Tour of California Grand Finale
The seventh annual Amgen Tour of California is officially in the books, and after 30 hours and 42 minutes of racing, Dutchman Robert Gesink is taking the overall title back home to The Netherlands with him. Gesink’s Robobank team rode smart all week, and positioned themselves to take advantage of Gesink’s strength on the hardest day of the race—the killer Stage Seven climb up Mt. Baldy, which turned out to be a decisive point in the eight-stage race. Gesink attacked with a little more than two miles to go and held on for a big win.
Without a doubt the most exciting story coming out of the race for most of the week was the stellar performances by Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan of team Liquigas-Cannondale, who clinched stage wins in each of the race’s first four days and capped off his tour with a final victory in Sunday’s Stage Eight, a 70-miler that wound around downtown Los Angeles.
Gesink’s well-timed and perfectly executed counterattack on Mt. Baldy in Stage Seven was enough to earn him a full 46-second lead on David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda), which he managed to hold onto handily in Sunday’s pro forma finale.
Zabriskie, who won the Stage Five time-trial, held onto second-place in the overall standings—his fourth runner-up finish in the Amgen Tour of California. That’s gotta sting. “The time trial was a high point,” Zabriskie told VeloNews. “[I felt] really, really good; really, really strong. I knew what I had to do on Baldy, and didn’t really have it.”
The other two racers to watch coming into the race—defending champ Chris Horner and hometown hero Levi Leipheimer—finished in eighth and sixth-place, respectively.
Bicycling magazine’s Jen See awarded Zabriskie’s Garmin-Barracuda team an A- for their effort at the AToC, and for putting their man in striking distance. She ranks the other high-profile teams as well—and even gives a letter grade to the course itself in an “AToC Report Card” story she penned for Bicycling.com
Even for all Peter Sagan’s at-the-line dramatic sprint finishes, this grueling 800-mile tour was never really a sprinter’s race to win, and in the end Sagan finished in 42nd place in the general standings, 27.5 minutes off the leader’s pace.
Still, the 22-year-old Sagan walks away from the AToC a record-holder—his five stage wins in a single tour blow away Levi Leipheimer’s previous record of three—and heads into training for the Tour de France in July with a full head of steam and plenty of confidence.