Santa Cruz, CA - What do you get when three world-class time trialists contest a sprint...one really long sprint.
After covering 182.3 km of scenic roadways along California's iconic Pacific Coast Highway 1, David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions), Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and three-time defending Amgen Tour of California champion, Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) would round the final corner together to contest the Stage 3 finale along the Santa Cruz boardwalk. In the end, Zabriskie would win the drag race in a photo finish despite a superb bike throw by Rogers.
Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Redwood forests on the other, Stage 3 included three long, but moderate climbs on Tunitas Creek Rd., La Honda Rd. and Bonny Doon Rd. packed with local cycling fans, which was followed by lengthy and fast descents. The sprint to the finish followed W. Cliff Dr. along Monterey Bay to an exhilarating conclusion to Stage 3 at the world famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
As the morning fog burned off in San Francisco to reveal blue skies l day, the riders lined up at the start line on The Great Highway and got Stage 3 off to a great start. After a few failed breakaway attempts at the start of the stage, the peloton approached the first sprint in Pacifica, which was taken by Stage 1 winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), putting him in the lead in the points competition. The first hour of the stage was marked by little attacks, mainly from QuickStep and HTC-Columbia, but the riders weren’t able to get anything to stick.
The next sprint in Half Moon bay was taken by Tasmania's Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis), followed by Alexander Kristoff (BMC Racing Team) and Cavendish. As the riders continued on from the sprint a five-man break formed, which included Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL), Will Routley (CAN) of Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda, Eric Boily (CAN) of SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy, Davide Frattini (ITA) of Team Type 1 and Ryan Anderson (CAN) of Kelly Benefit Strategies. With fans lining the street shoulder-to-shoulder on the lead up to the first King of the Mountains competition (KOM) on Tunitas Creek Road (Cat. 2 – 1,562 ft.), Frattini took the KOM win, followed by Anderson.
After going through the feed zone, the riders were quickly hit with another climb, Highway 84 (Cat. 3 – 1,427 ft.), which provided identical results to the first KOM – Frattini in first and Anderson is second. After a quick descent, the cyclists faced the third KOM of the day, Pescadero Rd. (Cat. 4 – 1,053 ft.), which, once again, saw Frattini take the KOM, followed by Anderson.
Team RadioShack, with assistance from the Cervélo TestTeam, drove the field for most of the day and eventually swallowed up the break en route to the final climb of the day. With the end of the race drawing near, several teams began to make their move and created a breakaway that consisted of three riders – Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie.
With just under 20 miles to go on the route to Santa Cruz, the riders faced the largest climb of the day, Bonny Doon/Pine Flat Road (Cat. 2 – 2,135 ft.). After many unsuccessful attempts by several teams to pull the break back, Zabriskie took the stage win in an all out sprint to the finish before thousands of fans at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Results - Stage 3
1. David Zabriskie (GBr) HTC-Columbia
2. Michael Rogers (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
3. Levi Leipheimer (Nor) BMC Racing
With the victory in Santa Cruz, David Zabriskie pulled into the lead of the General Classification and received the most appropriate prize for his stage win on a beautiful, sunny California day. “I’ve been a runner up, but I’ve never won a stage here,” said Zabriskie. “I’ve never touched the Amgen Leader Jersey since the Amgen Tour of California started. Just to touch this jersey is quite an honor.”
General Classification - After Stage 3
1. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions
2. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo
5. Marc De Maar (Ned) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions
7. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack
8. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis
9. Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Transitions
10. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions
Jersey Leaders - After Stage 4
Amgen Race Leader Jersey - David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions
Herbalife Sprint Jersey - Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia
California Travel and Tourism Commission King of the Mountains Jersey - Thomas Rabou (NED) Team Type 1
Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey - Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo
Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Jersey - Will Routley (CAN) of Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda
Next: Stage 4 - San Jose to Modesto (177.2 km)
Photo: Leonard Basobas/LB Photos