ORICA-GreenEDGE Places Two in Top Ten on ATOC Queen StageTue 13 May 2014
On a day when the sun beat down and the temperature hovered near 40 degrees, ORICA-GreenEDGE placed two riders in the top ten on the queen stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Adam Yates, recent winner of the Tour of Turkey, was one step off the podium at 11”. Esteban Chaves was a mere three seconds behind Yates at 14” as he crossed the line in eighth place. Rohan Dennis (Garmin Sharp) won the stage in an uphill sprint to the line ahead of Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano). Yates’ respectable ride moves him into fifth overall at 2’10”.
“The plan today was to ride for Adam and Esteban,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “The rest of the guys were to look after them until the last climb. It all went pretty smoothly. There’s really not much you can say about today’s finish other than the strongest guy wins.”
Within minutes after the flag dropped in San Jose, a group of eight riders split from the field. After getting up and over the day’s first hors categorie climb together, the escapees gained a maximum advantage of seven minutes before Team Sky upped the pace to start trimming the lead ahead of the summit finish on Mount Diablo.
Team Sky led the charge up the second hors categorie climb of the day for race leader Bradley Wiggins. As the peloton began to shatter on the long, tortuous climb in the blistering heat, the front group of eight was whittled down to one lone rider. With roughly four and a half kilometres to go, Wiggins himself pulled the field clear of the last escapee of the early break.
Soon, the front of the race was a very select group of ten riders. From that assembly of climbing nobility, Yates made a jump for the line as the road flattened out around the 500 metre to go mark. But, unbeknownst to him, right around the bend, the road kicked up one final time.
“Adam had a good crack with 500 metres to go,” Wilson said. “Just as Adam came around the final corner with 200 metres to go, he hit the steepest part of the climb. That’s where Rohan made his move. He’s a bit disappointed because he felt he had a good chance to win today. He misjudged the finish, but he’s determined to make it right on the next hilltop finish.”
The surprise ride of the day is awarded to Damien Howson who put in a strong effort to stay with the lead group until two kilometres to go. Howson crossed the line just 1’29” after the leader on a day when the grupetto stopped the clock more than twenty minutes after Dennis claimed victory.
Although Yates now sits fifth overall, the time gap is still too great to Wiggins to have any grand general classification aspirations. With another hilltop finish coming later in the tour, the team will continue to look after Yates but stage wins will be the main target.
“GC is not a priority,” said Wilson. “We are only looking at stages now as Adam is still 50” from moving into fourth. There’s a chance to get some time back on the next summit finish, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”