5/15/2012 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Sagan three-peats in Livermore
Slovakian pips Haussler on the line to retain race lead
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) continued his unbeaten streak at the Amgen Tour of California with his third stage victory in as many days in Livermore. The Slovak champion and Tour of California leader once again turned on the afterburners to win a field sprint finale, with Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) garnering his own second place result for the third straight stage. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) rounded out the top three.
Sagan continues to lead general classification and added to his advantage with the winner's time bonus. The Liguigas-Cannondale rider leads Haussler by 12 seconds and Jeffry Louder (UnitedHealthcare) by 24 seconds.
With the day's final climb a mere 15km from the line, even Sagan was amazed that he was there to contest his sixth career Tour of California stage victory.
"It was a surprise for me," he admitted. "I'm glad to win, and I have to say thank you for my team because they did very good work for me."
It seems that Sagan is unbeatable at the moment, but he dismissed any talk that he could carry the jersey all the way to Los Angeles.
"This race is very hard for me because there are long climbs at the finish (on stage 6 and 7) and I don't do very good at the time trial, maybe I will try to hold the yellow jersey one more day, but after the time trial we will see," he continued. "But I don't think so."
Today's sprint was the closest yet, with Haussler having a clear view of the stage victory with 50 meters to go, only to have Sagan come on his right and snatch the win from him by mere inches.
Boonen, who came on the left of the Australian was only a hair's width in third after putting his team on the front to help bring the race together for the sprint.
"I think it was a nice day to take a little bit of our responsibility," explained the Belgian. "I wanted to try and see how far I got, if I got dropped on the climb then maybe I need a little work, but it's going better day by day. Of course, I'm not on my best level yet, but every day we have a chance we want to try."
While several teams went to the front to nail back the breakaway, it was Rabobank who strung out the bunch in the final 5km, but they stepped off the pace coming into the final kilometer, and the group became tightly bunched with riders bumping and bouncing their way through to the final corner with 500 meters to go.
"It was a very unorganized sprint," said Fred Rodriguez (Exergy) who claimed sixth. "I felt great, but I got caught way too far back and I had to do my own sprint up from about 1k to go to the corner, I did a great job, but I think I blew too many bullets trying to get there. I got to fourth wheel around the last corner, great position, but the legs were a little toasty, so all I could do was hold position. It's respectable for the amazing horsepower we have here. Tour of California has some of the best sprinters in the world."
Does Fast Freddie think he can have a shot at a stage win in this Tour?
"Definitely there's always a way. I beat Pettachi in the Giro d'Italia when he won basically eight stages in a row. I remember I told my team the night before, I said, 'You know it's always possible,' and the next day I won."
The third stage of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California got underway from San Jose under pleasantly warm temperatures and brilliant blue skies, but a shadow awaited the riders just 8km in with the day's first categorized climb on Calaveras Road. It was one of three categorized climbs, with Mt. Diablo (category 2) and the category 3 Patterson Pass peppering the profile of the day's 185.5km stage.
The Calaveras climb proved to be the launching pad of the day's breakaway: Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) launched a move together with Mike Friedman (Optum Pro Cycling), and soon Friedman's teammate Sebastian Salas, who was second in the mountains classification, bridged across in order to gain ground on the leader David Boily (Spidertech). Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Colombia-Coldeportes) and Pat McCarty (Spidertech) came along with him, and once Friedman dropped off the pace, the four remaining leaders set to work building up a maximum advantage of almost eight minutes at the top of Mt. Diablo with 98km to go.
Salas took the maximum points at both the Calaveras Road and Mt. Diablo mountain sprints to snatch the polka dot jersey from the shoulders of Boily, despite a fight from McCarty to take the points away.
"One of our team's main goals was to get the KOM jersey here," Salas said. "I was in the break on stage 1, and me and David Boily had a battle on the climbs. I was going into the day with a five point deficit, and once I got in the break I took the opportunity that he wasn't there to get points over the first KOM and Mt. Diablo as well."
While Salas met his goal, Vennell said the battle between him and Boily's teammate McCarty actually harmed the breakaway's chances.
"Right from the start in the first KOM the other two were playing games because they were going after KOM jersey. They made it difficult for us two," he said, (referring to Marentes Torres).
On the long return to Livermore, the peloton pegged the breakaway at six minutes with Liquigas-Cannondale controlling the chase, but as Argos-Shimano and then Omega Pharma-Quickstep contributed to the pace making, the gap began to drop. Sensing it was time to do or die, Vennell and Marentes Torres attacked and left the two behind.
"We were mucking around a bit and I had a couple of digs," said Vennell. "When I finally did attack them very hard, it made it easier for us to get away and work together."
The effort earned Vennell the most aggressive rider award, and Marentes Torres was given most courageous, but the pair were no match for the peloton and with 25km to go and the final climb of Patterson Pass looming, they finally shook hands and gave up as the Garmin-Barracuda peloton came charging past.
"The escape went very well," the Colombia-Coldeportes rider said. "Today is the 25th anniversay of the win of Lucho Herrera in Vuelta a Epsana, so we really wanted to get in the breakaway. I'm happy to win this jersey which is very important in any race, but especially in Tour of California."
The Colombia-Coldeportes team wasn't done, when that break was caught, and first Michael Rodriguez attacked and then after he was brought back and the climb drew closer, Fabio Duarte had a dig. The Colombian rode clear with Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale), and the pair crested the climb in that order with a 25 second lead, but with a gentle descent, a straightforward run to the line, and the peloton reforming with most of the sprinters present.
"I just thought that when Duarte went on the climb I'd give it a shot, too. It wasn't planned at all. I was just riding at the front of the bunch and hoping that something would happen," Roche said. "I was thinking that a proper group would go ahead and just not wait for the sprint scenario, but unfortunately it happened again, another sprint scenario. You know, I'm not going to win sprints, so you have to try thinking that way. I'll try again when I get the opportunity, like today. ... It was good to get a bit of thrill of attacking on the climbs. I haven't been feeling good lately, and just getting the legs turning around again, I'm enjoying it."
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