The picturesque route took the riders south down the California coastline on Highway 1, flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Redwood forests on the other. This coastal stage included three long, but moderate climbs on Tunitas Creek Rd., La Honda Rd. and Bonny Doon Road 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 the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
As the morning fog burned off in San Francisco to reveal blue skies, the riders lined up at the start line on The Great Highway in what was to be a decisive day of racing.
The peloton approached the first sprint in Pacifica, which was taken by Stage 1 winner Mark Cavendish of 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 Karl Menzies of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis, followed by Alexander Kristoff of the 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 of Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda, Eric Boily of SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy, Davide Frattini of Team Type 1 and Ryan Anderson 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 showing fine climbing form took the KOM win, followed by Anderson. Frattini had previously won the KOM jersey in this year’s Redlands Classic stage race, so his ability to power up the climb is well known domestically.
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 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.
On the flats leading up to climb Radio Shack set a solid tempo at the front and the break was brought back. At the bottom of the Bonny Doon climb, the Shack went went on the attack and the peloton exploded.
Rory Sutherland of UnitedHealthcare tried to bridge up to Leipheimer who had leaped off the front with David Zabriskie and Michael Rogers.
Sutherland describes what happened next, “That thinned the group out a bit. I went around one group and got up to the lead riders. When Levi went, I got gapped off by Lance (Armstrong) and (Chris) Horner. I went around them and went after Levi with Lance and Horner on my wheel.”
Coming over the top, the lead trio had opened close to a 1:30 gap on the chase group. And hot on their heels Liquigas and Cervelo Test Team were at the front in hopes of hunting down the lead trio.
On the 15-mile descent into Santa Cruz, the chase group started cutting into the gap. It was touch and go until the last few kilometers, but the lead trio held on by a scant 17 seconds with Zabriskie taking the win over Rogers by inches.
The Amgen Tour of California’s stage 4 is a 121-mile stage from San Jose to Modesto that includes the first Category 1 climb of the Tour, the vaunted Sierra Road climb within the first 10 miles of the stage.
George Hincapie (BMC): 32th on the stage; 28th GC
Chris Butler (BMC): 44th on the stage; 49th GC
Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare): 106th on the stage; 121st GC
Davide Frattini (Team Type I):124th on the stage; 63rd GC