Chris Horner had a promising start and made a heroic effort, but it all came to loss by race end.
After what can only be described as an epic battle to the 6,445-foot summit atop Mt. Baldy, Robert Gesink (NED) of the Rabobank Cycling Team emerged victorious and took over the race lead, outclimbing two Colombia-Coldeportes riders to take the Stage 7 win of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.
The 25-year-old Dutch rider, who suffered a serious four-place fracture in his leg last September, took the leader’s jersey from American David Zabriskie of Garmin-Barracuda, by making up 39 seconds while adding another 46 to his lead going into the final day’s finish in at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 20. Zabriskie, who has finished second overall in the 2006, 2007 and 2010 editions of the Amgen Tour of California, slipped into second overall, while his American teammate Tom Danielson climbed from 7th to 3rd overall with their finishes Saturday. American Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team entered the day in second place, but lost two places and out of podium range after Saturday’s stage.
“I am very happy to take the stage victory, and of course am very happy with the effort the team put in,” said Gesink, who finished 6th overall and wore the Best Young Rider Jersey in the 2010 Tour de France while only a 23-year-old. “We started riding very early because we saw [Chris] Horner in the first group. A guy who does an attack like that has to be a really big rider to make a race as he did today. It was an incredible chase today; everyone was suffering. On the last climb I decided to go with five kilometers left. I think I looked back and the remaining group was small; it worked out perfectly. In the end, I was happy to take the stage victory. It’s a great day for me and also for my sponsor, Robobank.”
Gesink overtook Jhon Atapuma (COL) of Colombia-Coldeportes with a little under 1 kilometer to the finish on Saturday, crossing the finish line first after a stage that took the cyclists 78.3 miles from Ontario to the top of Mt. Baldy. Atapuma’s teammate and fellow Colombian, Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo, finished third.
Defending Amgen Tour of California champion Chris Horner (USA) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek rode alone with Atapuma for more than 20 miles during Saturday’s race, but faded in the final three miles to finish in sixth place on the day. Danielson finished in fifth place, moving him to third place overall.
What the stage lacked in distance, it more than made up for in vertical climbs, featuring two brutal King of the Mountains (KOM) at Glendora Ridge Road and Glendora Mountain Road and 15 switchbacks before the finish. Compared to the epic stages of the European Grand Tours, Stage 7 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California routed cyclists from the city of Ontario to the top of Mt. Baldy.
As with yesterday, the attacks started early after the official start of the race. Initially, it was Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and Dries Devenyns (BEL) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep that took off in front of a break of about 10 riders, but Devenyns dropped back and Voigt was joined by Michael Matthews (AUS) of the Rabobank Cycling Team and Bontrager Livestrong’s Nathan Brown (USA).
About eight kilometers from the first KOM of the day, there was a big group off the front with a one minute, 10 second advantage on the peloton. The group consisted of Voigt, Horner, George Bennett (NZL), Gregory Rast (SUI), all of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek; Timothy Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale; Maxime Bouet (FRA) and Mikael Cherel (FRA) of AG2R La Mondiale; Marc De Maar (AHO) and Bradley White (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team; Atapuma; Alexandre Geniez (FRA) of Team Argos-Shimano; Lucas Euser (USA) of Spidertech Powered by C10; Christopher Baldwin (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling; and Brown.
Points for the first KOM competition of the day went, in order, to Bennett, Voigt, Horner and White, and as the riders descended the twisty and technical road, the gap was at one minute, 45 seconds. The Rabobank Cycling Team, Garmin-Barracuda and Omega Pharma-QuickStep were taking turns at the front the group, and the gap held at two minutes. Shortly thereafter, Euser and White dropped from the break, leaving the initial eight riders.
Horner and Atapuma began working alone at the front of the break, while the rest continued to chase or dropped back to the main group. With a three minute, 40 second lead, they continued on as BMC Racing Team worked at the front the peloton for teammate van Garderen (USA). Atapuma and Horner were the first riders of the second KOM of the day, followed by Duggan and De Maar. With 20km from the finish, Atapuma and Horner’s lead held steady at two minutes, 25 seconds.
The two leaders continued to work together as they headed toward the base of Mt. Baldy one minute, 25 seconds ahead of the nearest chasers. The BMC Racing Team continued to push the pace at the front of the peloton. As Atapuma attacked and Horner responded, Gesink moved out in front of the peloton, attempting to catch the race leaders alone. He was followed by Danielson and van Garderen. Gesink and Danielson rode ahead of van Garderen, with Gesink just 35 seconds behind Atapuma.
