South Lake Tahoe, California - Sean Bennett joined an early breakaway on stage 6 at the Amgen Tour of California in an effort to improve his position and possibly put the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team on the podium.
“We talked about it in the team meeting, that I should try and go up there, so I went for it,” said an exhausted Bennett. “I think they may have chased a bit harder because I was up there, but you don’t know if you don’t try. I just went for it.”
Unfortunately for Bennett, countermoves by the peloton, particularly Team Sky, neutralized the break and sent two of its riders up the road. One of the riders, Egan Bernal, went on to claim victory on Friday’s difficult 196.5 kilometer stage. The other, Axeon alum Tao Geoghegan Hart, finished in 3rd place.
Will Barta was the team’s best finisher, crossing the line in 33rd place. Ivo Oliveira was six places behind in 39th, while Bennett survived the day with almost 5,000 meters of climbing to round out the top 40.
“I feel empty, said Bennett. “It was just a brutal day out there and being in the break made it harder. I’m completely smashed. I was just trying to survive, I was empty, just totally empty. I don’t know. Ivo helped me out so much, pacing me and trying to keep the pedals turning. He waited for me multiple times, he paced me down the descent and paced me along the flat section the whole time. He was amazing today, he helped me so much. Today’s the day that the breakaway had a really good chance.”
In the GC, Barta and Bennett are in 23rd and 24th places respectively. Oliveira is in 34th.
“Today was going by to be a hard day,” said sport director Jeff Louder. “The elevation gain and distance alone was impressive. To race almost 125 miles with 15,000 feet of climbing is a massive undertaking and the guys faced it bravely. Having Sean in the early break was a goal for us and then we had to see how the race unfolded. Unfortunately, the break wasn't able to stay away due to the pressure that Team Sky was applying to BMC in order to try to take the leaders jersey back. The final climb up Dagget was full gas and the guys all gave it their best effort. Days like these are great for growth and experience and I was happy to see the guys fight to the end. They will be stronger for it.”
Saturday’s 7th and final stage starts and finishes at the Sacramento Capitol. The riders set off on the 143 km flat and fast course at 10:20 PDT.
(Header image of Sean Bennett by Davey Wilson.)