The 127.5-kilometer stage may have been the shortest stage of the week but with almost 4000 meters of climbing, including the Mount Baldy climb which features an average gradient of 9.4 percent and a maximum of 16 percent in parts, it was a tough day in the saddle.
Paweł Bernas featured in the day’s breakaway again, this time as part of an eight-rider move that went clear in the first 30 kilometers and managed to establish an advantage of three and a half minutes.
The breakaway maintained their advantage until inside the final 40 kilometers but with Mount Baldy looming and both the stage win and yellow jersey on offer, the General Classification teams took control of the chase and started to bring the gap down.
Bernas persisted, leading the charge from the breakaway with 20 kilometers to go, but as the group started the Mount Baldy climb, the gradients took their toll and Bernas was caught by the bunch with eight kilometers to go.
Throughout the stage, Zoidl’s CCC Team teammates kept the Austrian rider well positioned and out of trouble leading into Mount Baldy and as riders began to drop left and right, Zoidl continued at his own pace to remain in the 15-rider group of favorites.
Zoidl’s knowledge of the climb, having also finished in fifth place at his last edition of the race in 2015, paid off and as the attacks started, Zoidl dug deep and managed to work his way back to the front group approaching the final three kilometers, and continued to do so as the front riders launched attack after attack.
Zoidl left nothing in the tank as he powered towards the finish, crossing the line in fifth place, 20 seconds behind stage winner and new race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
Quotes from the Finish Line
“I was even a little bit surprised that I felt that good today. I already felt much better yesterday on the smaller climbs than I had earlier in the week. I missed some explosively on those climbs but I already felt quite good which was a good sign for today. I was motivated to go for a result today and I knew the climb already so I could do a good pace and finally, I could almost stay with the top three or four guys. So, it was a good day. If the climb was longer, maybe I could have caught Richie Porte but I was happy that I could finish strong today and get fifth place.”
“We will see how this helps me in my next races. I will race the Criterium du Dauphiné and then the Tour of Austria, which will be a highlight for me, of course. My condition is much better now than it was one month ago which gives me confidence for the upcoming races.”
📷 Cor Vos
Amgen Tour of California
Stage 5: Ontario>Mount Baldy (127.5km)
Top 3: 1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), 2. Sergio Higuita (EF Education First), 3. George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma)
CCC Team top 3: 5. Riccardo Zoidl, 24. Michael Schär 37. Simon Geschke