Moving swiftly up the hill, Gesink dropped Danielson, then caught and passed Horner, but Horner didn’t give up easily, hanging onto Gensink’s wheel. Meanwhile, Arevalo began moving up, passing van Garderen and charging upwards. With less than one kilometer to go, Gesink passed Atapuma. Atapuma answered the attack, but was no match for Gesink, who crossed the line first.
“It was a very hard day,” said Atapuma during the post-race press conference. “I got in the break and I was looking at [Chris] Horner when I attacked so I could stay in his wake and contest for a stage win until the last climb. Then I moved away from Horner and couldn’t get the stage win. But, for our team to get second and third in a tough stage, and in such an important race, is a very good result anyway.”
With only one stage remaining in the race, the leader jerseys are as follows: Gesink is in the yellow Amgen Race Leader Jersey; Peter Sagan (SVK) of Liquigas-Cannondale remains in the Visit California Sprint Jersey; Sebastian Salas (USA) of Optum Powered by Kelly Benefit Strategies remains in the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey; Wilco Kelderman (NED) of the Rabobank Cycling Team wears the Rabobank Young Rider Jersey; Atapuma is in the Exergy Most Aggressive Rider Jersey; and Horner wears the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
“Amgen is proud to be part of this amazingly successful race, which is helping advance the popularity of cycling in America while also helping increase awareness of the resources that are available to those affected by cancer,” said Stuart Arbuckle, vice president and general manager, Amgen Oncology. “The Breakaway from Cancer nonprofit partners collectively offer people affected by cancer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals.”
Founded by Amgen in 2005 as a complementary component to its title sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California, Breakaway from Cancer continues to raise awareness of the important resources available to people impacted by cancer – from prevention to survivorship.
As part of the today’s race activities, Ontario resident and cancer survivor Ruben Estrada fired the official start gun, and Mike Monroe had the honor of awarding Horner with the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider jersey. In fact, Monroe designed this year’s Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider jersey.
“As an avid cyclist, I’m well aware of how great an event the Amgen Tour of California is, and I’m blown away by being selected as the winner of the jersey design contest,” explained Monroe. “The biggest honor is to be part of such a great initiative like Breakaway from Cancer. When I first heard of the contest, I was excited to combine my love of cycling and art in the same project. I really wanted to design a piece where the Breakaway from Cancer logo stands out, and I believe my design does that,” Monroe added.
For access to resources or to learn more, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.
1. Robert Gesink (NED) (Rabobank) 3hrs, 37mins, 8secs
2. Jhon Atapuma (COL) at s.t.
3. Fabio Duarte (COL) 14
4. Joseph Dombrowski (USA) 18
5. Thomas Danielson (USA) 26
6. Christopher Horner (USA) 38
7. Wilco Kelderman (NED) 1:04
8. Tiago Machado (POR) 1:06
9. Levi Leipheimer (USA) 1:08
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) 1:22
1. Robert Gesink (NED) 29:14:52
2. David Zabriskie (USA) at 46
3. Thomas Danielson (USA) 54
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) 1:17
5. Fabio Duarte (COL) 1:36
Robert Gesink (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team
General Classification Leader and Stage 7 Winner
On he was familiar with the Stage 7 course
“A few of my teammates who rode the course last year rode it this year, so they explained the climb to me. I saw the race on television but you can’t really tell how steep it is. I also saw it on the Internet as I was training for the race. I knew it a bit but I got a surprise by the last corner, because when I saw the podium I thought it was finished. But that’s what happens when your heart beat is at 200 and you can’t see that well anymore.”
On his stage win
“I am very happy to take the stage victory, and of course am very happy with the effort the team put in. We already started riding very early because we saw [Chris] Horner in the first group. A guy who does an attack like that has to be a really big rider to make a race as he did today. It was an incredible chase today; everyone was suffering. And on the last climb I decided to go with five kilometers left. I think I looked back and the remaining group was small; it worked out perfectly. In the end, I was happy to take the stage victory. It’s a great day for me and also for my sponsor, Robobank.”
On the gravel he hit on the last turn
“I was surprised by the last corner but it’s not that steep anymore and you do good speed. The road isn’t perfect and I almost spun out, but it was good.”
On seeing Chris Horner go early with three teammates in the break
“We were surprised, and they also took a big gap. We were riding hard, and Garmin [Garmin-Barracuda] was putting up all the guys. I put two there, and afterwards BMC [put guys there]. The gap got bigger and bigger. We were surprised they were so strong. I knew the last climb was really steep, and if you work that hard normally it’s not physically possible to stay in the front. It was pretty close; only on the last kilometer did I catch this guy [Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo]. They were really strong. I was focusing on overall, but in the end thought I could take the stage as well. It’s special to win again. It’s special to win again -for me, for my family and for my dad.”
