Tour of California

Team Sky's US invasion

Henderson and Swift top overall standings

By Jonathan Turner   Last updated: 19th May 2011

New Zealand's Greg Henderson made it two wins out of two for Team Sky at the Amgen Tour of California as he surged to victory on stage three in Modesto.

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Just as they had 24 hours earlier when Henderson led out Ben Swift to claim stage two, the Team Sky train bossed the closing stages.

This time though it was Henderson who took advantage as he powered clear in the finishing straight and put daylight between himself and rest of the field before holding off Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard) and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo).

Swift was blocked a couple of times in a frantic finale but still finished in 11th position and he and Henderson are joint top of the overall standings, with the Kiwi just taking over the leader's golden jersey.

It was another stunning day for Team Sky and no more than they deserved after they animated what had hitherto been a low-key 196.2 kilometres stage from Auburn.

Second wind

Jeremy Hunt was among those who were instrumental in kick-starting the action as he marshalled the troops into an attack in strong crosswinds with 22km remaining.

As Team Sky put the hammer down on the front, the peloton splintered into echelons behind, with the likes of Hushovd and Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) among the big names relegated into the second of three distinct groups.

"We had a good look at the map beforehand and talked about it - we wanted to give it a go and we did," revealed Team Sky Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist. "They'd been riding hard all day defending the jersey so to do that was all the more impressive."

However a 90 degree left turn five kilometres later gave the chasers time to regroup and the field was largely back together sweeping into the two 4.5km finishing circuits in Modesto.

Saxo Bank Sunguard led the field into the last lap as they tried to tee up Haedo but just as they had a day earlier it was Team Sky who assumed control with around 3km remaining.

It paid off as Henderson gapped his rivals before crossing the line in triumph, though he admitted things hadn't panned out quite as smoothly as the previous stage.

Jens Voigt (Leopard Trek), Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank Sungard), Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) were among those caught up in crashes and Henderson acknowledged: "There was a lot of chaos on that final lap.

"We were all lined up and I opened up with 500 metres to go expecting Swifty but he wasn't there. With 100m to go I thought no one had come around me so I just kept my head down. I was lucky to have the legs but was absolutely spent at the line. I was so lactic I was cross-eyed - I couldn’t even do a victory salute!”

The victory means Henderson will now sport the leader's jersey in Wednesday's fourth stage which takes the riders 131.6km from Livermore to San Jose, though he is expecting the climbers to come to the fore.

He explained: "I think we defended the jersey honourably today and we're two from two having dominated the first two stages [the opening stage was cancelled because of freezing temperatures]. But the team's concentration now moves to Chris Froome on the GC."

Joint effort

For DS Ljungqvist it was another rewarding day in the team car and he told us: "It was a great lead out by all the guys and this is becoming a good habit to get into. Everyone is playing their part too - Kurt-Asle Arvesen for example was again a key man earlier in the stage getting things back together.

"It turned out well for us too because it's only fair to point out that other teams - especially HTC-Highroad and RadioShack - helped us to bring back the break as this could turn out to be the last bunch sprint of the race."

Ljungqvist also shed light on the closing stages, adding: "Swifty lost the wheel of Greg because of a little bit of trouble in behind. I think his foot came out of one of his pedals yet he still got 11th so it was a good effort from him.

"But it showed again just how good Greg is - we have two world-class sprinters and that's a great position to be in."

The Swede is hoping the run of success continues for the rest of the week but also highlighted the change of focus for stage four: "For sure it's going to be a different race tomorrow. It's no secret that Chris Froome is the man we'll look to on the GC and even though he got a little bit sick after the Tour de Romandie, there were encouraging signs both today and yesterday as he was a big part in both lead-outs.

"He has shown excellent form recently and hopefully he can continue that."

User comments (2)

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Arronski Shark says...

SKY HIGH !

Posted 12:39 18th May 2011

Ray Sheath says...

Who said Kiwis can't fly, go Hendy, ur a legend !!!

Posted 02:09 18th May 2011

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