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No Contest: Cav’ gallops to second victory

By John Wilcockson

2009 AToC, stage 5: Columbia's Mark Cavendish leaves Quick Step's Tom Boonen a bike length behind.

2009 AToC, stage 5: Columbia’s Mark Cavendish leaves Quick Step’s Tom Boonen a bike length behind.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

There’s no better combination in bike racing than sunshine, Lance, Levi … and Mark Cavendish. While America’s two top champions are the favorites with their legions of fans all along the route of this fourth Amgen Tour of California, Columbia-High Road’s Cavendish is fast becoming a crowd favorite. That was clear in a festive Paso Robles Thursday afternoon, when Cavendish blew the socks off the opposition, including second-again Tom Boonen, to win stage 5.

2009 Amgen Tour of California
Stage 5, Visalia to Paso Robles 216 km (134 miles)

Winner: Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad)
Leader: Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Winner’s average speed: 39.17 kph (26.20 mph)
Rabobank Best Young Rider: Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
Best Team: Team Columbia-Highroad
Herbalife Sprint Leader: Cavendish, 36 points; Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) 30 points; Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) 28 points
Amgen Couragous Award: Matthew Crane (Jelly Belly)
California King of the Mountains Leader: Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing)
Peloton: No riders dropped out Thursday; 108 riders are expected to start stage 5.
Up next: Stage 6 is the critical 24.1 km (15 mile) Solvang time trial.

The young British sprinter captivated the spectators with his outrageous speed and flashing smile, and charmed the reporters with his disarming frankness and dry humor. In describing his four-bike-length victory over Boonen, Cavendish said, “Actually, I could see a shadow to my right. I thought it was Tom coming around. And I was just watching the video of the finish, and I was actually sprinting against my own shadow! And I was going to take it a bit easier in the sprint today.”

The Columbia rider certainly didn’t want to repeat his near-mistake of Wednesday, when he eased off the gas a tad early and Boonen came within an inch or so of beating him. But sprinting against his own shadow explained why his Belgian rival had no chance of getting close Thursday. “I was on Mark’s wheel,” Boonen said, “and the guy kept speeding up, and it was impossible to pass him.”

2009 AToC, stage 5: A fig plantation frames the peloton.

2009 AToC, stage 5: A fig plantation frames the peloton.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

A long (fast) day

This longest stage of 134.3 miles starting in Visalia and heading south and west across the vast flats of California’s Central Valley, unfolded as expected. The very first break, after only three miles, soon gained traction. It was started by Jelly Belly’s Matthew Crane, who was quickly joined by three others from domestic teams, Jeff Louder (BMC), Canadian Cam Evans (OUCH-Maxxis) and Kiwi Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing), along with American Curtis Gunn (Fly V Australia) and Dutch veteran Peter Weening (Rabobank). Evans was reinstated to the race after appealing an overly harsh decision to DQ him for a pacing violation on Tuesday’s stage.

The six worked a perfect team time trial, but this TTT was going to be 130 miles long if they wanted to take their move all the way to the finish. That was a fearsome prospect, but at least the roads were flat for half that distance along endlessly straight farm roads.

2009 AToC, stage 5: Old friends Lance and George chat the miles away.

2009 AToC, stage 5: Old friends Lance and George chat the miles away.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“When you’re riding 30K straight at times you get used to where the wind’s coming from,” Crane said. “And it was a good rotation all day, everyone was pulling through.” The six adventurers built up an eight-minute lead after 80 miles of working their treadmill, but there were still more than 50 miles to go.

Until then, race leader Leipheimer’s Astana teammates had pulled the 100-man peloton at a comfortable tempo; but to catch the break, the sprinters’ teams knew they would have to up the pace. As if on cue, riders from Boonen’s Quick Step team, Thor Hushovd’s Cervélo squad, and Cavendish’s Columbia-High Road formation moved to the front and began the long, steady grind that was needed.

“I started riding with about 90 kilometers to go,” Colombia’s Canadian workhorse Michael Barry said. “At first, there were only three or four us pulling, but then with 30K to go a lot of other teams started helping out.”

2009 AToC, stage 5: Columbia leads the peloton toward Paso Robles.

2009 AToC, stage 5: Columbia leads the peloton toward Paso Robles.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

By that point, the gap was down to three minutes. And that’s when former Tour de France stage winner Weening attacked on one of the last little climbs heading through the San Luis Obispo County vineyards before the course headed downhill toward the finish. Gunn and Louder were soon dropped, leaving four men trying to hold off a peloton now moving like an express train into Paso Robles.

