The 2011 Amgen Tour of California made its one stop in the Bay Area on Wednesday as the riders rode from Livermore to San Jose. American Chris Horner used the stage to leap into first place with a dominant showing in which he finished 1:15 ahead of the next riders. Horner is 39 years old but appears to be in some of the best shape of his career. Horner finished fourth overall in last year's Tour of California but now finds himself in position to potentially win the race:
"Our goal today was to blow apart the field, and we did," said Horner, who at 39 years-old is in the best form of his 16-year pro career. "The last five weeks I was on a mission to come to the Amgen Tour of California in the best fitness of my life. I've put in the best five weeks of training, and it has been a hard five weeks, but it was worth it because it was an easy five kilometers to the top of the summit."
Horner led the stage wire-to-wire, which has to bode well for the upcoming climbs he will face as the peloton makes its way down the California coast. HIs team (Radioshack) is putting together a strong performance as teammates Horner and Levi Leipheimer hold the top two spots of the overall leaderboard.
The folks at Podium Cafe expect Horner to likely retain much of his lead through the Solvang time trial, with the Stage 7 climb up Mount Baldy to be the most significant challenge after the time trial. If there expectations hold to form, Saturday's seven stage from Claremont to Mt. Baldy could prove to be some riveting television.
We'll continue to provide race updates in our 2011 Tour of California story stream, and you can find more in-depth discussion of each stage at Podium Cafe.