Photo from official Amgen Tour of California website: Sylvain Georges finishing Stage 6 ahead of the pack
It is not unusual in a stage race to see, shortly after the start of a stage, a single rider or small group take off in a breakaway and try to maintain their momentum until the end of the day. Rarely are these riders successful, as the power of the peloton is simply too strong. (Many riders pedaling in a group, taking turns in the front so that others can ride in the slipstream, can ride faster overall than a single rider or small group.) But every once in a great while, a breakaway will get far enough away fast enough so as to make the gap between them and the peloton too long to close before the finish line is reached.
Such was the case today with French rider Sylvain Georges. He rode out early on a breakaway that began as seven riders, then became six, then five, then three, then one. Georges refused to fold, pushing himself to the absolute limit of his strength. Keep in mind, today's stage was 150 miles long. Sylvain Georges et al broke away from the pack after the first mile. So for 149 miles, Georges rode as if the devil was nipping at his heels. This, after riding over one hundred miles a day for the five days previous. Strength? Courage? The words seem inadequate to describe such a performance.
Within the last 3/4 of a mile, Georges could see the peloton's advance behind him like a locomotive bearing down on him. His support crew in the AG2R team car drove along beside him, shouting to him over and over in French to ride faster. His pace never faltered until he rolled across the line. At that point, he looked ready to collapse. But he'd pulled off an amazing upset, out-riding some of the best climbers in the world to take the stage win in Big Bear.
Yes, Phil Liggett, I did stand and cheer in my living room and applaud for him.
What will happen tomorrow when all these same riders undertake the grueling climb up the mountain where I live? I don't know. But I'll be watching from my buddy Vince's house, right there on the final hairpin turn of the switchbacks.