Sunday, 23 May 2010

Victory for HTC-Columbia once again, as Rogers takes the overal title

The Sunshine State lived up to its name on the final day of the Tour of California, as the peloton made its way from Greenwhich Village, through West Oak Village and into the Augora Hills. The route wrapped round on a 4 lap circuit of the stunning area. Early on several breakaways attempted to keep a lead over the main bunch, but it was the final group of 7 men including National Champion, George Hincapie and current KOM leader Rabou who were able to make it stick.

The race was sure to be a high paced and exciting, as none of the usual race ettiquet seen on races like the Tour de France applied, with Zabriski and Leipheimer sure to attack the current race leader, Mick Rogers. To snatch the jersey something special would have to come from any GC contender wishing to have a go, as with time bonuses, they would have to keep Rogers well and truely off the podium. Garmin would need to work hard if they wanted to secure a victory for Zabriski, as with Danielson pulling out of the Tour before the start of the race, they were now a man down. But the same was true of Team Radioshack, having lost Armstrong earlier on in the Tour, who would need to work together keeping the others at bay if they wanted to secure a fourth win for their man Leipheimer. The KOM jersey was the only jersey not to be up for grabs, and as the leaders came over the only KOM points marker, Rabou proved he deserved the red jersey. Meanwhile elsewhere in the peloton, Cancellara was forced to join the list of tour-abandoners.

With 50km to go, on the penaltimate climb of the Mull Holman Highway, the race leaders had 3 minutes over the man field. Leipheimer was sure to not leave the Tour without a fight for the jersey that he felt he owned, but HTC-Columbia, only one man down having lost Cavendish on the climb up Big Bear Lake, and having dominated the Tour thus far, were on equal footing with Team Radioshack to keep their man in yellow.

The tension running high, as the leaders descended on the tricky and technical section into the final lap, and with a little under 3 minutes over the main bunch, Popvich (RSH), Hincapie (BMC) and Puejol (CTT) attacked, pulling away from the others in the original breakaway. It wasnt long before the fractured group came back together, the attack a taste perhaps of what was yet to come in the final lap.

Back in the main field, Rogers kept a careful eye on Zabriski, who was mere seconds from taking the jersey from his back. HTC-Columbia relaxed their grip on the front as Garmin and Fly V Australia came forward to lead the peloton into the final 30km. The main GC contenders were all with Rogers as the time gap came down to around 2.30 minutes, the race leaders all still within reaching distance.

In contrast to earlier days where cyclist had been accused of drafting in the slipstream of the team cars, Rogers was seen visably waving at the motocade to move away from the front of the main bunch as they headed into the last 25km, not wanting the Garmin boys at the front to attain any advantage from its slipstream. The time advantage down to around 2 minutes, a catch was arguably a dead certaintly, but as the last climb started, Leipheimer, one man who certainly would want to make sure the leaders were caught, had a puncture and was in danger of being caught out drafting in the slip stream of the team car as he fought his way back up to the field with team-mate Horner pacing him.

Elsewhere, the youngest and least experienced rider, Vennell (BPC) was having trouble at the back of the break, as Barredo, Pojul and Hincapie kicked away. Back in the main field, Radioshack were ready to put in their own attack, as Leipheimer put the hammer down. Rogers was quick to react, hot on his wheel, shortly joined by Zabriski, Horner and Hesjedal as they pushed off from the front of the peloton, setting the stage for the fireworks that were surely set to explode.

With a little over 14km to go, Rabou was caught by the chasing group lead by Leipheimer, the others less than a minute up ahead. With 3 Radioshack men in the group, and in contrast Rogers alone with no team mate, the jersey seemed to be slipping from his grasp. Zabriski made a brave push as they came up the slope, but he was quickly marked by Hesjedal. Rogers careful in his tactics, stayed close to Leipheimer, conserving his energy for the final showdown. It wasnt long before Zabriski was attacking again but at 10km to go, Leipheimer was off, gritting his teeth as he moved away from the others. Rogers rode well to keep Leipheimer and Zabriski in his sights as they headed into the flat, catching Langeveld of Rabobank, as they came within 30 seconds of the race leaders.

Down into the last 8km descent, Hincapie pulled the 3 leaders forward to increase the gap to almost a minute on the yellow jersey as Horner and Hesjedal bridged the gap. As they came into the final meters, Hesjedal gave it the final kick in the sprint to snatch the victory ahead of Hincapie who finished 2nd in front of Barredo. Behind the leading three the race continued for the overal lead as Zabriski, Leipheimer and Rogers battled for the line. But the gap could not be broken down as Rogers sucessfully defended his jersey to take the overal title.

Eight days of fantastic riding, stunning scenery and a dash of controversy now over, the stars of this years tour are without a doubt HTC-Columbia, whose riders gave it their all to dominate the riding, securing a win on the first stage, courtesy of Cavendish and finally with Rogers' and Martin's terrific rides in yesterdays time trial that put Rogers firmly in the yellow. A disapointed Leipheimer of Radioshack, unable to defend his title, can only console himself in the knowledge of a race well ridden.

1 comment :

  1. @Cyclingflash - Very nice! I think Rogers should thank Langeveld, because he was the one that jumped to Leipheimer and Zabriskie when Rogers couldn't do it alone. Check out by the way. Also woman cycling!