Peter Sagan Wins Stage 4 of 2012 Amgen Tour of California
Twenty-two-year-old Peter Sagan (SVK) of Team Liquigas-Cannondale remains unbeatable at this year's Amgen Tour of California.
Twenty-two-year-old Peter Sagan (SVK) of Team Liquigas-Cannondale remains unbeatable at this year's Amgen Tour of California, outsprinting some of the world's top sprinters to win his fourth consecutive stage, a remarkable accomplishment rarely achieved in major international stage racing. He now also holds the record for most stage wins - seven - in the history of the Amgen Tour of California.
For the fourth consecutive day, Heinrich Haussler of Team Garmin-Barracuda finished in second place. Michael Matthews (AUS) of the Rabobank Cycling Team took third. The 2012 race has featured four consecutive sprint finishes, but the critical Individual Time Trial, often referred to as a "race against the clock," coming up on Thursday will prove to be decisive.
"Tomorrow I think I'll say bye-bye to the yellow jersey," Sagan commented after being celebrated on the podium, noting his overall race lead will most likely be handed over to the winner of the individual time trial in Bakersfield. "My team said to me before the race, ‘Peter, I think you can win four in row.' It is difficult to win one stage. To win four, I am very happy."
The longest stage of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California at 130.2 miles, Stage 4 took the riders from the small goldmine town of Sonora, up over six climbs and through two sprints before ending in front of massive crowds in Old Town Clovis. Before the mad dash through the streets of downtown, it appeared that Dave Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Barracuda might take the stage, breaking away within the final five kilometers of the race. But Sagan's team reeled in the U.S. National Time Trial champion and it was Sagan who crossed the finish line first once again.
After a two-mile neutral rollout, the race officially got underway, mostly on a downhill course, allowing the peloton to reach speeds of up to 43 miles per hour. At the first King of the Mountain (KOM), Sebastian Salas (USA) of Optum Powered by Kelly Benefit Strategies attacked off the front of the peloton to take maximum points. He was followed by Bram Tankink (NED) of the Rabobank Cycling Team, Dries Devenyns (BEL) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling.
Shortly thereafter, a breakaway of 11 riders established themselves and increased their gap to four minutes. The riders included: Markel Irizar Arranburu (ESP) and Ben King (USA) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek; Devenyns; Yannick Eijssen (BEL) of BMC Racing Team; Wilco Kelderman (NED) of Rabobank Cycling Team; Alex Howes (USA) of Garmin-Barracuda; Timothy Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale; Wesley Sulzberger (Orica-GreenEDGE); Mikael Cherel (FRA) of AG2R La Mondiale; and Jhon Atapuma (COL) and Carlos Julian Quintero of Colombia-Coldeportes.
Atapuma took top points for the second KOM of the day, followed by Howes, King, Quintero and Cherel. The break riders also swept the first sprint points, with Aranburu crossing first, followed by Howes and Kelderman. With the break dwindling to two minutes and 40 seconds, the riders crossed the fourth KOM of the day, with Kelderman reaching it first, Howes second, Quintero third and Sulzberger fourth. Shortly thereafter,