Amgen Tour of California: Greg Henderson motors away in the final meters to take stage three
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amgen Tour of California: Greg Henderson motors away in the final meters to take stage three

by VeloNation Press at 7:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of California
 
Team Sky makes it two for two in the sprints

Greg HendersonTeam Sky made it two in a row in stage three of the Amgen Tour of California, with Greg Henderson riding himself off the front of the race in the final corner with a massive turn of speed and holding it all the way to the line for the win.   The Kiwi finished off the strong performance his team started, and pulled double-duty cashing in his own leadout for the sprint to beat Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank) and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) into second and third respectively.  For his efforts, Henderson picked up the leader's jersey to keep it within the British team.

"I have never won a race sprinting from 500 meters out," Henderson said after his win.  "Usually I really give the biggest effort @ 200-250 meters. The goal is that we were setting it up for Swifty and he got tangled up. Its good that we have so much depth on this team. So I just reved it up and took it to the line without realizing that Swifty was not on my wheel."

"For tommorow we will be protecting Chris Froome. He is a really good climber and we will put him in the position for a good overall G.C. He may not be a local favorite, but I can tell you that he will do well in the G.C. and if we cannot put him in that position then we have plenty of depth - Matt Haymann or Ian Stannard that can do the same. This team has loads of depth."

A break of seven got away as soon as the race exited the neutral zone, quickly gaining 40 seconds on the peloton.  For the second day in a row the escape included James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) who was joined by Christian Meier (UnitedHealthcare), Jan Barta (NetApp), Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), William Dickeson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Phillip Gaimon (Kenda/5-hour Energy p/b Geargrinder), and Michael Creed (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHeath).  The race seemed content with the composition of the escape, and they were able to build up their advantage near the 7 minute mark before the reaction started from behind.

With 75 kilometers remaining in the race the crosswinds began to take their toll, and with the ProTeams Sky, HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale and RadioShack leading the way, their advantage had dropped to 4 minutes.  Gaimon was the first to lose contact with the break, leaving six to forge on as rain began to pepper the peloton.  10 kilometers later the chase had taken another 30 seconds back, eager to pull things together for a sprint in the finishing town of Modesto.

The gap to the leaders was down to 2 minutes and 45 seconds with 50 kilometers to race, as strong winds continued to wreak havoc on the race.  Echelons formed in the chasing peloton, while the escape continued to work well together and try to hold onto their advantage.  Behind riders opted to shed their extra clothes as the rain decided to stay within the clouds.   The final sprint in Oakdale saw Meier make the first move for the prize, with Barta and Jacques-Mayne not realizing the line had been crossed and splitting the group in two.  Driscoll lost contact.  The duo continued to push the pace with a 1 minute 30 second advantage on the peloton, while the others gave in and were absorbed into the peloton just before the 25 kilometer mark.

5 kilometers later it was one up front, with Barta powering alone, but the peloton continued to snap at his heels and finally brought the Czeck rider back into the fold.  With the wind acting up, Team Sky drilled the pace to create a split resulting in a group with around 40 left at the head of the race, and the remainder of the peloton strewn across the gutter in their wake.  A change of direction ended up the saving grace for the riders left behind, and a favorable wind helped blow the race back together as they approached the finishing circuit.

SpiderTech p/b C10 was first to get organized and start the leadout towards the finish, with Jamis-Sutter Home also getting organized.  Towards the middle of the peloton a crash took down Jens Voigt (Leopard Trek) and a NetApp rider, who did a somersault and grabbed the short end of the stick on his way down.  Ahead, SpiderTech p/b C10continued to burn their matches, and with 4.5 kilometers left for the final circuit, Saxo Bank-Sungard took over the pace and began a fight for territory with Team Sky.  At the 2 kilometer mark HTC-Highroad and Rabobank began to move their men up to the sharp end of the race, but Team Sky remained in control as Baden Cooke hit the tarmac hard.  As they approached the line Greg Henderson (Team Sky) managed to gap the field and stuck it to the line for the win.

Quotes courtesy of Robert Nichols - Advanced Pro Cycling Agency

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