Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Amgen T o C Stage 5: The most sagacious wins!

This photo comes from the official Amgen Tour of California website.

Slovakian Peter Sagan, winner of the Best Young Rider in last year’s T o C at age 20, won yesterday’s stage in an impressive display of rider savvy. While others were expending every bit of energy to try to get across the line, he tucked himself in nicely in the slipstream of the big boys during the final yards, then saw his chance and leaped out to win. Nice.

There’s a story on Sagan’s Wikipedia page (which, by the way, has already been updated to reflect his stage win yesterday) that tells of his winning the Slovak Cup while riding a bicycle he borrowed from his sister. Seems a sponsor had promised to send him a bike, so Peter sold his. But the new bike didn’t arrive in time for the race. So—“Riding the supermarket bike with poor brakes and limited gear, he won the race.”

Yesterday’s stage of the T o C was quite long and unfortunately there was a pretty big bang up along the road with some bloodied riders being taken off to the hospital. This is what happens when the peloton travels for long miles packed together; legs get tired, reaction time is affected, and sooner or later, someone taps someone’s tire or pedal or handlebars. Then the carnage begins.

None of that will happen today. Stage 6 is a time trial in Solvang (and what better place for a time trial than the beautiful rolling hills of Solvang). Just as Wednesday’s mountain stage changed everything, today’s will shake up the kaleidoscope of leading contenders as well. There are at least a dozen riders who will be in contention for the fastest time at the end of the day.

I was pleased to see Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer hanging around at the front of the group as the cyclists finished the stage yesterday. Horner still has the fastest time, with Levi in second place by a minute and 15 seconds behind him.

Having said all that—and good luck to all today—I have begun to see the stirrings of The Great Event here on Mt. Baldy. Signs were posted yesterday by race organizers telling fans not to paint on the roads (sidewalk chalk is OK, right?) and not to park “on the roadway” or on private property. If you’re coming up here, trust me on this—do not—DO NOT—block side roads or driveways along Mt. Baldy Rd. I don’t know who’s more intimidating, the Forest Service or cabin owners, but interlopers do not have a pleasant time of it on snow play days.

As for myself, I will be leaving my truck at the cabin and traversing the trails because I know where the best vantage points are. And I must confess—as I watch the riders ascend the dreaded “switchbacks” tomorrow (think Alp d’Huez), I will be hoping to see the rider with #3 on his back leading the way. Oh, #1 would be great, too.

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