Chicchi Wins Sprint in Stage 4 of Amgen Tour of California

May 19, 2010 Updated: May 19, 2010

Francesco Chicchi celebrates his winning sprint to the finish line in Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Francesco Chicchi celebrates his winning sprint to the finish line in Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
After 121 miles on the open roads and two laps of jousting around downtown Modesto, HTC-Columbia missed their marks, and Liquigas got the best launch for their sprinter Francesco Chicchi, who beat Cervélo’s J.J. Haedo and HTC’s Mark Cavendish to the line, winning Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California.

HTC-Columbia, usually unbeatable in a spring finish, couldn’t manage their usual domination, as Spider Tech, and then Cervélo took control of the peloton in the final miles. To add to the confusion, a pair of Rabobank riders, Maarten Tjallingii and then Paul Martens, made solo attacks, trying to capitalize on the confusion at the head of the peloton.

HTC fought its way to the front at the start of the final 2.7-mile lap, but Garmin, Quickstep and Liquigas fought for the space.
Coming into the final kilometer it was HTC trying to force its way through on the left, with Cervélo in the center and Liquigas coming up the right. Renshaw led out for Cavendish, but the train as running out of steam and Cavendish launched too soon.

Cervélo’s J.J. Haedo was better positioned in the center and looked to have the win, but Liquigas rider Francesco Chicchi just nosed past him a meter from the line.

The General Classification leaders all finished with the peloton, so Garmin-Transition’s David Zabriskie kept the yellow jersey for one more day, with HTC’s Michael Rodgers and Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer right behind. Lance Armstrong maintained his twelfth place position, despite nearly crashing on the final lap.

The peloton passes the Calaveras Reservoir during Stage Four of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The peloton passes the Calaveras Reservoir during Stage Four of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A Brave Breakaway

Stage Four stretched 121 miles San Jose to Modesto, with a steep Cat 1 climb up Sierra Road, five miles into the route. Next came 25 miles of narrow switchbacks followed by thirty miles of climbing up the Cat 4 Mines road, followed by another 25 miles more of narrow, twisting switchbacks leading to a final flat 25 miles. The stage ende with two 2.7-mile laps around the streets of downtown Modesto.

Right from the start, Rabobank’s Lars Boom served notice that he wanted to win the stage. Boom took off immediately, and to be joined in the next few miles by seven other riders. Three of the riders dropped off, leaving five to try to extend the gaop far enough to win the stage.

Lars Boom led Jürgen Van de Wallle of Quick Step, Rob Britton of Bissell, Jeremy Powers of Jelly Belly, and Ryan Anderson of Kelly Benefits to a lead as large as seven minutes at one point.

After the Mines Road climb, Anderson, having earned his King of the Mountain points, dropped back, saving energy for the rest of the Tour. The remaining four pressed on, urged and organized by Boom.

HTC, Radio Shack, and Garmin led the peloton, protecting their three General-Classification-leading riders, but the chase didn’t get serious until the peloton left the mountains and got onto the straight, flat, of the city of Paterson.

David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions kept the yellow leader's jersey after Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions kept the yellow leader's jersey after Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

With 21 miles to go, Radio Shack took advantage of a sudden crosswind and charged, splitting the peloton and almost dropping yellow-jersey-rider David Zabriskiw,who had to make a monumental effort to bridge to the attacking group. Once he made it the intensity dropped some, and within a couple of miles the peloton had regrouped.

The move was reminiscent of a stage of the 2009 Tour de France when Astana (composed most of the Radio Shack team) made a similar break. Radio Shack’s master tactician Johan Bruyneel (formerly of Astana) made the call, and very nearly succeeded in wresting the yellow jersey from Garmin-Transitions.

The acceleration brought the gap to the break down to 55 seconds, and the peloton seemed satisfied tio rest and wait, while in the breakaway Boom and Van de Walle riders tried to attack unsuccessfully. A few miles on, Jeremy Powers gave up and rejoined the peloton.

