By Nigel Wynn
Sylvain Georges (Ag2r La Mondiale) held off the bunch to take a fine solo win in Big Bear Lake on the sixth stage of the 2012 Tour of California on Friday.
The Frenchman had been part of an early escape group that spent almost the entire day out front. Whilst his breakaway companions fell by the wayside, Georges powered on to give Ag2r it's biggest win of the season - and only it's second of the year after Sebastian Hinault won stage three of Circuit de Lorraine in France earlier in the day.
Quadruple 2012 Tour of California stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) was the best of the rest to claim the bunch sprint for second place, 28 seconds down on Georges. Sagan's Slovak compatriot Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was third.
There was no change at the top of the overall classification, with race leader David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) coming home in the same group as Sagan. He leads fellow American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) by 34 seconds, with Robert Gesink (Rabobank) a further five seconds back.
On Saturday the riders face the toughest stage of the race – a 126-kilometre trip starting in Ontario and finishing atop Mount Baldy. The long final climb will force the overall classification contenders in a showdown before Sunday's short, flat finale in Los Angeles.
If Zabriskie fades in the high mountains, his Garmin-Barracuda team still has two options in the top ten – Andrew Talansky and Tom Danielson. Garmin's stiffest challenge will come from Van Garderen and Gesink, with Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) waiting in the wings.
Last year's winner, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) will have to pull something special out of the hat to make up his two minute and 50 second deficit on Zabriskie.
Tour of California 2012, stage six: Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, 186.3km
1. Sylvain Georges (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale in 5-07-06
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale at 28 secs
3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
4. Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Argos-Shimano
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos-Shimano
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
9. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at same time
Overall classification after stage six
1. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Barracuda in 25-37-05
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 34 secs
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 39 secs
4. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 45 secs
5. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 48 secs
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 1-01
7. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-07
8. Rory Sutherland (Aus) United Healthcare at 1-10
9. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 1-26
10. Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager-Livestrong at 1-30
Tour of California 2012: Related links
Zabriskie wins California time trial to take lead
Stage three: Sagan's California hat-trick
Stage two: Sagan makes it two out of two
Stage one: Sagan wins California opener