Modesto, CA - To the dismay of many, the organizers of the Amgen Tour of California have long made it a point of emphasis to include the central and eastern regions of the Golden State in their plans, making the event a true tour of California.
And while the city of Modesto may not immediately conjure up images of great cycling exploits, it has certainly played its part in making the Amgen Tour of California an exciting signature event in US cycling. With its wide streets beckoning the peloton to push the limits of speed, the run into the finishing straight has seen its fair share of heroes over the years, as well as a number of cyclists strewn across the pavement.
Yesterday was no different as riders tumbled along the streets and a leadout man was left to do his own dirty work.
Unaware that teammate and Amgen Race Jersey wearer, Ben Swift, was no longer behind him coming out of the final turn into the finish line, Sky Procycling's final leadout man, Greg Henderson just kept the jets firing in hopes that his team leader would soon come around. It would never happen.
Instead, Henderson captured the stage, easily outdistancing himself from Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard) and World Champion, Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) in the final 200 meters.
“The last 10 kilometers was very chaotic with everyone fighting for the front and multiple changes in direction,” said Henderson. “I can’t thank my team enough. Jeremy Hunt got me to the final corner and I went with 500 meters to go. I wasn’t getting any slower and I was at 200 meters. Ben (Swift) didn’t catch up and I only had about five or six pedals to go. It was a surprise to me to win because you don’t typically sprint from 500 meters out. Winning today shows that I am in great condition and I was very lucky to hold everyone at the line.”
After a neutral start, which saw the peloton complete several figure eight passes through Old Town Auburn, the race went live and the attacks started right away. A group of seven, made up of riders from UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, Team NetApp, Bissell Pro Cycling, Jelly Belly Cycling presented by Kenda, Jamis-Sutter Home and Kenda/5-Hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder, made their way to the front where they led for the majority of the race. Fifty-eight kilometers into the stage, the race leaders created an advantage of six minutes and 40 seconds, working well together over the rolling hills.
The first intermediate Sprint competition took place in the town of Ione, and Jan Barta (CZE) of NetApp, Christian Meier (CAN) of United Healthcare Pro Cycling and Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling took first, second and third, respectively. Traversing some of the most beautiful roads of Central California, the race continued on, passing through “Gold Country.”
Battling strong headwinds, the bunch was led by Sky Procycling, Team Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad and RadioShack, who all contributed riders to the front, gaining time on the break at the halfway point of the stage. Around this time, Phillip Gaimon (USA) of Kenda/5-Hour Energy Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder slipped off the back of the break and it was down to six riders.
Meir crossed the line of the second intermediate Sprint first, followed by Michael Creed (USA) of Kelly Benefit Strategies second and Jacques-Maynes third. Shortly after, the lead broke up and only Barta and Jacques-Maynes remained, fighting a strong crosswind with the group close behind.
“The wind took all my strength today,” said Barta. “It wasn’t the rain that was difficult because it wasn’t that cold. It was the headwind that was by far the toughest thing we faced today. At the end, everybody was tired because it was a long stage and we didn’t have enough strength left.”
Cranking up the heat, Sky Procycling started to chase, which split the peloton into three clusters, neutralizing the group and leaving only a few riders at the front. Once the group hit the streets of Modesto, Team Spidertech Powered by C10 moved to the front of the peloton taking position for the finish of Stage 3.
After reaching the finish line for the first of two circuit laps, the pace was ratcheted up once again and the peloton began to stretch out. Five riders from Team Spidertech Powered by C10 went out to the front, but were quickly joined by Saxo Bank Sungard and Sky Procycling. With 2.4 kilometers to go, Sky Procycling took control, with Saxo Bank Sungard and Rabobank close behind.
After a chaotic sprint to the finish, which saw two crashes that resulted in only minor injuries, Henderson rocketed to the line to the take the win, followed by JJ Haedo (ARG) of Saxo Bank Sungard and Thor Hushovd (NOR) of Team Garmin-Cervelo.
“I had great help from the team all day and was always well placed,” said Hushovd. “Johan (Van Summeren) brought me up a few times and the whole team made sure I was protected. I was in perfect position in the last corner, but the group split and I couldn’t bridge the gap. I thought I had a good chance to win today (he won in Modesto in 2009), but I’m happy with third. The team rode great and we’re looking forward to some more exciting stages.”
