With a new Amgen Tour of California champion to be decided as Americaâs premier annual road race concludes tomorrow, Team Sky and their former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins (GBR) played it steady today to keep his 30-second lead in tact. But with a difficult course ahead for Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks, the quest to take home the prestigious yellow jersey is far from a foregone conclusion.
âIt depends whoâs there, how the race pans out at the start,â Wiggins said about the final stage. âI havenât really looked at the route yet, so I have to take a look at it and try to think of all the scenarios that could happen tomorrow and try to work out a strategy for those. But I guess Peter [Sagan] will have another go if heâs there.â
Todayâs Stage 7 presented by Crunchies Natural Snacks was finally the day the pelotonâs top sprinters have been trying to materialize all week, with Cannondale Pro Cyclingâs Peter Sagan (SVK) sprinting to his first Amgen Tour of California stage victory this year, and furthering his record stage wins in this race to 11. Marking his 66th career victory, Sagan will remain in the Visit California Sprint Leader Jersey, which he has won four years running.
âToday, I am very happy for this victory,â said Sagan. âIt was big work of my team, all the team, because they were all pulling from the start to the finish. It was a very big stage for us. I am very happy for a victory because Iâm a finish man and today we did very, very good work.â
The 88.7-mile stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena began with a breakaway of seven cyclists around mile 13. Nearing the top of Angeles Crest, at more than 4,000 feet elevation, the final climb before a speedy descent into Pasadena, Team Garmin-Sharpâs Ben King (Charlottesville, Va.) attacked, narrowing the group to four, with the peloton trailing by about two minutes. Determined to deliver Sagan first over the line, Cannondale Pro Cycling propelled the peloton forward, steadily gaining on the lead group even as the elevation continued to rise.
As the breakaway descended into downtown Pasadena at speeds near 60 mph, rider by rider fell back until King and BMC Racing Teamâs Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) punched up the speed to become the last two standing out front with 10 miles left to ride. As they crossed the iconic Colorado Street Bridge onto the first of three 3-mile circuits, the peloton bore down and finally caught the two just before the final lap. Kingâs ride earned him the Amgen Breakaway from CancerÂ® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
In the final lap, Cannondale Pro Cycling, Team Giant-Shimano and BMC Racing Team maneuvered to put their sprinters into prime position to pounce, with Team Sky taking turns at the front to ensure their leader would not lose time at the line. In the final kilometer, BMC Racing Teamâs Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.) led out former world champion Thor Hushovd (NOR) in a bid for the stage win. At his heels were Team Giant-Shimanoâs John Degenkolb (GER) and Sagan.
Sagan used three tight corners leading to the finish to his advantage, moving around to the front to claim the stage win by a clear margin. Hushovd, who has racked up stage wins in every Grand Tour, including nine in the Tour de France, placed second, with Trek Factory Racingâs Danny Van Poppel (NED) in third, Zakkari Dempster (AUS) with Team NetApp-Endura in fourth and Degenkolb settling for fifth.
There was no change to the overall lead today, and Wiggins will ride the final stage in Thousand Oaks wearing the Amgen Race Leader Jersey (+:30) over Team Garmin-Sharpâs Rohan Dennis (AUS). Lawson Craddock (Austin, Texas) of Team Giant-Shimano remains in the Crunchies Best Young Rider jersey and in third place overall (+1:48) with Team NetApp-Enduraâs Tiago Machado (POR) in fourth place (+2:02). Will Routley (CAN) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies further cemented his hold on the Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain Jersey today, which he alone has worn all week.
âThe Amgen Tour of California provides an opportunity to raise awareness of some of the worldâs most serious illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease,â said Ray Jordan, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs, Amgen. âOur sponsorship also allows us to connect with patients through programs running in tandem with the race, such as the national Breakaway from CancerÂ® initiative.â
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 â from prevention to survivorship.
As part of todayâs activities, Santa Clarita resident and cancer advocate Lisa DeLong fired the official start gun, and Bakersfieldâs Larry Aronat, winner of the recent design contest to create this yearâs Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey, presented the jersey to Team Garmin-Sharpâs Ben King.
For access to resources or to learn more, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.
From iconic ocean vistas to mountaintop finishes to desert scapes, the cyclists will cover more than 720 miles of beautiful and varying California terrain this week as they ride from the north to the south of the state in the ninth annual Tour de France-style competition.
Stage 8 Tomorrow, Presented by AMGEN:
Sunday, May 18 â Thousand Oaks (76.1 mi)
Start Time: 8:30 a.m. PDT
Estimated Finish Time: 11:40 a.m. PDT
Satellite Feed Time: 12:50 â 1 p.m. PT
Coordinates can be found at
The race conclusion airs live on NBC from 10:00 a.m. to noon PDT.
Thousand Oaks, home to title sponsor and biotechnology pioneer Amgen, will host the overall finish for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, where the race winners will be decided and jerseys awarded. The final stage will be contested in three laps of the same 21-mile circuit used for the race finale in 2010. That means three 910-foot ascents up the infamous âRock Storeâ climb on Mulholland Drive followed by three 4.6-mile circuits around Westlake Lake. The course will pass through Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, past the Rock Store restaurant at the foot of the climb, and finally, into a very technical descent of Westlake Boulevard. It has been a very difficult race, and unlike most stage races, riders can make up significant time on the final day on this route. The yellow jersey almost changed when the race finished on this course in 2010. Will it happen this year?
There are plenty of ways to take in the pro action, whether in person on the race course through May 18, via daily broadcasts on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports (final Sunday), or by downloading the free Tour Tracker app, which features live race updates, rider background and full race results. More information on all of the ways to watch is available at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
About the Amgen Tour of California
The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race created and presented by AEG that challenges the worldâs top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of Californiaâs iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. More information is available at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. This approach begins by using tools like advanced human genetics to unravel the complexities of disease and understand the fundamentals of human biology.
Amgen focuses on areas of high-unmet medical need and leverages its biologics manufacturing expertise to strive for solutions that improve health outcomes andÂ dramatically improve peopleâs lives. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen has grown to be the worldâs largest independent biotechnology company, has reached millions of patients around the world and is developing a pipeline of medicines with breakaway potential. For more information, visit www.amgen.com and follow us on www.twitter.com/amgen.
AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Company, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, StubHub Center, Sprint Center, The O2, Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE and Best Buy Theater Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), two Major League Soccer franchises, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race; AEG Live, the organizationâs live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring and a variety of programming and multi-media production. For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.