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Amgen Tour of California Stage 5: Sagan sprints to win, frustration for Freire

Rabobank's former world champ goes for solo win, but sprinters rein him back in...

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.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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