The catch was made inside three miles to go, at which point some riders who’d been following the pace for five monotonous hours suddenly came to life. OUCH’s Tim Johnson made a big push, hoping it might be his day, but his effort only drew out a combative Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank.

Columbia’s Barry said, “I pulled until about 3K to go, but when Voigt attacked I pulled off. I couldn’t follow all those accelerations.” But Barry’s huge efforts gave his team just the impetus it needed to shoot for the win in their own backyard. The Columbia-Highroad headquarters are just 40 miles down the road.

“It went perfect,” said team captain George Hincapie. “We stayed patient, we came together in the last kilometer, and it was awesome. I took Mark Renshaw to 500 meters to go, and he took Cav’ to 250, it was just perfect.”

On the wide finishing straight, Renshaw pulled Cavendish from the left to the right side of Spring Street, forcing Boonen to ride in the wind a little just to get on the Brit’s flashing, and fast disappearing, wheels.

2009 AToC, stage 5: This time it was not even close.

2009 AToC, stage 5: This time it was not even close.

Photo: Courtesy

“I was not so good,” Boonen revealed. “I’m sick just a little bit. I think the entire team is having diarrhea, and so I’m happy that I got to the finish line. But Cavendish was so strong today. He had a strong team and the guy pulled a strong sprint, so he deserved it.”

While most of the teams moved into their Paso Robles accommodations Thursday evening, the Astana team of race leader Levi Leipheimer and fourth-placed Lance Armstrong planned to head south down U.S. Highway 101 for two hours to Solvang. That puts them on site to ride the stage 6 time trial course that has produced two stunning victories for Leipheimer in the past two Tours of California.

Armstrong said before stage 5 that he was going to ride a replacement TT bike for the one that was stolen in Sacramento. But after the original was checked out Thursday night, the seven-time Tour de France champ said on his Twitter account, “I’m riding the recovered TT bike. It seems to be in fine shape.”

The huge crowds expected in Solvang should witness a great contest between Armstrong, Leipheimer and the two men who most threaten Astana’s grip on the race: Columbia’s Michael Rogers and Garmin-Chipotle’s Dave Zabriskie, who are respectively 24 and 28 seconds behind Leipheimer.

The crowds won’t be disappointed Friday or in the closing two stages this weekend — but don’t expect any more demonstrations by that whirlwind called Mark Cavendish.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage Results: | (GC Results)

