Woods, Gaimon Move Up Overall Standings
Stage three marked the beginning of the true general classification battle after two flat stages at the Amgen Tour of California. The stage featured five categorized climbs, winds exceeding 20 MPH, and a decisive twenty kilometer stretch peaking at the top of Mount Hamilton. After cresting Mt. Hamilton, the peloton was greeted by a steep, winding descent before a shorter steeper climb on Quimby Road. The most challenging section of pavement came after the summit of Quimby Road. The descent is harrowing – narrow roads, uneven pavement, no guard rails, and a series of 180 degree switchback turns adorn a five kilometer stretch of increasingly steep grades. It was a roller coaster on two wheels.
The stage was won after a gutsy solo effort by continental rider Tom Skujins of Hincapie Development Team. He rode away from his breakaway companions on Mt. Hamilton, and never looked back. It is typical in bike racing for breakaway’s such as the one that set Skujins up for victory to be caught at the perfect moment, setting up the bigger teams to battle for the win. On this day, the teams may have underestimated the talent of the young rider, and mistimed their efforts.
Mike Woods and Phil Gaimon, the Orange & Black’s pure climbers, were the protected riders for the day. The rest of the team spent the first half of the day keeping them safe in the wind and shuttling them food and bottles from the team car. They finished safely in the lead group, :47 behind Skujins, but the solid result came with a small price – Woods crashed on the Quimby descent after tangling up with another rider. He was forced to chase incredibly hard in order to regain contact with the lead group and save his chance at a general classification result. Woods and Gaimon are now 1:09 off of the overall lead.
Performance Director Eric Wohlberg provides insight on the day of racing.
It’s common in cycling for breakaways to make it agonizingly close to the finish, and then get caught. What made the difference today?
“The breakaway Skujins was in had four of five minutes at the base of Mt. Hamilton. That is a manageable gap. The rule of thumb in the sport is that a hard working peloton can close about one minute per 10km on a breakaway, under normal circumstances. What the big teams may have misjudged today was that these descents are extremely difficult – both Mt. Hamilton and Quimby Road are steep, technical and full of bad pavement, off-camber turns and switchbacks. This makes it very hard to make up ground. It was a smart, gutsy ride by Skujins today and the rest of the peloton paid the price for not reacting accordingly.
What happened to Woods on Quimby Road?
Woods and Gaimon were descending in the lead group. 1 km down through a tight hairpin. Woods got bumped by another rider, they tangled brake hoods and he went down. It wasn’t operator error which makes it unfortunate. He had to do the descent on his own and chase hard to regain the lead group. He made a huge push, going full gas for at least 15 km before he was able to catch back on. It was an incredible effort to be able to crash, chase on, and still finish in the top ten. We will continue to protect Mike and Phil this week, as they are both sitting quite high overall.