Eighty-four miles of pedaling through the hills between Santa Clarita and Santa Barbara came down to a mad dash in the final 100 meters on Cabrillo Boulevard. It was a 1-2 finish for American cyclists, as Tyler Farrar edged out Ken Hanson to win Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday.
Farrar, whose final sprint was set up by his Garmin-Sharp teammates, enjoyed his first stage win in California. The Seattle native has won stages in all three Grand Tours, including the Tour de France in 2011. Hanson, who resides in San Diego after calling Santa Barbara his hometown for several years, came oh-so-close to celebrating a victory with his local fans and his team, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies.
Two Belgians, Gianni Meersman and Kris Boeckmans, followed Hanson across the finish line. Slovakian sprint sensation Peter Sagan, whose victory in Santa Clarita the previous day was his record ninth in the Amgen Tour, had to settle for fifth place.
Two cyclists tried bravely to beat the pack. Nathan Brown, a 21-year-old American, pushed into the lead early in the race and still had a 40-second advantage with less than 10 miles to go, but he was swallowed up when 41-year-old Jens Voigt of Germany triggered a surge out of the peloton. Brown earned a citation as the day’s most courageous rider.
When the leading group hit the roundabout at Hot Springs and Coast Village Road, the Irish cyclist Matt Brammeier shot around the left side and opened up a gap around the Bird Refuge with just a kilometer remaining in the stage. But it might as well have been 100 miles. Brammeier’s solo effort ran out of gas just as Farrar and the other sprinters were gearing up for the finish.
A large crowd lining both sides of the road between East Beach and Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort cheered the riders on the home stretch.
Despite all the dramatics, there was no change in the overall standings. Colombia’s Janier Acevedo of the Jamis-Hagens Berman team maintained his 12-second lead over American Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing.
Stage 5 on Thursday — Santa Barbara to Avila Beach — figures to end in another sprint. The early climb over San Marcos Pass will get the riders’ pulses going somewhat, but they will have many miles of relatively easy riding into San Luis Obispo County.
The real test for Acevedo, van Garderen, and other contenders for the yellow jersey will come in the San Jose time trial on Friday and the climb up Mount Diablo on Saturday.