Rodgers Wins 2010 Amgen Tour of California

May 23, 2010 Updated: May 24, 2010

Michael Rogers celebrates on the podium after winning the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Michael Rogers celebrates on the podium after winning the Amgen Tour of California. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
After eight days of hard riding, the Amgen Tour of California came down the final seconds of the final stage, as the cyclists circled the cities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, and Agoura Hills, northwest of LA, Sunday afternoon.

In the end, HTC-Columbia’s Michael Rodgers defended every attack thrown at him, earning himself the top step of the podium, a scant nine seconds ahead of second-place finisher David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions. Three-time consecutive winner Levi Leipheimer of Team Radioshack did not repeat this year, instead finishing third, 25 seconds behind.

After the race, Rodgers told Bob Roll of Versus-TV that he expected the constant attacks.

“It was pretty tough out there but I managed to hold on. They attacked us from the gun,” he explained. “I had two star teammates, T.J. Van Garderen and Tony Martin—they really saved the day for me. I knew if they could get me to the last climb fresh there wasn’t any one of them was going to drop me.

“Radio Shack threw everything, Zabriskie threw everything at me. I’m just so happy, and relieved that it’s finished, and I could hold onto this jersey,” [the leader’s yellow jersey.]

The race was two races in one: the race for the stage win, and the race for the overall victory. George Hincapie of BMC started the race firm in the decision that he was going to win the final stage, and he very nearly did.

Hincapie ignored the first big break, a seven-rider effort led by Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara. Shortly after that break was ridden down, halfway through the second lap of the 21-mile course, Team Type 1’s Thomas Rabou and Quickstep’s Carlos Barredo set off on another break, and this one Hincapie chose to join.

Four other riders joined this break: Oscar Pujol of Cervélo, Sebastian Langeveld of Rabobank, Jaroslav Popovych of RadioShack, and Jeremy Vennel of Bissell.

These seven stayed ahead until halfway through the final lap, opening a gap of more than two minutes.

The peloton climbs the Mulholland Highway amongst spectators during Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The peloton climbs the Mulholland Highway amongst spectators during Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
But the peloton, lead by Radio Shack and HTC, was determined to set a high pace, not to catch the break—none of the riders in the break were any threat to the General Classification leaders—but to weaken anyone they could in the peloton, particularly the GC leaders, all of whom were marking one another, waiting for attacks.

11.5 miles from the end, Levi Leipheimer had the bad luck to get a flat tire. Leipheimer had to drop all the way to the back to get a new wheel, and then had to spend the energy to get back up to the yellow-jersey group. The energy he spent there would certainly have come in handy during to coming attacks.

Halfway through the final lap, Hincapie launched an attack that was covered by Barredo and Oscar Pujol. The remaining riders drifted back to the peloton. Hincapie, Barredo, and Pujol rode up the final Cat 4 climb, Mulholland highway, jousting with one another, looking for a chance to get away.

Behind them, the attacks started on the slopes of the climb. First Leipheimer attacked and Rodgers covered him, but Zabriskie was not able to respond. Ryder Hesjedal joined with his teammate Zabriskie to get back to the main chase group.

(R-L) Michael Rogers rides ahead of Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie up Mulholland Highway during Stage Eight of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
(R-L) Michael Rogers rides ahead of Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie up Mulholland Highway during Stage Eight of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Radio Shack was determined to bury Rodgers, but a group of six: Rodgers, Zabriskie, Hesjedal, Leipheimer, his teammate Chris Horner and Rabobank’s Sebastian Langevelde hung together up the climb, gapping the peloton which started to shred as the pace stayed high and the road rose upward.

David Zabriskie made a serious attack near the top of the climb. Once the group shut it down, Hesjedal took off on his own, followed by Chris Horner. With the top of the climb so near and only seven miles left in the race, and Rodgers isolated in the chase group, Hesjedal decided to contest the stage win.

The peloton climbs the Mulholland Highway amongst spectators during Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The peloton climbs the Mulholland Highway amongst spectators during Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
While the two riders bridged to the breakaway, the remaining chasers, occasionally joined by Jaroslav Popovych, continued attacking.

