Officials Estimate Total Crowds for First Five Days to be Approximately 875,000
Considered by many as the world’s fastest cyclist, Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad sprinted to an impressive win in Stage 4 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. Two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was able to retain the overall lead and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey heading into Stage 5 of the race. The impressive and challenging Stage 4 course, which took the riders from Merced to Clovis, included five King of the Mountain (KOM) and two sprint competitions.
After a fast and furious start to the race, which began with immediate attacks, Cavendish celebrated a narrow victory over Tom Boonen (BEL) of Quick Step.
“This win was massive for me and for the team,” said Cavendish. “I was really driven and I wanted this win bad. The team stayed so well together on every climb and it played into our ends today.”
Though the 115.8-mile stage saw no major changes in the overall general classification, the field faced multiple challenging aspects, including the five categorized climbs between the morning start in Merced and the final flat run-in to the finish line in Clovis.
The majestic views of the field flying along with the snow-capped Sierra Mountains in the backdrop amidst brilliant blue skies and sun made for a perfect day of racing.
“The scenery on the course is awesome,” said Leipheimer. “It’s very pretty and there were a ton of people, even in the snow, cheering for us. I think it’s great that the Amgen Tour of California can come to new places and spread the word.”
Jason McCartney (USA) of Saxo Bank drove several early moves, finally getting clear at the 26-mile mark with Serge Pauwels (BEL) of Cervelo Test Team and Rock Racing's Tyler Hamilton (USA). Hamilton's teammate Francisco Mancebo (ESP) joined the break as well, hoping to defend his sprint and KOM jerseys.
The first dry day of the race was marred by serious injuries to three high-profile riders: Kim Kirchen (LUX) of Team Columbia-Highroad fractured his right clavicle and scapula; Oscar Friere (ESP) of Rabobank fractured two ribs on his left side; and Scott Nydam (USA) of the BMC Racing Team fractured his left clavicle.
As the peloton continued their charge, Cavendish’s confidence grew. Mancebo stayed up front long enough to consolidate his leads, then retreated to the field to give teammate Hamilton a shot at staying away. The lead quickly climbed to more than five minutes with 50 miles to go, but with the mountains and motivated sprinters behind, the breakaway had no chance. They were finally swallowed by the fast-moving peloton at the Clovis city limits, where the Cervelo Test Team pulled to the front. But, Team Columbia-Highroad’s infamous sprinter Cavendish quickly took over for the win.
"I was looking after so well after the climbs; my team really put me in a perfect position,” said Cavendish. “Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia-Highroad) helped me; it was the first time we got the lead-out right."
In what was a photo-finish bunch sprint to the “gateway to the sierras,” Boonen took second and Juan Jose (J.J.) Haedo (ARG) of Saxo Bank took third.
The only change in the jerseys is to Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer™ Most Courageous Rider Jersey, which was awarded to Hamilton. The other jersey winners remain unchanged with Leipheimer in the Amgen Leader Jersey, Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank in the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey and Mancebo in the Herbalife Sprint Jersey. Mancebo also retains the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey, but McCartney, who is second in the KOM competition overall, will wear the jersey tomorrow, since Mancebo will be wearing the Herbalife Sprint Jersey.
“When we were planning for the inaugural race in 2004, our vision was to become the greatest race,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. “One that was important to cyclists and teams and important on the global cycling calendar, and I think we are making progress. It has been a difficult race so far, but the crowds have been fantastic, we are broadcasting in more than 200 countries, we are on live television, reaching more than 200 million households.”
Stage 5, Thursday Feb. 19 – Visalia to Paso Robles (134.3 mi/216.1 km)
Start time: 10 a.m., estimated finish time, 3-4:20 p.m.
At more than 130 miles, Stage 5, sponsored by Rabobank, is the longest stage of the race. A new course for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, Stage 5 will begin with a neutral start of parade laps through Visalia’s downtown area. Once the race wends its way through the start in Visalia, the riders will experience an amazing contrast between the previous day of racing in the Sierra Mountains, as they head through the vast stretch of flat roads on the San Joaquin Valley floor.
For the first 100 miles of the stage, the riders will have virtually no protection from the wind, creating a challenging ride. Winding its way back to the coast, the route, which will include two sprints, will pass by vast cattle ranches and farms. Packed full of rolling hills and large horse farms, the final 30-mile run into Paso Robles will be a fast sprint to the finish.
For full results, archived footage, GPS data, course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
In addition to the Web site, fans can view the race on the daily VERSUS broadcasts. Stage 5 will air live on VERSUS tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET.
Stage 4 top-five finishers:
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR), Team Columbia-High Road
2) Tom Boonen (BEL), Quick Step
3) Juan José "J.J." Haedo (ARG), Team Saxo Bank
4) Thor Hushovd (NOR), Cervelo Test Team
5) Tyler Farrar (USA), Garmin-Slipstream
General Classification top-five standings as of Stage 4:
1) Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana
2) Michael Rogers (AUS), Team Comumbia-High Road
3) David Zabriskie (USA), Garmin-Slipstream
4) Lance Armstrong (USA), Astana
5) Christopher Horner (USA), Astana
Stage 4 jersey winners include:
Amgen Race Leader Jersey- Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana
Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey- Tyler Hamilton (USA), Rock Racing
Herbalife Sprint Jersey- Francisco Mancebo (ESP), Rock Racing
Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey- Robert Gesink (NED), Rabobank
California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey- Francisco Mancebo (ESP), Rock Racing