Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stage 3 - Horner Takes Control!

Although the Tour of California was a week-long race that stayed exciting right up to the final stage, the most decisive moment of the entire race occured on Stage 3, and Clare and I were there to witness it.  The Day started out mellow enough, in the town of Livermore, California. Greg Henderson of Team Sky had taken over the leaders jersey the day before and he was flying the gold jersey before the start.

The peleton rolled out at a pretty slow pace under cloudy skies that were threatening to rain. Although Stage 3 was the shortest stage of the race, it had some serious climbing in it and the riders didn't seem in any hurry to get to the climbs in the second half of the stage.

We drove into San Jose and walked up the Sierra Road which was the final climb to the Stage 3 finish. We expected it to be epic and we weren't disappointed.  Ryder Hesjedal came through first, looking like he was in the red!!

But right behind him came Levi, Chris Horner, and Andy Schleck. Right as they were passing us, Horner started to turn the screws a bit and he began to open up a small gap (above). Just beyond us Horner passed Hesjedal, and by the time he hit the finish line at the summit he had pushed the gap to 1:15 over both Levi and Andy!  Hesjedal slowed way down and finished 1:36 back.

The rest of the field filtered by in small groups behind the leaders.  Peter Velits of HTC looked strong as he passed, but he would wind up 8:14 behind Horner!

Brent Bookwalter of BMC is an up and coming American rider who finished a respectable 14th on the stage, 2:33 back.

Ben King is another young American who rode well on the stage. He has a few years ahead of him before he will be a real dominant force, but he is headed in the right direction.

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