Amgen Tour of California: Chris Horner kills it on Sierra Road to win stage four and take the lead
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Amgen Tour of California: Chris Horner kills it on Sierra Road to win stage four and take the lead

by VeloNation Press at 7:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of California
Elder statesman rides his way to leadership of the RadioShack team

Chris HornerTeam RadioShack assumed control of the Amgen Tour of California in stage four today, with Chris Horner riding away from the race on the mountain top finish of Sierra Road to take over both the race lead and team leadership of the American squad.  It took 1 minute and 15 seconds for the next rider to cross the line, with Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) leading the way for Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack).

With two days of flat stages in the rear view mirror, stage four the Amgen Tour of California would see the riders take in a 131.6 kilometer route that included four ascents featuring Mount Hamilton (4073ft) and the Sierra Road climb (1835ft) to end the day with a mountain top stage finish in the city of San Jose.  The race started off with a moment of silence in honor of Belgian Wouter Weylandt, who died tragically in the Giro d'Italia one week ago.

It was the first KOM where a break of 10 took the opportunity to force a gap on the peloton.  The move included Martin Pedersen (Leopard Trek), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1-sanofi-aventis), Will Routley (SpiderTech pb C10), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Alastair Loutit (Jelly Belly pb Kenda), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), James Stemper (Kenda/5-hour Energy pb Geargrinder) and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo).

The break wasn't allowed much breathing room, and at the 50 kilometers to go mark they had just over a minute on the peloton.  Just 5 kilometers later the RadioShack led peloton had wiped away their advantage on the slopes of Mount Hamilton, with Vennell representing the last of the escapees to be caught.  The American team continued to take the reins as the peloton ripped down the descent leading a select group of around 50 riders.  Garmin-Cervelo leader Ryder Hesjedal was next to attack, taking advantage of a small rise that broke up the descent, and was able to put some daylight between himself and the peloton.  Rabobank's Paul Marten's took up the pursuit and joined the Canadian to make it two up front.

Hesjedal continued to drive the pace of the break on the twisting descent to gain 30 seconds on the chase behind, but Martens struggled on the technical turns and managed to lose contact with the Garmin-Cervelo rider after an unplanned detour off the road.  The Canadian smartly waited for Martens to catch back on for the extra firepower, and the pair continued to forge ahead.  With 6.3 kilometers to race the leaders kept the pressure on with a 40 second gap over the chasers as they approached the finishing climb up Sierra Road.

As the leaders started the climb Hesjedal immediately began to open up a gap on the Rabobank rider and would now take in the ascent alone.  Behind Chris Horner (RadioShack) began to crank up the pace and forced a gap with teammate Levi Leipheimer in tow.  The rest struggled behind but were unable to get on terms with the two race favorites.  Horner quickly wiped away the Garmin-Cervelo rider's advantage, and made it three up front.  Leipheimer quickly cracked under the pressure of his super domestique, with Horner earning the leadership of the team on the road.

A select group including Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), Rory Sotherland (UnitedHealthcare) and Tom Danielson now needed to limit their losses.  Van Garderen towed the group of favorites up the climb to keep the race leader within reach, while behind Linus Gerdeman (Leopard Trek) tried unsuccessfully to get to his team leader ahead.  Sutherland took over the chase from the young American to bring the group up to Leipheimer and Hesjedal.  Danielson was next to turn the screws once his teammate was caught, and Van Garderen began to pay for his earlier efforts and lost contact with the chase group.

Under the 1 kilometer banner Horner continued to power up the climb alone.  He had put more that a minute over the chasing quartet behind, which was enough to ride alone to the finish in style.  It was Sutherland again who increased the pace of the chasers, in turn knocking Hesjedal off the group and making it four in pursuit.  Schleck was next to attack, with the UnitedHealthcare rider able to muster enough strength to stay close to the Leopard Trek rider, while Leipheimer could only follow wheels despite his free ride up the mountain.   Danielson was unable to hang onto the effort of the Luxembourger, losing 7 seconds to the others by the time he hit the line.  Christian Vande Velde was next to finish 7 seconds later, followed by Hesjedal a further 7 seconds back.


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