Chris Horner all but secured the overall victory in the 2011 Amgen Tour of California on Saturday, following team-mate Levi Leipheimer up Mount Baldy to give Radioshack a one-two on the seventh stage.
Radioshack had worked hard during the stage to reel in an escape group that contained several riders high up in the overall classification, including Garmin-Cervelo pair Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky. Originally, Sky Brits Ben Swift and Chris Froome, and man-in-the-news George Hincapie (BMC Racing) had also been in the escape, but were later dropped.
As Andy Schleck’s Leopard-Trek squad joined Radioshack in driving the chase, the escape’s advantage faltered and by the time the race hit the lower slopes of Mount Baldy the bunch was also severely depleted with only a handful managing to hang on to the group.
Slowly, the Radioshack riders peeled off the front leaving Matthew Busche to give the final hammerblow and launch race leader Horner and three-time Tour of California winner Leipheimer up the mountain. Schleck was surprisingly one of the riders to struggle to keep in touch, and he obviously has some work to do before he hits top form for the Tour de France in July.
The Radioshack pair worked together to distance their rivals, and arrived at the finish line hand in hand with Leipheimer taking the stage win and Horner all but securing the overall classification with one stage in the race remaining.
Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) was the best of the rest, coming home in third place with Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) in fourth. Schleck finished ninth at 1-39.
Having had a good couple of days previously, Australian Rory Sutherland (Unitedhealthcare) finally showed the strain and finished 13th on the stage, 2-34 behind Horner. He now slips from third place overall to seventh.
Sutherland had been assisted by British team-mate Charly Wegelius, who was top British finisher in 14th. Irish climber Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) finished one place behind Wegelius at 2-49.
Horner leads Leipheimer in the overall classification by 38 seconds. Danielson moves up to third overall at 2-45 with Garmin-Cervelo team-mate Christian Vande Velde in fourth at 3-23.
The 2011 Amgen Tour of California concludes on Sunday with a 132.4km flat stage from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks. Garmin-Cervelo will have to concoct something very special for the final day if they are going to have one last attack on the overall classification.
Radioshack may have dominated the 2011 Tour of California, but it has been Garmin-Cervelo that have provided the entertainment. They may have failed to put a rider in the top spot but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
Tour of California 2011, stage seven: Claremont to Mount Baldy, 121.9km
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack in 3-33-01
2. Chris Horner (USA) Radioshack at same time
3. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 43 secs
4. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-01
5. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing at 1-21
6. Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 at same time
7. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad at 1-29
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 1-39
9. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek
10. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at same time
13. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare at 2-34
14. Charly Wegelius (GB) Unitedhealthcare at same time
15. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 2-49
34. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 6-25
56. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 14-11
118. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 32-21
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Christopher Horner (USA) Radioshack in 20-50-02
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack at 38 secs
3. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 2-45
4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 3-18
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad at 3-23
6. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 3-26
7. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare at 4-12
8. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 4-33
9. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing at 4-50
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Cervelo at 6-16
14. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 8-39
44. Charly Wegelius (GB) Unitedhealthcare at 27-03
54. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 33-02
59. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 36-46
70. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 41-32
Radioshack take control on Mount Baldy
Chris Horner (left) and stage winner Levi Leipheimer at the finish
Tour of California 2011: Related links