On his future training plans
“I’ve been here for two weeks doing long training at altitude in Lake Tahoe. I’ve also been doing high-intensity workouts, which is what I’ve been using for the Amgen Tour of California so far. After this, I fly to Amsterdam and then directly through to Spain to do another altitude training camp there with my teammate. We’ll see how much better I can get. It’s physically impossible to be in 100 percent top shape, but it worked perfectly. Two years ago I did a great Amgen Tour of California. At that time I went to California with my girlfriend, so combining training with a holiday worked out well for me, so we did it again this year.”
On the overall effort of the Rabobank team today
“It was a great team effort; everyone gave their best efforts. In the beginning, we tried to put some guys in the break but it wasn’t an easy start. Paul [Martens] came back and did a perfect job chasing the group. [Martin] Tjallingil, that guy, he did what he could. He worked really hard - got bottles and was riding in the front with Paul; also a great effort. Tankink was more or less the mastermind of the team. He does the controls and set out the lines, and then the two guys, Luis Leon [Sanchez Gil] and [Wilco] Kelderman were doing a good pull at the beginning of the climb until there was only a small group left and I could take off. Also, Michael Matthews, who has a good chance tomorrow. But I suppose he has to beat [Peter] Sagan. (It’s pretty difficult he says.) I’m really happy with the team here, and I’m really happy to do so good for Rabobank, of course. They are a big sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California and got a lot of people at the start and finish so I’m really happy to give something back for all the cheering as well.”
On his ambitions for the Tour de France
“I’m always ambitious for the General Classification (GC) at the Tour de France; it’s the most important race in world. I’ve already been there but it’s a crazy race; last year a lot guys crashed out in the first week. It’s a race where a lot of things can happen. For now I’m just really happy getting a stage and being able to win the Amgen Tour of California tomorrow. This race remains an important race. I’ve been working hard at the time trials and was happy and a bit surprised with the great results. We’ll see what happens in the Tour de France.”
On the vast improvements in his time trials in a short time
“I’ve been doing all good time trials if you look back. Two years ago I did some time in a wind tunnel for the first time with some great success reducing the drag. And, this winter, we were there again. The team is always working on good materials, good clothing and best positioning. When you put a lot of energy into something it’s nice to see great results come out of it. Of course, it’s also a lot of hard work. I already took the time trial bike here; you have to ride the machine a lot to get better at it and that’s what I’ve done. It’s nice to see it works out and I was actually surprised I did so well in the time trials.”
On his accident and broken leg last year and his recovery
“The recovery at the beginning went pretty fast. I could ride my bike before I could walk. In the end, the last few steps were the most difficult. I was racing already this year, but the results weren’t there. It’s pretty normal, of course, after breaking your leg – I broke my right leg in four places and it has lots of screws still in it. It’s normal [recovery time], but as an athlete you want results and I wanted them a bit faster. Now I’m here and I’m really happy it all comes together. Over here in America where I have really good memories with the Amgen Tour of California and my holidays, winning this race is a good combination for me.”
On rehabilitation after breaking his leg and being able to ride before he could walk again
“Riding bike is easier because you have two legs; the right leg only needs to follow the left. Walking is a whole different thing because to put everything back together they had to go through some muscles and those muscles help get your hips balanced. You have to do a lot of exercise to get those muscles back. Of course, I had to build up from zero. My right leg had no muscle any more. I couldn’t even put it a centimeter from left to right. Now they look similar, but at the beginning of the season I had a small leg and a normal leg. It’s a lot of work to get two normal legs again. They say it can take up to a year until you can have two of the same legs again, both in strength and muscles. I’m still working on that.”
John Atapuma (COL), Colombia-Coldeportes
Second Place, Stage 7
On his performance today and the last kilometer
“It was a very hard day. I got in the break and I was looking at [Chris] Horner when I attacked so I could stay in his wake and contest for a stage win until the last climb. Then I moved away from Horner and couldn’t get the stage win. But, for our team to get second and third in a tough stage, and in such an important race, is a very good result anyway.”
Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (COL), Colombia-Coldeportes
Third Place, Stage 7
On the performance and aggressiveness of the team
“We are very happy with our team’s display today. Our aim was to take the stage win and we gave it our all to reach this objective. Of course we were going for general classification and we are very happy with fifth place and our results. Those are the results we needed. I thank the staff and team.”