Janier Acevedo of Continental team Jamis-Hagens Berman beat the best of the World Tour riders to win an incredibly tough Stage Two of the 2013 Tour of California.
Acevedo, a 27-year-old Colombian rider who turned pro only tweo years ago and is in his first season with Jamis, showed incredibly climbing legs in the searing heat on the stage’s summit finish, accelerating away from his pursuers on grades from 14 through 22 percent.
Not only did the stage include two Cat One climbs, it was run in record-setting 114-degree heat in the California desert. “That was unlike anything I have ever done,” Tejay Van Garderen told NBCSN after the race. “It was by far the hottest race I’ve ever done”
All the action happened on the final Cat One summit finish up Tramway Road, a straight six-kilometer climb with an increasing gradient reaching 14 percent in the final kilometer and up to 22 percent at the line.
This climb destroyed the peloton; after catching down a four-rider break at the base of the climb, the bunch headed confidently onto the lower slopes and almost immediately riders started dropping off the back.
RadioShack and BMC led the peloton onto the climb; RadioShack then took over, sending its whole team to the front.
A kilometer into the climb, BMC’s Philippe Gilbert and RadioShack’s Andy Schleck sat up, followed by King of the Mountains leader Carter Jones of Bissell and race leader Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil.
Halfway up the climb United Healthcare’s Phil Deignan attacked. The 29-year-old Irish rider had just won the Tour of Gila in New Mexico and was ready for the heat. Only a dozen riders could manage the chase; the rest forgot the win and focused on making it to the top of the climb.
Two-and-a-half kilometers from the crest, only five riders remained in the group following Deignan: Tejay Van Garderen and Mathias Frank of BMC, Matthew Bushe of RadioShack, 2010 winner Michael Rogers of Saxo Tinkoff, and Janier Acevedo of Jamis.
When it was just the five chasing Deignan, Acevedo attacked; Mathias Frank led the chase to bring him back to the group.
As the road got steadily steeper, this group thinned. First Frank and Bushes, then Michael Rogers dropped back as Van Garderen and Acevedo pushed on in pursuit of the UHC rider.
Van Garderen and Acevedo caught Deignan coming into the final kilometer; his strong ride earned him third in the stage, but he couldn’t match the other two.
The grade increased to 14 percent 800 meters from the finish. Shortly after hitting the harder slop, Janier Acevedo attacked. The 27-year-old Colombian rider made a very sharp attack, opening a gap of 20 meters almost immediately. He looked completely at ease as he pulled away from Van Garderen, who made no effort to respond.
Acevedo rode on, frequently looking back over his shoulder as if he couldn’t believe he was leading the stage. He attacked again in the final few hundred meters, on the very steepest slopes, just to be sure he sealed the win.
He needn’t have bothered. Janier Acevedo was all alone as he pedaled across the finish line and almost fell over, having drained himself to win both the stage and the race leader’s yellow jersey.
Van Garderen crossed the line eleven second later, and also needed assistance, and did almost every rider after crossing the line. They had the will to make it to the finish, but not a foot further.
One rider couldn’t make it. He stopped and sat on the side of the road, putting ice cubes into his shorts and jersey, trying to muster the strength to even walk across the line before the thirty-three- minute cut-off.
Likely a lot of riders will be getting I.V.s after the stage. Some riders lost fifteen pounds of fluid in Stage One, and Stage Two was hotter and harder.
New Race Leader
Janier Acevedo will wear yellow starting Stage Three—a huge boost for the public profile of the Jamis-Hagens Berman team, which will be all over television and the Internet for at least a day. He leads Tejay Van Garderen by 12 seconds and Phillip Deignan by 27. Mathias Frank of BMC and Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff round out the top five, 45 and 44 seconds down respectively.
Five of the top ten are riders from U.S. Pro-Continental squads, racing against the top-tier World Tour team.
As for Van Garderen, not taking yellow was probably a lucky break for him. It would be early in the race for his team to have to try to defend the lead. Jamis probably didn’t expect to take the jersey, but certainly don’t expect to have a shot at the GC win. For them a day or two in yellow is probably beyond their highest hopes entering the race.
BMC had already been the primary pace-setter in the peloton, wanting very much to control the race for Van Garderen to win overall. While he said the team was strong enough to lead the whole race, he felt Jamis would have to step up now that Acevedo was in yellow.
“They [Jamis] have the jersey so that comes with some responsibility,” Van Garderen told NBCSN’s Bob Roll. “If things really start to get out of hand and their team is struggling I think we’ll step in and help them out a little bit, but certainly it’s up to them to defend.
“I think we are strong enough to do that, and if we keep doing that I’m pretty confident in my ability to take the jersey in the TT,” (the Stage Six time trial with its brutal uphill finish.)
Acevedo and his team mates have a much easier stage on which to defend the yellow jersey: Stage Three, 178 km from Palmdale to Santa Clarita, contains four Cat Four climbs—nothing as grueling as Stage Two’s finish, or even close. This will be another day with a breakaway and probably some attacks on the 30-km long slope from the final peak to the finish line. The race might even end in a bunch sprint.