Dutch Rider Climbs to Event Lead With Overall Victory in Clear Sight
A day after riding to the top of Big Bear, competitors in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California faced an even tougher challenge: Mt. Baldy.
The two Southern California peaks are just an hour from one another, with Mt. Baldy being only an hour from downtown Los Angeles. And what the Mt. Baldy stage lacked in distance – it started in nearby Ontario and covered just 78.3 miles instead of the usual 115 or so – it more than made up for in vertical climbs, featuring two brutal King of the Mountains (KOM) at Glendora Ridge Road and Glendora Mountain Road and 15 switchbacks before the finish. The rout is comparable to the epic stages of the European Grand Tours.
It was won by Robert Gesink (NED) of the Rabobank Cycling Team. And not only that, he took took the leader’s jersey from American David Zabriskie of Garmin-Barracuda by making up 39 seconds while adding another 46 to his lead going into the final day’s finish in at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, May 20.
Gesink emerged the winner after an epic battle to the 6,445-foot Mt. Baldy summit, outclimbing two Colombia-Coldeportes riders to take the win. The final stage covers just 42.6 miles from Beverly Hills, through Hollywood and ends a LA Live (a very busy place this weekend) and with a big lead, Gesink is in outstanding position to claim the Amgen Tour title.
Zabriskie, who has finished second overall in the 2006, 2007 and 2010, slipped to second overall, while his American teammate Tom Danielson climbed to third (from seventh) after Saturday’s Mt. Baldy stage. American Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team entered the day in second place, but lost two places and is out of podium range.
The 25-year-old Gesink said, “We started riding very early because we saw [Chris] Horner in the first group. A guy who does an attack like that has to be a really big rider to make a race as he did today. It was an incredible chase today; everyone was suffering. On the last climb I decided to go with five kilometers left. I think I looked back and the remaining group was small; it worked out perfectly.
“In the end, I was happy to take the stage victory. It’s a great day for me and also for my sponsor, Robobank.”
Gesink overtook Jhon Atapuma (COL) of Colombia-Coldeportes with a little under 1 kilometer to the finish on Saturday, crossing the finish line first after a stage that took the cyclists 78.3 miles from Ontario to the top of Mt. Baldy. Atapuma’s teammate and fellow Colombian, Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo, finished third.
Defending Amgen Tour of California champion Chris Horner (USA) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek rode alone with Atapuma for more than 20 miles during Saturday’s race, but faded in the final three miles to finish in sixth place on the day. Danielson finished in fifth place, moving him to third place overall.