Rodgers, defending the yellow jersey, tried to keep a high pace. He knew that Radio Shack’s Chris Horner was only 1:34 down, and Rodgers needed to keep the gap smaller than that.

With six miles to go Levi Leipheimer attacked, and Rodgers covered him. Then Leipheimer immediately went again, and this time Rodgers did not immediately respond.

Dave Zabriskie, did though, and for a few seconds it looked like the pair might drop the yellow jersey. But Sebastian Langeveld came to Rodgers’s rescue. The pair cooperated to get back to Zabriskie and Leipheimer.

Once the chase group crested the last climb, there was no chance for Leipheiomer or Zabriskie to make up any time. Rodgers clung to their wheels all the way to the finish line, winning the Tour.

Michael Rogers descends the Mulholland Highway during Stage Eight of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Michael Rogers descends the Mulholland Highway during Stage Eight of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, up front, George Hincapie was making a huge effort to win the stage. Surrounded by strong riders, he had to cover every attack. He couldn’t afford to let anyone get away, because he couldn’t be sure they rest of the group would cooperate to chase down an attacker.

While other riders could rest, Hincapie just kept going. First Pujol attacked, then Barredo, then Barredo again. Hincapie let no one get away

Coming into the final kilometer, Chris Horner moved to the front of the break, with Hincapie right on his wheel. Oscar Pujol made a mad break down the far left side of the road, trying to sneak away and steal the stage, but everyone ignored him.

When Horner attacked, Hincapie stuck right to him. But stuck to Hincapie was Ryder Hesjedal, who was far fresher, having watched rather than defending all the attacks.

As the trio passed Pujol, Hesjedal hit the gas and shot by Hincapie on the right. Hincapie was slow to respond, and when he tried, his legs just didn’t have the horsepower—he had left it all on the road, and didn’t have it for the final sprint.

Ryder Hesjedal (C) takes the podium after winning Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California along with George Hincapie (L)  and Carlos Barredo (R). (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Ryder Hesjedal (C) takes the podium after winning Stage Eight of the 2010 Tour of California along with George Hincapie (L) and Carlos Barredo (R). (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Garmin-Transition’s Ryder Hesjedal won the stage, relegating George Hincapie to second. Hesjedal used both great riding ability and sound strategy, and while it seemed sad that Hincapie could not get a win for all his hard work, Hesjedal certainly earned his victory.

After the race, Hesjedal told Versus-TV that he worked for his team leader David Zabriskie until Zabriskie seemed to be in good shape, then looked to his own chance at a stage win.

“I was with Dave [Zabriskie] right through the climb,” Hesjedal said. “He got a bit isolated with Levi and Mick [Rodgers] but I was able to claw back. Near the top Dave put in a nice effort and softened the group again. I felt like the best plan would be to keep the pressure high also.

“Once I rolled away, Chris came up. We were definitely looking for the stage [win.] I felt good. We were able to make it up to the rest of the break, and I was focused on getting to the line first after that.”

Hesjedal also earned himself fifth overall with his effort.

George Hincapie managed to hold on for second, while Carlos Barredo took third.

 

Amgen Tour of California General Classification

 

 Rider

Team Time

1

Michael Rodgers

HTC-Columbia

33:08:30

2

David Zabriskie

Garmin-Transitions

+:09

3

Levi Leipheimer

Radio Shack

+:25

4

Chris Horenr

Radio Shack

+1:04

5

Ryder Hesjedal

Garmin-Transitions

+1:08

 

Amgen Tour of California Stage Eight

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Ryder Hesjedal

Garmin-Transitions

3:21:56

2

George Hincapie

BMC

+0

3

Carlos Barredo

Quickstep

+0

4

Chris Horner

Radio Shack

+0

5

Oscar Pujol

Cervélo

+:05

6

Sebastiean Langeveld

+:28

 

7

Levi Leipheimer

Radio Shack

+:28

8

Michael Rodgers

HTC-Columbia

+:28

9

David Zabriskie

Garmin-Transitions

+:28

10

Jaroslav Popovych

Radio Shack

+:34