THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (VN) — RadioShack’s Chris Horner locked up the 2011 Amgen Tour of California on Sunday as Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) won the finale, a 129.1km leg from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks.
Goss emerged victorious in a mad dash to the line that saw Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan just miss a second stage win as he rocketed up on Goss’ left, next to the barriers.
But Sagan ran out of road and Goss did not, forcing the Liquigas man to settle for second with Sky’s Greg Henderson third.
“It’s a great way to finish off the week,” said Goss. “It’s great to get a win for the team.”
The final overall saw another one-two finish for RadioShack, with three-time Amgen Tour winner Levi Leipheimer finishing second at 38 seconds behind his perpetually grinning teammate as the two men crossed safely with the field, Horner’s hands thrust skyward. And the finish was never in doubt, with third-placed Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) out of range at 2:45 back.
“It’s fantastic,” Horner said. “I’ve done this race every year they’ve had it. I’ve helped Levi win many times … and I’m just glad I got the chance to do it this time.”
Leipheimer, who called his second-place finish in this year’s edition “bittersweet” after winning the race three times, said: “We’re happy to have it over with and take home the victory. Chris was the better rider, he was stronger, and he deserved it.”
The break du jour
The finale kicked off with a flat 13 miles, segued into a descent, then wound its way up to the short, steep and final KOM of the race, the Category 4 ascent of Balcolm Canyon. After rolling through Moorpark — site of the day’s first of two sprints — then up Norwegian Grade, it was down to the finish line in Thousand Oaks for five flat, fast laps of an 8km circuit.
There were lots of early attacks, but none stuck until a foursome went clear: Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare), Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Jose Fernando Antogna (Jamis-Sutter Home).
Barta was best-placed in 91st overall, 53:27 down on race leader Horner, The foursome had built a lead of more than three minutes by the first KOM, where Barta took the maximum points ahead of Antogna and White.
Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly-Kenda) and Phil Gaimon (Kenda-5-hour Energy) popped out of the bunch for a brief stint in no-man’s land, but were retrieved before the sprint in Moormark, where Antogna took top honors ahead of White and Friedman.
With 50km remaining the break clung to 2:30 of its advantage. Saxo Bank-Sungard and HTC-Columbia were assisting the chase, the former for J.J. Haedo and the latter for Leigh Howard (or Goss, as it turned out), and the peloton was stretched out into a long, colorful line as the race entered Thousand Oaks.
Forty kilometers from the finish the break was still working well together and holding to a margin of just over two and a half minutes. Antogna snapped up the points at the sprint ahead of White and Friedman and the quartet entered the first of five go-rounds on the finishing circuit.
The cavalry’s coming
Martin Mortensen (Leopard-Trek) and Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) had a dig on the rolling circuit as the gap dipped under 90 seconds with four laps to go.
A lap later the break had 55 seconds over the Mortensen-Tjallingii pursuit with the peloton at 1:20. Antogna tried to lose his mates and go it alone, but White matched him and the quartet came back together. Then Friedman had a go and Barta marked him. All this fencing gave Mortensen and Tjallingii a chance to catch the break as White slid off the back. Meanwhile, the bunch closed to within 30 seconds.
The chase, led by HTC’s Danny Pate, swept up White and went after the quintet up the road. Antogna, meanwhile, was skipping his pulls.
Two laps remaining and the break had 25 seconds — and suddenly Antogna popped, followed by Friedman, and it was just three riders out front with Saxo and HTC leading the chase.
Actually, it was only two — the weary Barta was strictly a passenger after such a long time off the front — and two men working just couldn’t stick it. As the bell rang signaling one lap to go, the bunch had them in its sights.
The catch came with 5km to go. HTC and Saxo were all over the front in the run-up to the finish, with a cluster of Rabobanks sneaking up on the right-hand side for Oscar Freire. But HTC would not be denied — Goss got a stellar lead-out and Sagan came up just short as he tried to overhaul him at the line.
Horner collected the golden leader’s jersey with 38 seconds to spare over his teammate Leipheimer, with Danielson third at 2:45.
McCarty took home the final red mountains jersey with 39 points. Leipheimer was second with 24 and Horner third with 20.
Sagan took the final green points jersey for the second time, with 46 points. Greg Henderson was second with 25 in a tie with Ben Swift (Sky).
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) took the best young rider’s jersey with Garmin’s Andrew Talansky second at 5:58 and Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank) third at 13:20.
And Barta — the last man standing from the day’s original break — got the blue jersey awarded to the most combative rider.
Stay tuned for an expanded report, results and photos.
- 1. Matthew Goss (Aus), HTC-Columbia, 2:56:39
- 2. Peter Sagan (Svk), Liquigas-Cannondale, same time
- 3. Greg Henderson (NZL), Sky, s.t.
- 1. Chris Horner (USA), RadioShack, 23:46:41
- 2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), RadioShack, at 0:38
- 3. Tom Danielson (USA), Garmin-Cervélo, at 2:45