The 2010 Amgen Tour of California couldn't be much tighter as Michael Rogers, left, and David Zabriskie are tied for the overall lead after Stage 5 on Thursday.
The best young cyclist at the Tour, Peter Sagan, won the sprint finish in Bakersfield among many of the overall leaders. Rogers and Zabriskie finished second and third, and Levi Leipheimer (4th overall) finished in 7th place on the stage. (Chris Horner was the RadioShack cyclist who came across in 4th place.)
The time bonus for Rogers' finish ahead of Zabriskie resulted in both holding the same overall time. Rogers, an Australian riding for HTC Columbia, was awarded the yellow jersey because of their relative positions in previous finishes.
Sagan, a Croatian cyclist for Liquigas, is 20 years old. Earlier this spring he won two stages of Paris-Nice and one stage at the Tour de Romandie. As long as we're giving bio information, time trial specialist Zabriskie recently moved from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. He became the only US cyclist to wear the leader's jersey in all three Grand Tours when he donned the yellow jersey in the Tour de France in 2005.
Bear of a stage
The Tour's monumental Stage 6 looms on Friday with a 135.5-mile route from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake. The need for a legitimate mountaintop finish is one of the reasons the Tour organizers moved this race from February to May.
Mountain-climbing skills and team tactics will be called for on Friday as the overall top five cyclists are only separated by 28 seconds.
In spite of the absense of Lance Armstrong who abandoned Thursday after crashing, Leipheimer still holds the edge. RadioShack has a stable of strong climbers still in the race, including Yaroslav Popovych, Chris Horner, Jose Luis Rubiera, and Jason McCartney. Zabriskie, riding for Garmin-Transitions, and Rogers will have to keep their wits to avoid being dropped.
The race got off to a slow start as the attacks held back until the situation with Armstrong and other injured cyclists was sorted out.
Top 5 overall
1. Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia)
2. David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)
3. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) 10 seconds behind
4. Peter Sagan (Liquigas) – 15 seconds behind
5. Marc DeMaar (UnitedHealthCare) 28 seconds behind