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Cavendish sprints to Stage 5 win

Takes second consecutive stage; Leipheimer still leader

Posted: February 20, 2009 8:07 p.m.
Updated: February 19, 2009 10:00 p.m.
 

PASO ROBLES (February 19, 2009) - Enthusiastic crowds turned out at the start of the race today in Visalia as race leaders Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana, Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Columbia-Highroad, David Zibriskie (USA) of Garmin-Slipstream and Lance Armstrong (USA) of Astana led the peloton into Stage 5 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.

Equally impressive crowds lined the streets in Paso Robles to witness the incredible sprint to the finish line that saw Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad take his second consecutive stage win in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. Leipheimer maintained the overall lead after coming in 15th place in the longest stage of the race. Day six of the 2009 race included no King of the Mountain competitions, but two sprint competitions on a flat, fast day of racing that took the riders from Visalia to Paso Robles.

Moving into second and third overall were Rogers and Zabriskie, respectively.

"This was the day that I was planning on winning this year," said Cavendish. "It was a hard day; harder than expected. It seems like they've replicated the Tour de France with the speed and the par course. It has been incredibly hard."

Team Columbia-Highroad again delivered Cavendish to the finish line at the front, where he sprang off the lead-out wheels to win with ease.

And once again it was Quick Step's Tom Boonen (BEL) who finished second in the stage, just ahead of Pedro Horrillo (ESP) of Rabobank.

"This stage win is massively important," added Cavendish. "Any stage in the Amgen Tour of California is big. It's big for the team, and this one is a bit more personal because it's close to home. Every other stage is important, but this one is a bit more personal."

Despite the apparent ease of victory for Cavendish, it was a long, hard stage for him and the rest of the field. A six-man group escaped only seven miles into the 134.3- mile route from Visalia to Paso Robles, with early attacks led by Jelly Belly's Matthew Crane (USA), who was eventually joined by Jeff Louder (USA) of Team BMC, Robert Gunn (AUS) of Fly V Australia Powered by Successful Living, Glen Chadwick (NZL) of Rock Racing and Cameron Evans (CAN) Ouch Presented by Maxxis.

Cruising through the flat San Joaquin Valley floor under sunny skies, the escapees steadily opened the gap to a maximum of eight minutes mid-way through the race, with Astana leading a steady tempo in the field. At 50 miles to go, Quick Step, Team Columbia-Highroad and Saxo Bank began sharing the load at the front, and the time differential decreased rapidly. The breakaway splintered under the pressure, with Chadwick being the last one reeled in with less than three miles to go, when Team Columbia-Highroad led Cavendish to take over.

With the sun hanging high in a flawless baby blue sky in Paso Robles, all of the top riders finished in the main group, completing a long, flat stage leading into the critical Individual Time Trial in Solvang tomorrow.

It's going to be a big showdown tomorrow," said two-time defending champion and overall leader Leipheimer. "You have the three-time World Champion Michael Rogers and Dave Zabriskie, the National Champion, so it will be special. I'm actually really looking forward to it. I feel good; I've felt great throughout the whole race. I feel pretty awesome about keeping the lead."

There were only two changes in the jerseys today, with Amgen's Breakaway from CancerTM Most Courageous Rider Jersey going to Matthew Crane (USA) of Jelly Belly Pro Cycling and the Herbalife Sprint Jersey going to Cavendish. The other jersey winners remain unchanged with Leipheimer in the Amgen Leader Jersey, Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank in the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey and Francisco Mancebo (ESP) of Rock Racing in the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey.

"The crowds today in Paso Robles were absolutely amazing," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. "It was great to see such an enthusiastic response from a new host city. We had a great race today, and the best part is, it is still anyone's race tomorrow. Tomorrow should prove to be a critical day for the world-class cyclists and a remarkable day for the spectators who come out to see the always popular time trial."

Amgen's celebration of cancer survivors continued today with a Breakaway Mile celebrating Paso Robles brain cancer survivor Ryelle Leverett. The Breakaway Mile is a one-mile honorary ride across the finish line to honor and their support teams. Ryelle's support team included family and close friends, and Jon Oliner, Amgen scientific director, who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.

"The grit and determination of the cyclists is not unlike that of millions of cancer patients, caregivers and survivors The Wellness Community works for and with everyday. Ryelle Levertt is a great example of that spirit," said Kim Thiboldeaux, president and CEO, The Wellness Community.

Today's Breakaway Mile was one of the race activities that support Amgen's national Breakaway from CancerTM initiative, which was created in 2005 as a complementary component to its sponsorship of the inaugural race. The Breakaway from Cancer initiative is designed to empower patients by connecting them to education, resources and hope.

Breakaway from Cancer nonprofit partners play leading roles in every aspect of cancer care to help people affected by the disease. The Paso Robles Breakaway Mile called attention to The Wellness Community, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support, education and hope to people with cancer and those who care for them. The Wellness Community-Central Coast is currently a satellite of The Wellness Community-Valley/Ventura and offers support and hope for the region's more than 1,100 cancer patients diagnosed annually, as well as the area's countless cancer survivors.

For access to resources and details about Breakaway from Cancer activities during the race, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.

STAGE 6 TOMORROW:
Friday, Feb. 20 - Solvang Individual Time Trial (15 mi/24 km)
Start Time: Noon PT
Estimated Finish Time: 3 p.m. PT

The quaint Danish village of Solvang hosts some of the ProTour teams annually for training camps, as well as some of the largest cycling events in the United States. With the start and finish lines located only one block apart, Stage 6 is an ideal location for spectators to view the race. The route will highlight the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, winding through quaint towns, vineyards, farms, and one short, but steep, climb up Ballard Canyon. This year's short, flat and fast time trial will create a challenging test for the riders and is expected to be a decisive day of the race.

For full results, archived footage, GPS data, course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

In addition to the Web site, fans can view the race on the daily VERSUS broadcasts. Stage 6 will air live on VERSUS tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET.

About the Amgen Tour of California
The largest cycling event in America, the Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race, presented by AEG, that challenges the world's top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course. Building on last year's third-annual stage race, which attracted
1.6 million spectators, the 2009 Amgen Tour of California will be expanded to cover more than 750 miles over nine days from February 14-22, 2009.

About Amgen
Amgen discovers, develops, manufactures and delivers innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen was one of the first companies to realize the new science's promise by bringing safe and effective medicines from lab, to manufacturing plant, to patient. Amgen therapeutics have changed the practice of medicine, helping millions of people around the world in the fight against cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious illnesses. With a deep and broad pipeline of potential new medicines, Amgen remains committed to advancing science to dramatically improve people's lives. To learn more about Amgen's pioneering science and vital medicines, visit www.amgen.com. To learn more about Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer initiative, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.

About AEG
AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Company, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, Sprint Center, The O2, NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE and NOKIA Theatre Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), two Major League Soccer franchises, a Major League Lacrosse team, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers, the ING Bay to Breakers foot race and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race; AEG LIVE, the organization's live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring and a variety of programming and multi-media production. For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.

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