Henderson claimed the Amgen Race Leader Jersey. Both the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey went to Peter Sagan (SVK), and Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey was awarded to Barta. The California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey was not awarded again today, as the stage featured no KOM competitions.
As part of title sponsor Amgen’s effort to honor and celebrate cancer survivors and to raise awareness about its Breakaway from Cancer® initiative, the Modesto finish featured a Breakaway Mile. Modesto breast cancer survivor Leona Delos Reyes participated in the one-mile walk as Breakaway from Cancer Champion, an honor for which she was selected because of her extensive involvement in the Modesto cancer community as an active participant, volunteer, fundraiser and inspiration.
Delos Reyes was joined by approximately 150 community members – cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and advocates – and Dineli Wickramasinghe, Amgen, director, research, who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.
Post Stage Quotebook
Greg Henderson (Sky Procycling), First Place, Stage 3
On Sky Procycling’s ambition
“We came here with a super strong team. Unfortunately, Michael Rogers couldn’t come to defend his overall title due to his illness. Our goal is to cover as many stage wins as possible, especially with two world-class sprinters. To beat guys like Levi (Leipheimer), you have to start in front of them and have really high speeds to deliver the winner, and that is what we have shown here the last two days. We can relax a little bit now and tomorrow we head into the mountains. Obviously Team RadioShack, HTC-Highroad and Team Garmin-Cervelo have some pretty big ambitions. We have a young fellow, Chris Froome, who can climb very well. He’s our contender for top spot in the GC, so I would start looking for him tomorrow.”
On track racing versus road racing
“I can’t choose between track and road cycling because they are two different sports. With road cycling you have to be fit enough to ride for six hours. I like them both equally. Unfortunately, my event no longer exists in the Olympics, so that made it an easy decision to switch to road cycling full time.”
On what he brings to his team
“Gaining respect in the European peloton was a big goal for me last year. I had six wins with Sky Procycling last year and being consistent is my biggest attribute to the team.”
Jan Barta (Team NetApp), Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey Winner
On today’s conditions
“The wind took all my strength today. It wasn’t the rain that was difficult because it wasn’t that cold. It was the headwind that was by far the toughest thing we faced today. At the end, everybody was tired because it was a long stage and we didn’t have enough strength left.”
On winning two sprints today
“I won the first two sprints today and decided not to go for the third one. I decided it was more important to go for the attack at the sprint line because that was the best time to do it.”
Sandra Schmitz, Team NetApp Spokesperson
On today’s injuries
“Jesus Del Nero Montes slipped on the yellow center line today. He fell on his head and got back on his bike to race. At this time, we are still figuring out the extent of his injuries. The second crash, with Andrew Schillinger, looks pretty bad and he has a lot of bruising. Since we have been in the breakaway yesterday and today, we used a lot of strength, so we have to see how we feel after today.”
Dr. Ramin Modabber, Chief Medical Doctor, Amgen Tour of California
Following is a list of injuries from Stage 3. All riders, including Will Dugan (Team Type 1 sanofi-aventis), whose backside and head were seen slamming viciously against the road, were able to get back on their bikes and finish this stage.
- Jens Voigt (Leopard Trek) – left shoulder contusion
- William Dugan (Team Type 1 sanofi-aventis) – minor head injuries
- Jesus Del Nero Montes (Team NetApp) – minor head injuries
- Michael Matthews (Rabobank) – shoulder and leg abrasions
- Andrew Schillinger (Team NetApp) – leg abrasions
Results - Stage 3
1. Greg Henderson (NZL), Sky Procycling
2. Juan Jose Haedo (ARG), Saxo Bank Sungard
3. Thor Hushovd (NOR), Team Garmin-Cervelo
General Classification After Stage 3
1. Greg Henderson (Sky Procycling)
2. Ben Swift (Sky Procycling)
3. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
4. Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard)
5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo)
6. Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad)
7. Kevin Lacombe (Team Spidertech Powered by C10)
8. Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing)
9. Robert Forster (United Healthcare)
10. Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
Jersey Leaders After Stage 3
Amgen Leader Jersey – Greg Henderson (NZL), Sky Procycling
California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains Jersey – N/A
Herbalife Sprint Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Liquigas-Cannondale
Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey – Peter Sagan (SVK), Liquigas-Cannondale
Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey – Jan Barta (CZE), Team NetApp
Photos: Leonard Basobas/LB Photos