1. Mark Cavendish Team Columbia-High Road in 05:07:28
2. Tom Boonen Quick Step at 00:00:00
3. Pedro Horrillo Munoz Rabobank at 00:00:00
4. Francesco Chicchi Liquigas at 00:00:00
5. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team at 00:00:00
6. Sebastian Haedo Lucas Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light at 00:00:00
7. Freddy Rodriguez Rock Racing at 00:00:00
8. Martin Elmiger Ag2r La Mondiale at 00:00:00
9. Bernard Sulzberger Fly V Australia P/b Successful Living Foundation at 00:00:00
10. Karl Menzies Ouch Presented By Maxxis at 00:00:00
11. José Haedo Juan Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
12. Grischa Niermann Rabobank at 00:00:00
13. Ben Jacques-maynes Bissell Pro Cycling at 00:00:00
14. Thomas Danielson Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
15. Levi Leipheimer Astana at 00:00:00
16. David Zabriskie Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
17. Jens Voigt Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
18. Thomas LÖvkvist Team Columbia-High Road at 00:00:00
19. Lance Armstrong Astana at 00:00:00
20. Christopher Horner Astana at 00:00:00
21. Fränk Schleck Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
22. Kevin Seeldraeyers Quick Step at 00:00:00
23. Michael Rogers Team Columbia-High Road at 00:00:00
24. Francisco Mancebo Rock Racing at 00:00:00
25. Mark Renshaw Team Columbia-High Road at 00:00:00
26. Luis Romero Amaran Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light at 00:00:00
27. Robert Gesink Rabobank at 00:00:00
28. Enrique Gutierrez Rock Racing at 00:00:00
29. Oscar Sevilla Rock Racing at 00:00:00
30. Davide Frattini Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light at 00:00:00
31. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas at 00:00:00
32. Stuart O’grady Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
33. Walle Jurgen Van De Quick Step at 00:00:00
34. Janez Brajkovic Astana at 00:00:00
35. Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
36. Ivan Basso Liquigas at 00:00:00
37. Stéphane Goubert Ag2r La Mondiale at 00:00:00
38. Jacopo Guarnieri Liquigas at 00:00:00
39. Alessandro Vanotti Liquigas at 00:00:00
40. Nick Reistad Jelly Belly Cycling Team at 00:00:00
41. Brett Lancaster Cervelo Test Team at 00:00:00
42. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
43. Stef Clement Rabobank at 00:00:00
44. Kjell CarlstrÖm Liquigas at 00:00:00
45. Lopez De Castro Inigo Cuesta Cervelo Test Team at 00:00:00
46. Andy Guptill Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light at 00:00:00
47. Thomas Peterson Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
48. Yaroslav Popovych Astana at 00:00:00
49. George Hincapie Team Columbia-High Road at 00:00:00
50. Kevin De Weert Quick Step at 00:00:00
51. Timothy Johnson Ouch Presented By Maxxis at 00:00:00
52. Rory Sutherland Ouch Presented By Maxxis at 00:00:00
53. Andy Schleck Team Saxo Bank at 00:00:00
54. José Luis Rubiera Vigil Astana at 00:00:00
55. Cameron Evans Ouch Presented By Maxxis at 00:00:00
56. Svein Tuft Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
57. Steven Cozza Garmin-Slipstream at 00:00:00
58. Tyler Wren Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light at 00:00:00
59. Michael Barry Team Columbia-High Road at 00:00:00
60. Dominique Rollin Cervelo Test Team in 05:07:41 at 00:00:13
61. Gregory Rast Astana in 05:07:41 at …
62. Hayden Roulston Cervelo Test Team in 05:07:48 at 00:00:20
63. Glen Chadwick Rock Racing in 05:07:48 at …
64. Matthew Crane Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 05:07:48 at …
65. Marco Velo Quick Step in 05:07:48 at …
66. Daniel Oss Liquigas in 05:07:48 at …
67. Serge Pauwels Cervelo Test Team in 05:07:48 at …
68. Jason Mccartney Team Saxo Bank in 05:08:01 at 00:00:33
69. Steve Morabito Astana in 05:08:15 at 00:00:47
70. Ian Mckissick Bmc Racing Team in 05:08:21 at 00:00:53
71. Thomas Frei Bmc Racing Team in 05:08:21 at …
72. Rinaldo Nocentini Ag2r La Mondiale in 05:08:21 at …
73. Hubert Dupont Ag2r La Mondiale in 05:08:21 at …
74. Frank Pipp Bissell Pro Cycling in 05:08:21 at …
75. Kiel Reijnen Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 05:08:21 at …
76. Bauke Mollema Rabobank in 05:08:21 at …
77. Kevin Hulsmans Quick Step in 05:08:21 at …
78. Matthew Wilson Team Type 1 in 05:08:21 at …
79. Valeriy Kobzarenko Team Type 1 in 05:08:21 at …
80. Christopher Jones Team Type 1 in 05:08:21 at …
81. Adam Hansen Team Columbia-High Road in 05:08:21 at …
82. Peter Latham Bissell Pro Cycling in 05:08:21 at …
83. Pieter Weening Rabobank in 05:08:21 at …
84. Tom Zirbel Bissell Pro Cycling in 05:08:21 at …
85. Aaron Olson Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light in 05:08:21 at …
86. Brian Vandborg Liquigas in 05:08:21 at …
87. Tyler Hamilton Rock Racing in 05:08:21 at …
88. Tyler Farrar Garmin-Slipstream in 05:08:21 at …
89. Carlos Sastre Candil Cervelo Test Team in 05:08:21 at …
90. Chris Baldwin Rock Racing in 05:08:21 at …
91. Patrick Mccarty Jonathan Ouch Presented By Maxxis in 05:08:21 at …
92. Carlos Barredo Quick Step in 05:08:21 at …
93. Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano Rabobank in 05:08:21 at …
94. Ben Day Fly V Australia P/b Successful Living Foundation in 05:08:21 at …
95. Markus Zberg Bmc Racing Team in 05:08:21 at …
96. Addy Engels Quick Step in 05:08:21 at …
97. Will Routley Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 05:08:21 at …
98. Floyd Landis Ouch Presented By Maxxis in 05:08:21 at …
99. Bradley White Ouch Presented By Maxxis in 05:09:12 at 00:01:44
100. Curtis Gunn Fly V Australia P/b Successful Living Foundation in 05:09:12 at …
101. Jeremy Vennell Bissell Pro Cycling in 05:09:27 at 00:01:59
102. Christophe Riblon Ag2r La Mondiale in 05:09:27 at …
103. Mathias Frank Bmc Racing Team in 05:09:34 at 00:02:06
104. Alexandre Moos Bmc Racing Team in 05:09:34 at …
105. Bernard Van Ulden Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 05:09:42 at 00:02:14
106. Trent Lowe Garmin-Slipstream in 05:10:33 at 00:03:05
107. Phillip Gaimon Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 05:13:35 at 00:06:07
108. Jeffry Louder Bmc Racing Team in 05:13:38 at 00:06:10
.


