HTC-Columbia has a firm hold on the Amgen Tour of California, not only winning the decisive time trial with the young German rider Tony Martin but also with Michael Rogers padding his overall lead with a second place finish on the day.
Martin, winner of time trials in last year's Critérium International and Bayern Rundfahrt, blasted through the course in Los Angeles' urban center as the only rider to go under the 41 minute mark, clocking a 41:41 on the line.
The win is confirmation of the deep talent the 25-year-old possesses, but which had yet to present so far this season.
"The year has not been so good for me,” Martin said. “I had a bad knee injury, so the spring wasn't so nice, not even for my head. I lost a little of my morale. Now with the first win of the season it will get better and better. I'm really motivated for the Tour now. I'm on track for the year and am really happy now."
The HTC-Columbia team used its early starters to set pace for Martin and Rogers, and relied on the time trial prowess of former world champion Bert Grabsch, who held the fastest time for the majority of the day, to set split times for his team leaders.
"I had the split times, and when I heard I was 30 seconds up on him I knew I was leading the race. It motivated me to go really deep because at the beginning I didn't know if I had the legs to do a good time trial because I had to work so hard yesterday."
Overall still tight
Overall leader Rogers was the best of the general classification contenders, coming second on the stage 23 seconds behind his teammate Martin. The yellow jersey holder extended his lead over all of his competitors, and none were more disappointed than Garmin-Transitions' David Zabriskie, who lives in nearby Malibu and was hoping to gain time rather than lose it in Los Angeles.
"I'm disappointed of course. I was a little bit off, but went pretty good," Zabriskie said. "I don't think the race is over yet, I'd say that even if I was in the leader's jersey."
It has been almost five years since Rogers, a three-time world time trial champion, has won in the discipline, but this year he has put more focus on his time trialing after focusing on improving in long stage races.
"Beating both Dave and Levi was a great ride for me," Rogers said. “We're all experienced time trialists - this is one of my better time trials in a long time.”
Four-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) now looks less likely to add a fifth title to his name. While he moved up into third in the general classification over dual stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo), he lost 11 more seconds to Rogers on the day.
"It's not the best time trial I've ever done," said Leipheimer. "I was hoping for just a few percent more in the legs. I think Dave and Mick had a fraction better than me all week and they proved it today. I have no regrets. I pushed as hard as I could and I didn't make any mistakes.”
While Sagan dropped out of a podium position after finishing 1:47 down on the stage, his time was good enough to keep his hold the best young rider jersey as second place young rider Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions) was over a minute slower on the stage.
Rogers also owns the points classification jersey with his second place on today’s stage putting him one point ahead of Sagan.
The mountains classification is already sewn up by Team Type 1's Thomas Rabou, who only needs to finish the final stage to bring home the title for good.