Chris Horner Climbs the Way to Success in Stage 4 of 2011 Amgen Tour of California
In one of the most impressive team and individual performances of the Amgen Tour of California, Chris Horner (USA) of Team RadioShack out performed his competitors, and teammate Levi Leipheimer (USA), to win the first true mountaintop finish in the history of the race atop Sierra Road outside San Jose.
The next two KOMs on San Antonio Valley Rd., both category four-rated climbs, were won by Will Routley (CAN) of Team Spidertech Powered by C10 and Jesse Anthony (USA) of Team Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, respectively. On the descent of the second KOM, the gap was closed, but split again once the group hit flatter ground.
At the front of the peloton, Team RadioShack continued to set the tempo, working for team captain Leipheimer and Horner. RadioShack managed to keep the gap at less than a minute. With back-to-back KOMs, the climbers put serious pressure on the group as everyone rolled closer to the last two big mountains of the day.
With five kilometers to go to the third KOM, the gap had increased a bit with a lead of one minute and 10 seconds on the chasers, still led by Team RadioShack. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) of Team Garmin-Cervelo launched an attack on a small climb that interrupted the decent and was quickly joined by Paul Martens (GER) of Team Rabobank, but Hesjedal continued to do most of the work on the front. On the third KOM, Anthony crossed the line first, and the fourth KOM was captured by Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) of Team Spidertech Powered by C10.
As the race continued, three riders from Team RadioShack kept pace at the front of the peloton. Horner and Leipheimer leapt off the front to chase down Hesjedal, leaving Schleck (Leopard-Trek) and David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Cervelo behind. They were able to catch him, but Horner proved to be too strong for both and he established a gap between himself and Leipheimer and Hesjedal, a decisive move that put Horner in the lead with three kilometers to go until the finish.
Leipheimer and Hesjedal continued to lose ground as their chasers closed in. With one kilometer to go, Horner had a lead of one minute and five seconds, riding confidently on his own.
While the Amgen Tour of California has gone over Sierra Rd. every year since its inception, today was the first time the race finished at the top. Painfully steep, Sierra Rd. is 3.5 miles long and climbs to more than 1,700 feet with an average grade of 9.4 percent. At the top of the mountain, Horner placed first, Schleck rode to second and Rory Sutherland (AUS) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling took third.
"This is it. For us, this race is the Tour de France," Sutherland commented after the stage finish and added "It is a huge objective for our sponsor and to be able to get on the podium today was very exhilarating. It just so happened that Chris (Horner) was going a little faster than us. This race is what we have been working for. We started working towards this a month after the Amgen Tour of California last year."
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Team RadioShack's Chris Horner in first, Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) in second and Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Garmin-Cervelo in third. Team Garmin-Cervelo is leading the teams classification.