Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale, winner of the points and youth classifications in last year’s Amgen Tour of California, yesterday took the sprint to win Stage 5 of this year’s edition of the race in Paso Robles, with Leigh Howard of HTC-Highroad second and Team Sky’s Ben Swift third.
Coming over the day’s final climb, former world champion Oscar Freire of Rabobank went for a solo win, which would no doubt have pleased the team’s sponsor – the Dutch bank has a strong presence in California, and had brought no fewer than 250 clients along to watch the finish.
With 7km left to race, the 35-year-old Spaniard, who won the rainbow jersey in 1999, 2001 and 2004 and also has a string of classics victories among his palmares, had a one-minute lead over the peloton.
But with HTC-Highroad, which has its headquarters in the area, also wanting to make its mark on the stage, leading the peloton as it ratcheted up the pace, Freire was caught and inside the closing kilometre Team Sky were doing the work at the front of the race as they looked once again to set up Swift, winner of Stage 2.
However, it was Sagan, winner of two stages during last year’s race, who proved strongest in the finale. The 21-year-old Slovak already led the points classification and keeps that jersey, which has a slightly darker shade of green than his usual Liquigas kit.
Meanwhile, Chris Horner of RadioShack retains the race lead from team-mate Levi Leipheimer, but with a 24km individual time trial today in Solvang – founded by Danish settlers exactly a century ago and providing a little slice of Scandinavia in California – there is bound to be a shake up in the general classification.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.