GC Results: | (Stage Results)

1. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 23:41:20
2. Michael Rogers Team Columbia-High Road in 23:41:44 at 00:00:24
3. David Zabriskie Garmin-Slipstream in 23:41:48 at 00:00:28
4. Lance Armstrong Astana in 23:41:50 at 00:00:30
5. Christopher Horner Astana in 23:41:54 at 00:00:34
6. Janez Brajkovic Astana in 23:41:58 at 00:00:38
7. Thomas LÖvkvist Team Columbia-High Road in 23:41:58 at 00:00:38
8. José Luis Rubiera Vigil Astana in 23:41:58 at 00:00:38
9. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas in 23:41:58 at 00:00:38
10. Robert Gesink Rabobank in 23:41:59 at 00:00:39
11. Oscar Sevilla Rock Racing in 23:41:59 at 00:00:39
12. Jens Voigt Team Saxo Bank in 23:42:00 at 00:00:40
13. Ivan Basso Liquigas in 23:42:02 at 00:00:42
14. Thomas Danielson Garmin-Slipstream in 23:42:02 at 00:00:42
15. Kevin Seeldraeyers Quick Step in 23:42:11 at 00:00:51
16. Francisco Mancebo Rock Racing in 23:42:13 at 00:00:53
17. Walle Jurgen Van De Quick Step in 23:43:32 at 00:02:12
18. Bauke Mollema Rabobank in 23:44:23 at 00:03:03
19. Grischa Niermann Rabobank in 23:45:52 at 00:04:32
20. Fränk Schleck Team Saxo Bank in 23:46:00 at 00:04:40
21. Lopez De Castro Inigo Cuesta Cervelo Test Team in 23:46:05 at 00:04:45
22. Carlos Barredo Quick Step in 23:46:45 at 00:05:25
23. Thomas Peterson Garmin-Slipstream in 23:47:16 at 00:05:56
24. George Hincapie Team Columbia-High Road in 23:47:19 at 00:05:59
25. Ben Jacques-maynes Bissell Pro Cycling in 23:47:21 at 00:06:01
26. Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream in 23:47:24 at 00:06:04
27. Enrique Gutierrez Rock Racing in 23:47:28 at 00:06:08
28. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank in 23:47:28 at 00:06:08
29. Luis Romero Amaran Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light in 23:47:28 at 00:06:08
30. Yaroslav Popovych Astana in 23:47:29 at 00:06:09
31. Tom Zirbel Bissell Pro Cycling in 23:48:13 at 00:06:53
32. Hayden Roulston Cervelo Test Team in 23:48:16 at 00:06:56
33. Kevin De Weert Quick Step in 23:48:21 at 00:07:01
34. Pieter Weening Rabobank in 23:48:21 at 00:07:01
35. Ian Mckissick Bmc Racing Team in 23:48:26 at 00:07:06
36. Thomas Frei Bmc Racing Team in 23:48:33 at 00:07:13
37. Hubert Dupont Ag2r La Mondiale in 23:48:41 at 00:07:21
38. Floyd Landis Ouch Presented By Maxxis in 23:49:03 at 00:07:43
39. Dominique Rollin Cervelo Test Team in 23:50:27 at 00:09:07
40. Steven Cozza Garmin-Slipstream in 23:50:28 at 00:09:08
41. Martin Elmiger Ag2r La Mondiale in 23:50:29 at 00:09:09
42. Frank Pipp Bissell Pro Cycling in 23:51:27 at 00:10:07
43. Will Routley Jelly Belly Cycling Team in 23:51:39 at 00:10:19
44. Jeremy Vennell Bissell Pro Cycling in 23:52:22 at 00:11:02
45. Stuart O’grady Team Saxo Bank in 23:55:59 at 00:14:39
46. Stéphane Goubert Ag2r La Mondiale in 23:56:19 at 00:14:59
47. Svein Tuft Garmin-Slipstream in 23:56:33 at 00:15:13
48. Jason Mccartney Team Saxo Bank in 23:56:56 at 00:15:36
49. Davide Frattini Colavita/sutter Home P/b Cooking Light in 23:57:00 at 00:15:40
50. Patrick Mccarty Jonathan Ouch Presented By Maxxis in 23:57:04 at 00:15:44
51. Glen Chadwick Rock Racing in 23:57:09 at 00:15:49

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