PALMDALE, Calif. – The cycling world’s best riders came to California to take on the union’s most geographically diverse state.
The 2010 AMGEN Tour of California featured big names like Lance Armstrong and three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, but this year’s tour was a victory for newcomers like Tony Martin and Peter Sagan.
The sixth stage of the tour started riders in the desert city of Palmdale, just outside of Santa Clarita. It was the first time in three years that the race didn’t stop in Santa Clarita, but it was close enough that many residents were still able to make the short trek to the event.
Many considered Stage 6 to be the toughest stage in the history of the tour: a 135-mile trek through the mountains from Palmdale to Big Bear. Armstrong took himself out of the race after an accident the day before that left him with eight stitches around his eye and blurry vision.
All was well through the first four stages, until the names of a few of the riders, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, were brought up with accusations of doping from admitted doper and disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis.
Landis released e-mails to the media admitting his drug use and blamed others on tour for doing the same. Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. However, racers were quick to defend against these allegations.
“I’m blown away by it. I can’t believe it. He said we were teammates, that we did stuff together and all these allegations, but we were never even teammates,” Leipheimer said.
“It’s our word against his word,” Armstrong said. “I like our word. We like our credibility.”
Incidentally, Landis was the only other winner other than Leipheimer to win the Tour of California, but that would soon change.
Australian-born rider Michael Rogers would take the entire tour by ten seconds to become the first non-American to ever win the tour. When asked about how that would make completing the feat would make him feel, he said it “would be huge” to win on American soil.
Three-time defending tour winner Leipheimer finished third overall in the standings. Peter Sagan took the yellow jacket for stage six.