made a brave solo attack on the final descent 25km from the line and single-handedly held off the hard chase of the Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale teams to take a fantatic solo win. Sagan narrowly beat Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the sprint for second while Bradley Wiggins (Sky) defended his overall lead.


With big climb inside the final 30km and a downhill and flat run to the finish in Santa Barbara, all was set for another Peter Sagan victory in today's fifth stage of the Tour of California and his Cannondale team had made a careful plan to make it happen. Climber George Bennett got the task of dropping all the pure sprinters on the ascent and then Sagan should just beat the remaining riders in the final sprint.


However, they had failed to take Taylor Phinney into consideration as the American had a completely different plan. As soon as the small peloton crested the summit of the climb, he soloed off the front and quickly opened a nice little gap.


Cannondale knew that they could not allow the former silver medalist at the TT Worlds any leeway and so they went straight to the front, with Bennett, Kristijan Koren and Maciej Bodnar giving it their all in a quest to real in the American. However, Phinney kept extending his advantage and it was clear that Cannondale was not strong enough to bring him back.


Matthew Goss had also made it over the climb and the Australian fancied his chances in a sprint against Sagan. The team first put Damien Howson on the front but as they realized that Phinney was still gaining ground, Esteban Chaves, Jens Keukeleire and even 5th placed Adam Yates also started to contribute.


The gap reached a maximum of 40 seconds but as the road flattened, Phinne started to lose ground to the 7 riders that were chasing behind. When he passed the flamme rouge, however, he still had 25 seconds in hand and it became obvious that he was not going to get caught.


Phinney even had time to celebrate his fabulous win that was very similar to the one he took last year in the Tour de Pologne. 12 seconds later Sagan narrowly held off Goss in the sprint for second and again had to settle for a minor position.


Despite the presence of San Marcos Pass in the finale, none of the GC riders attacked race leader Bradley Wiggins who rolled across the line to defend his 28-second advantage over Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp). He faces a much tougher ask in tomorrow's sixth stage which is the final one expected to create some differences in the GC.


The short 151.8km stage starts in Santa Clarita and brings the riders over three smaller climbs before it all comes to an exciting conclusion on the HC ascent, Mountain High. If Wiggins can defend his lead over Dennis in that stage, there is a big chance that he will be crowned overall winner of America's biggest bike race.


A hard stage

After yesterday's scenic trip along Highway 1, it was back into climbing mode in the fifth stage of the race. It brought the riders over 172.9km from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara and was mostly flat. In the finale, however, the riders went up the San Marcos Pass (6.5km, 6%) and from the top, only 26.6km remained to the finish.


Again the riders took off in very hot conditions and all riders that finished yesterday's stage made it to the start. With a lumpy stage, a breakaway was expected to have a solid chance and so it was no surprise to see that the stage was off to a very fast start, with attacks being launched in both sides of the road.


A strong break goes clear

Shortly before the first intermediate sprint which came at the 20km mark, Iker Camano (NetApp-Endura), Maarten Wynants (Belkin), Michael Schär (BMC), Danny Van Poppel (Trek), Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthCare) and Sergei Tvetchov (Jelly Belly) managed to slip clear and they soon got a 2-minute gap. Robbie Squire (Jamis) tried to bridge the gap on his own but soon had to give up and fell back to the peloton.


While Van Poppel beat Schär and Camano in the first intermediate sprint, the peloton showed that it had learnt from yesterday's mistake. Cannondale and Sky quickly assumed their position on the front and didn't allow the gap to reach more than 2.15.


Cannondale and Sky lead the chase

Garmin-Sharp briefly took control of the peloton but soon Sky and Cannondale were back on the front. While Camano beat Schär and Bolivar in an uncontested final intermediate sprint, those two teams kept the gap stable at around 2 minutes.


The gap reached a maximum of 2.20 but when Orica-GreenEDGE also joined in on the pace-setting, it started to come down. With 84km to go, it was down to 1.30 as Jens Mouris (Orica) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) were powering along on the front.


The gap grows

Cannondale decided to take a small breather which allowed the gap to grow back up to 2.25 with 70km to go. That was the signal for them to go back to work, with Mouris, Wurf and Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale9 swapping turns on the front.


Giant-Shimano also believed in John Degenkolb's chances and so Roy Curvers soon joined the team of chasers . Those four riders worked excellently together and as they also hit a windy section that brought along a fierce battle for position, the gap came down to less than 1 minute with 38km to go.


Voigt attacks

Up ahead, Bolivar tried to up the pace but his companions were quick to respond while Jens Voigt (Trek) attacked from the peloton just as they reached the bottom of San Marcos Pass. The German got a small gap as the peloton briefly slowed down but soon Bennett dropped the hammer on the front.


For several kilometres, the Kiwi powered along while the Sky pair of Josh Edmondon and Wiggins and his captain Sagan were sitting on his wheel. He quickly swallowed up Voigt while the main group splintered to pieces.


Wynants tries on his own

Bolivar again made an attack but Schär was quick to shut it down. Next Wynants made a move and while Schär again was on his wheel, Tvetchov and Van Poppel fell off and were caught by the peloton. Bolivar and Camano also rejoined the front but with Bennett still riding full gas, their gap continued to come down.


Just as they were about to get caught, Bolivar attacked again but Wynants got onto his wheel and countered the move. The Belgian tried hard to stay away but with 26.8km to go, he finally gave up.


Jaramillo makes a move

Bennett continued his pace-setting for another kilometre before he swung off. Edmondson briefly took over but this allowed Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis) to attack.


Bennett recovered enough to go back to the front and he brought the Colombian back into the fold. Shortly before the top he again swung off and again Edmondson took over.


Routley scores points

KOM leader William Routley (Optum) made a great sprint to take maximum points on the top while on the descent Clement Chevrier (Bissell) brought him back. Koren moved straight to the front to control the situation for Cannondale but he could do nothing when Phinney suddenly slipped clear.


The American quickly got a big gap while Koren, Bodnar and Bennett immediately went into full chase mode As the gap had come up to 20 seconds with 21km to go, Howson also started to work but that had little effect on the gap which reached 30 seconds with 16km to go.


More riders start to chase

Keukeleire and Chaves now also started to chase but with 7km to go, the advantage had reached a massive 40 seconds. As the pace clearly was not fast enough, Lucas Euser (UHC) even attacked and he managed to stay clear for two kilometres.


Orica-GreenEDGE had now also asked Yates to contribute to the pace-setting and as Phinney started to tire, the gap finally started to come down. With 2km to go, it was 25 seconds but he managed to defend that lead until he rolled under the flamme rouge.


Then it was clear that the peloton was too late and Phinney had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Sagan dutifully beat Goss in the sprint but this time it was only enough to take second.



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