Amgen Tour, Stage 4, Chris Horner’s Climbing Clinic

Amgen Tour, Stage 4, Chris Horner’s Climbing Clinic

Team RadioShack’s Chris Horner schooled the peloton at the Tour of California on how to power up the summit on Sierra Road at the end of the 82-mile (132-kilometer) stage from Livermore to San Jose, with a burst of power that must have left heads shaking in disbelief. While everyone was convinced that Levi Leipheimer’s was the man to beat on this route, things turned out differently when one of the oldest men in the race pounced up the steep climb to take the win. The 39-year old Horner, walked away from some elite company with less than 2 miles to go, and sped away so decisively that by the time he’d crossed the line he’d built a 1:15 minute gap on the next bunch behind.

It was clear from the race profile that this was going to be a climber’s stage critical to overall victory in this year’s race. It was also clear from the rhetoric and planning that Team RadioShack meant to control the outcome and do some damage. Every other rival in the peloton knew it was coming, but still, no one was capable of doing anything about it, such was the strength of the The Shack’s squad going up both of the main climbs of the day.

A break of 10 riders formed early and was allowed up to a 3-minute gap going over the first significant climb of the day on Mines Road. But as they approached the second and final climb, they started coming undone just as Team RadioShack was drilling a fierce pace from behind with Jason McCartney pulling the train at the bottom, handing off to Haimar Zubeldia, and then finally to Matt Busche who really exploded the field with an impressive pull at the front, setting up Chris and Levi to pair up and shoot for the summit.

Garmin-Cervélo’s Ryder Hesjedal and Rabobank’s Paul Martens made a good move on the final climb and built a bit of a gap working together, but Martens couldn’t keep the pace and then Chris and Levi caught Hesjedal. Leopard-Trek’s Andy Schleck, United-Healthcare’s Rory Sutherland, Garmin’s Tom Danielson and HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen formed a group chasing furiously to keep the gap down. Then, up front, Chris stamped out an acceleration that nobody could match, not even Levi. Close to the finish, Andy Schleck jumped away taking second, and Sutherland just nipped Levi for third place on a day that scrambled the general classification into a new list that is likely to bear a closer resemblance to the final list to be posted after Sunday’s finishing stage 8.

Chris later said; “I told the guys to drill it as hard as you can, I want everyone to suffer and I want to blow this race apart. They drilled it and had us going 500W for over 500m, and once they did that they exploded everyone and it was just me and Levi to the line.” Chris also said when asked about his age, that as long as he was still training well, being competitive, and perhaps most importantly, having fun, he’d still be riding. After watching his performance on the day, one would be forced to say, this new leader wearing the yellow jersey in the Amgen Tour of California is still one very competitive professional cyclist.

The General Classification After Stage 4
1. Chris Horner (USA) Team RadioShack
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack +01:15

3. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervélo +01:22
4. Christian Vandevelde (USA) Garmin-Cervélo +01:29
5. Rory Sutherland (AUS) United-Healthcare +01:30
6. Andy Schleck (LUX) Leopard-Trek +01:30
7. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin-Cervélo +01:36
8. Linus Gerdemann (GER) Leopard-Trek +01:50
9. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Cervélo +01:50
10. Laurens Ten Dam (NED) Rabobank +02:00

By George Hurst, staff writer