May 20, 2010 (Modesta, CA) – Ryan Anderson conquered the Tour of California’s most difficult climb today and earned enough points to don the red leader’s jersey in the Mountains Classification competition. The day’s stage saw riders head out of downtown San Jose to be immediately greeted with the intimidating sight of the Tour of California’s sole Category 1 climb – a brutally steep trek up Sierra Grade with an average gradient of 8.8 percent, reaching over 15 percent at its steepest.
Ryan and a group of seven other riders struck out before the climb, forming the break that would determine the KOM leader for the day. Three of his companions were dropped on the climb and Ryan was the first rider up the treacherous ascent, gaining 10 points in the Mountains Classification standings, putting him into second place, only one point behind KOM jersey holder Thamas Rabou.
Check out a great HD video of Ryan on the podium at the Tour of California here.
“I was hurting pretty bad over the climb on Sierra Road. Compared with yesterday, the break was definitely going pretty fast today,” said Ryan after the race.
After a section of flats that allowed him to rebuild some steam, Ryan controlled his destiny for the day on the second and last major climb. He needed to place top four on the climb to take the KOM jersey. The 24 year old rider was able to go above and beyond what was needed, winning the second climb and earning the four points he needed to take the day’s jersey.
“I definitely feel like I’ve stepped up to another level here. We’ll try to defend the jersey, and the Big Bear stage will be pretty tough, but hopefully we’ll get into the early group again and take some points,” added Ryan.
After the excellent effort by Ryan to win one of the day’s top prizes, he was advised by Jake Erker and Jonas Carney to drop out of the break and conserve his energy for the upcoming stages.
“We are thrilled that Ryan is riding so well and that he was able to take the KOM jersey today,” commented Performance Director Jake Erker, “but it’s not enough to just wear it for a day. We will try to keep the jersey until the end of the race. It would have been nice to have Ryan stay in the break and get some TV time, but we knew that the break had no chance to stay to the finish. Keeping that jersey is going to be very difficult and Ryan cannot afford to waste energy. We made the right choice.”
After winding through the Sierra range, the race began a long and gradual descent back into the central valley and the finish line in downtown Modesto. Huge crowds and crosswinds greeted the riders upon reaching sea level, and the pace quickened significantly as teams battled to position their sprinters. The original break was still intact, and 19 year old Rabobank rider Lars Boom launched an attack in an attempt to solo to the finish. The attack and eventually the break were both reeled in, and a large pile up on the windy road to Modesto involving a majority of Cervelo Test Team and Fly V Australia riders caused confusion in the group. Fortunately, KBS stayed out of the fray and safely continued advancing into town.
KBS was in good position heading into the final 2.8 km circuit, and it was time to focus on the team’s other goal for the day ˆ contesting the field sprint.
“These finish circuits are not very technical, with wide roads long straightaways,” explained Performance Director Jonas Carney, “It’s tough to stay in position because there are so many strong teams fighting. Our plan was to sit back and then have Veilleux, Zwizanski, and Mumford take Cando up as late as possible. It went fairly well, and Zwiz delivered Cando to a good position with 1 kilometer to go, but we need a little more horsepower in our leadout.”
Nevertheless, the lead out was timed nicely, and Zach and Alex joined the rush to the finish line in front of thousands of screaming fans. Alex jumped, and was able to finish ninth among some of the top sprinters in the world.
“I thought I had a good jump there, but I started pretty deep, maybe fifteen or twenty riders back. It was a big gap to close in such a short distance and things were moving pretty fast,” Candelario added after the race.
The top priority for KBS in tomorrow’s stage is to defend Ryan’s jersey moving into Friday’s Big Bear stage, where 12,000 feet of climbing over seven KOM’s will most likely determine the race’s final Mountains Classification champion.
Tomorrow’s stage, 195.5 km from Visalia to Bakersfield, will provide two chances for Ryan and KBS to gain a few KOM points, but the climbs are significantly smaller and will most likely be far less selective.