BAKERSFIELD (May 20, 2010) – With the sun hanging high in a flawless blue sky, enthusiastic crowds turned out in Visalia for at the start of today’s race to watch the peloton of world-famous cyclists, including defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (USA) of Team RadioShack, lined up at the start line. Equally impressive crowds lined the streets in Bakersfield to witness the incredible sprint to the finish line that saw Peter Sagan (ITA) of Liquigas-Doimo take his first stage win in the 2010 Amgen Tour of California.
Stage 5 (121.5 miles/195.5 km) took the riders through the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After the neutral start in Visalia, the cyclists headed due south through Exeter and Lindsey and up the narrow and twisty Old Stage Road; the day’s first of two KOMs. The race got to a rough start, with a big crash less than thirty minutes after the start in Visalia as the road narrowed heading out of town, that included Leipheimer and Armstrong, along with several other riders. Proving to be a devastating crash to the group, Stuart O’Grady (AUS) of Team Saxo Bank and Armstrong abandoned the race to secure medical attention (both are being treated for their injuries and will not be returning to the race). Heinrich Haussler (GER) of Cervélo TestTeam abandoned the race shortly after as well, but had not been involved in the crash.
Finishing in Bakersfield, the route headed into the Kern River oil field, the fifth largest in the United States, where the riders encountered several short, steep climbs. The route then took the riders further inland to tackle the narrow and twisty Old Stage Rd. climb (Cat. 3 – 3,345 ft.), which was taken by Mach, followed by Nierman and Hovelynch. The breakaway powered on, but an elite chase group led by Team RadioShack was following at about four minutes behind. As the riders continued on the way to the final climb of the day, Round Mountain Rd. (Cat. 4 – 1,421 ft.), which was just 21 miles from the finish line in Bakersfield, different teams took turns leading the chase group. From the apex of the final climb, the cyclists will be able to look down onto the finish at Bakersfield College. On the ascent, Day took the opportunity to launch an attack and pulled out ahead of the breakaway, followed closely by Renshaw, but they were caught by the remainder of the breakaway on the descent.
There were several changes in the jerseys Thursday, with Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey going to Day, the Herbalife Sprint Jersey going to Sagan, and the Amgen Race Leader Jersey changing hands from Zabriskie to Rogers. The other jersey winners remain unchanged with Sagan in the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey and Ryan Anderson (CAN) of Kelly Benefit Strategies in the California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey.
“The crowds all along the route for Stage 5 of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California from Visalia to Bakersfield today were absolutely amazing,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. “You could feel the enthusiasm, which means a lot to these riders, and was great to see that from a new host city, Bakersfield. Tomorrow should be a really challenging and telling day for the riders, with our first mountain finish in Big Bear. We are all looking forward to seeing how it plays out.”
Palmdale City Hall will serve as the backdrop for the most difficult stage in the five-year history of the Amgen Tour of California. After a five-mile neutral section heading south on Sierra Rd. to start off Stage 6, sponsored by V Australia, the route makes a left turn onto Angeles Forest Highway. Facing the riders is the imposing San Gabriel mountain range, and within a few miles the first of seven KOMs will be crested. After a blistering descent from Mill Creek Summit, the route turns to Upper Big Tujunga and then onto Angeles Crest Highway. From there, the riders continue on a 135-mile odyssey with more than 12,000 feet of climbing. The race will climb to a high point of nearly 8,000 feet as it rolls along the Angeles Crest Highway. Then, there is a brief respite as they descend to Wrightwood and over to Highway 138. The route again ascends as it passes through Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, as the cyclists take to the “Rim of the World” highway. Entering the Big Bear area, the riders will take the northern route around Big Bear Lake and then tackle the last rise to the finish at a more than 7,000-foot elevation at the Snow Summit ski area for the Amgen Tour of California’s first-ever alpine finish.