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“Old man” has best legs at Tour of California finish

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Smiling all the way to the top of the Sierra Grade, Chris Horner catapulted himself into the lead of the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday.

The veteran cyclist was part of a RadioShack group that appeared ready to help deliver team leader and three-time ATOC champion Levi Leipheimer to a victory on the mountainous Stage 4 bike race.

But when it came to the 9.4% grade on the Sierra Road, Horner set a pace that even Leipheimer couldn't follow and charged up the hill to a solo victory, 1:15 ahead of the second finisher, Andy Schleck (Leopard).

'Working for Levi'

After the race, Horner thanked his teammates for destroying the competition on all of the day's climbs. Asked whether he or Leipheimer was the focus of the team's efforts, he said, “Without a doubt, I was working for Levi.”

At 39, Horner is the second oldest cyclist in the race, following Germany's Jens Voigt by about a month-and-a-half. This marks his first win this year. In 2010 he won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage race; he finished 2nd overall in that race this year.

He's won many races over the years, including the championship of the Tour de Georgia back in 2003 and multiple wins at the Sea Otter Classic and Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Steep climbs
The General Classification contenders had set their sights on Stage 4, the first mountain stage of the bike race. Five climbs marked the 81-mile route from Livermore to Sierra Road near San Jose.

It started with the short steep hill up Mines Road, then two quick climbs on San Antonio
Canyon Road. The longest and highest of the day was a 4.2-mile long climb up
to the top of Mt. Hamilton at a 8.4% grade. The final Sierra Road grade was 3.5 mile long at 9.4% gain.

A 10-man breakaway got away early, but the RadioShack driven peloton didn't let them get too far up the road.

After the peloton came together on Mt. Hamilton, Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Cervelo attacked and was followed by Paul Martens of Rabobank.

They helped each other on the long downhill and across the valley. Hesjedal even waited for Martens to recover from a miscalculated curve that sent him off the road and across a driveway.

RadioShack-controlled

With RadioShack controlling the peloton all the way, first Martens then Hesjedal were caught on the lower part of Sierra Road. By then Shleck, Chris Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie (Garmin), and a few other team leaders formed a group to make an assault on the summit.

Horner set a pace that no one, not ever Leipheimer, could follow. While those contenders battled for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place, the cyclist from Bend, Oregon, rode away for his solo victory.


Top 10 stage winners

1. Chris Horner, RadioShack
2. Andy Schleck, Leopard
3. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthCare
4. Levi Leipheimer, RadioShack
5. Tom Danielson, Garmin
6. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin
7. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin
8. Laurens Ten Dam, Rabobank
9. Andrew Talansky, Garmin
10. Linus Gerdemann, Leopard

Top 10 overall

1. Chris Horner, RadioShack
2. Levi Leipheimer, RadioShack – 1:15
3. Tom Danielson, Garmin – 1:22
4. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin – 1:29
5. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthCare – 1:30
6. Andy Schleck, Leopard
7. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin – 1:36
8. Linus Gerdemann, Leopard – 1:50
9. Andrew Talansky, Garmin
10. Laurens Ten Dam, Rabobank – 2:00

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2011/05/18/old-man-has-best-legs-at-tour-of-california-finish/

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