Sagan captures second straight stage win 

Peter Sagan overcame a merciless course on Friday to capture his second-straight stage victory and the Tour’s three favorites put in strong performances to remain in contention for the general classification title of the Amgen Tour of California.

The hard part is over. Now comes the important part.

Peter Sagan overcame a merciless course on Friday to capture his second-straight stage victory and the Tour’s three favorites put in strong performances to remain in contention for the general classification title of the Amgen Tour of California.

The 135.3-mile course, which connected the riders from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, wreaked havoc on the Tour field, forcing more than 17 different riders to drop out, but Sagan did not falter, winning the Stage 6 leg in a time of 6 hours, 7 minutes and 8 seconds.

Michael Rogers finished the stage in third place, Levi Leipheimer came in fourth and David Zabriskie placed eighth, assuring a tight group for Saturday's crucial time trial in Los Angeles. By virtue of his second-place finish, Rogers opened up a four-second lead on second-place Zabriskie, and a 14-second lead on Leipheimer. Sagan, who was credited 10 bonus seconds for winning Stage 6, sits in third place, nine seconds off Roger’s lead.

Sagan, a 20-year-old Slovakian who has notched four top-5 stage finishes in this year’s Amgen Tour, is considered an outsider to compete with the three veteran cyclists in Saturday’s time trial.

“My time-trial abilities are not quite as honed as the other riders,” Sagan said through his translator on Friday. “But I'm going to take it day-to-day, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings."

The 21-mile individual circuit around Los Angeles will feature three of the best time-trial cyclists in the world in Zabriskie, Rogers and Leipheimer. All three riders will be hurting following Friday’s brutal competition.

“We’re all going to be waking up sore tomorrow,” said Rogers. “It was a tough day out there. I'm certainly going to remember it for a while.”

Rory Sutherland finished Friday’s stage behind Sagan for second place, helping him move into fifth place overall.

Sagan, who holds the white jersey for the Amgen Tour’s Best Young Rider, won Stage 5, which ran from Visalia to Bakersfield, in a time 4 hours, 52 minutes and 28 seconds.

Following the leaders

Levi Leipheimer:
If Leipheimer is going to make his push for a fourth consecutive Amgen Tour of California title, he’ll have to do it at the Stage 7 time trial in Los Angeles. Leipheimer has a proven history of strong time trial performances, but he'll have to overcome the leads of two of the best time trial cyclists in the world in David Zabriskie and Michael Rogers.

David Zabriskie: Zabriskie ran a smart, tactical race on Friday to put himself among the leaders at the finish. Although he missed out on a podium showing, Zabriskie kept his stranglehold on second place, just four seconds behind Michael Rogers.

Michael Rogers: Much like Thursday, Rogers didn’t win the stage on Friday, but he picked up some valuable bonus seconds, and now sits four seconds ahead of Zabriskie for the overall lead. Rogers, who has been aided by gutty contributions from his teammates at HTC Columbia, will be sitting in prime position for tomorrow’s crucial time trial in Los Angeles.

Peter Sagan:
The 20-year-old Slovakian has been the revelation of the Tour, winning two stages and finishing in the top five in two others. By capturing Stage 6, Sagan moved into third place overall, nine seconds behind the pace. Because his time-trial capabilities are considerably less-developed than Leipheimer, Zabriskie and Rogers, Sagan will have to work hard to remain within striking distance of the leaders heading into Sunday’s finale.

Amgen Tour of California, by the numbers

6:07:08: Winning time of Sagan on Stage 6 — a mark that was over an hour longer than the previously-longest stage

8,000 feet: Elevation of the Dawson Saddle, the highest peak of the Amgen Tour course

28: Combined number of cyclists who either abandoned during Stage 6, or finished after the time limit

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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