Into Modesto

As soon as he hit the streets of Modesto, Lars Boom took off, trying desperately to stay away. He kept a ten-second lead until halfway through the first lap of the city, when he was run down and absorbed by the peloton.

HTC moved to the front of the peloton, but it was too soon. Cervélo then sent some riders up, hoping to set up Theo Bos. As riders tried to move up through the peloton, confusion increased.

Radio Shack rider Yaroslav Popovych crashed, but was not injured; then Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara flatted. Both were just outside the three-kilometer limit, so both were penalized for time lost.

At the start of the second lap, HTC again tried to take control of the peloton, but couldn’t hold it. Maarten Tjallingii made his break with two-and-a-half miles to go, and was run down within half a mile. Then Paul Martens took off. The sprinters had to worry that a solo rider would spoil their race, and they perhaps spent a little too much attention on the lone Rabobank riders and not enough on organizing their own teams.

With about a mile to go, Peer Latham of Bissell went down, along with a BMC rider. Lance Armstrong was forced to stop on the side of the road to keep clear of the collision, but since he was well inside the three-kilometer mark, he was not penalized.

Meanwhile at the head of the peloton, HTC-Columbia simply and quite uncharacteristically got it wrong. They spent their energy too soon, and only had two riders plus Mark Cavendish coming into the last kilometer. Mark Renshaw gave his best lead-out, but he couldn’t get Cavendish free of the pack.

Fifty meters out J.J. Haedo was ahead of Cavendish, who was trying hard to catch up on his left. Haedo was riding with power, and he had started his sprint several meters ahead of the Manx Missile. It was clear that Cavendish was not in position to make a pass.

Haedo looked to have the win, when suddenly Francesco Chicchi burst from behind and blasted by on the right. While Haedo focused on beating Cavendish, Chicchi focused on beating Haedo, who looked around at the last moment to see his victory evaporate.

This was the last stage likely to have a sprint finish, so Chicchi earned his honors just in time.

Stage Five, Visalia to Bakersfield, features the very serious climb up the Cat 3 Old Stage Road right in the middle, and a smaller bu steep climb up the Cat 4 Round Mountain Road twenty miles from the finish. A few smaller hills in the final ten miles make it unlikely that any sprinters will hang on for the finish, though it is possible.

Perhaps more likely is that some of the race leaders will seriously attack on Old Stage Road, and again on Round Mountain Road, to try to thin out the field.

It is equally possible that riders will rest, because Stage Seven features a grueling mountaintop finish at Big Bear Lake. Look for the top teams to exert a lot of pressure here; this will be the stage where someone will try to take control of the race, before the tough Time Trial around Los Angeles the next day.

 

Amgen Tour of California Stage Four Results

 

General Classification

 

Rider

Team

Time

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Francesco  Chicchi

Liquigas

4:55:02

1

David Zabriskie

Garmin-Transitions

18:04:35

2

J.J. Haedo

Saxo Bank

0

2

Michael Rodgers

HTC-Columbia

+4

3

Mark Cavendish

HTC-Columbia

0

3

Levi Leipheimer

Radio Shack

+6

4

Theo Bos

Cervélo

0

4

Peter Sagan

Liquigas

+21

5

Jonathan Cantwell

Fly V

0

5

Mark de Maar

UnitedHealthcare

+24

6

Alexander Kristoff

BMC

0

6

Janez Brajkovic

Radio Shack

+27

7

Ken Hanson

Team Type 1

0

7

Ryder Hesjedal

Garmin-Transitions

+27

8

Andreas Stauff

Quickstep

0

8

Rory Sutherland

UnitedHealthcare

+27

9

Alex Candelario

Kelly Benefits

0

9

Tom Danielson

Garmin-Transitions

+27

10

Guillaume Boivin

Spider Tech

0

10

Peter Stetina

Garmin-Transitions

+27