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Team USA

Amgen Tour of California Stage 6: Swirbul flexes his climbing muscles

Swirbul is top National Team Finisher, Katie Hall wins Women's Stage

The USA Cycling National Team battled through the Amgen Tour of California’s “queen” stage with aplomb on Friday, as Keegan Swirbul was the team’s top finisher and Alex Hoehn tried another breakaway.

The sixth stage of the 2019 race took riders on an epic trip through the mountains northeast of Los Angeles. The relatively short 127.5km route is a familiar one for veterans of the race, as the climbing started with the 17.6km ascent to the Village of Mt. Baldy. From there the race took in Glendora Ridge Road and then a twisting descent down the backside of Glendora Mountain Road. A return to Glendora Mountain Road lead to the 14km climb and the second KOM of the day, followed by 20km of a slight climb back to Mt. Baldy Village. From there, it was back onto Mt. Baldy Road for the climb to the top, which threw 15 switchbacks and grades of 15 percent at the riders as the peloton climbed more than 3,657 metres throughout the day.

It’s one of the toughest days in American cycling, and the USA Cycling National Team was up to the challenge. Swirbul road a smart race, conserving energy early in the main field and surviving the battle of attrition that took place over the next three and a half hours to hit the final climb in the very select peloton. The 23-year-old Colorado native held on for 28th place, finishing 3:38 down on overall winner Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and moving up to 37th on GC.

"It was a big long day today," said Swirbul, "With three long climbs, the boys did their best to get me in the right position all day. At the end it all came down to legs. We tried our best today, it was great roads out there and I enjoyed it. It was a hard fight and we have one more day tomorrow to see what we can do."

After infiltrating the breakaways on stage 3 and winning the yellow jersey before ceding it to Astana’s Davide Ballerini the next day - then trying it again on stage 5 - Hoehn was back on the attack during the queen stage on Friday

Following the second intermediate sprint with 44km to go, Hoehn joined a move from the peloton initiated by Dimension Data, which was trying to launch former USA Cycling development program rider and two-time Vuelta a Espana stage winner Ben King up the road. Hoehn tacked onto the move along with King, Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) and João Almeida (Hagens Berman Axeon). The group built a 40-second gap on the peloton, but they were never able to extend it further and get up the road to link up with the leaders.

“It worked pretty well,” Hoehn said of his adventure off the front of the peloton. “I was with some pretty big hitters up there, so I figured it had somewhat of a chance. But what ended up happening is it just gave us a head start on the second-to-last climb, so I’ll take it. It was a great try. I just wanted to see what could happen, and I threw everything out there with one more day remaining.”

Will the 21-year-old from Kansas try again to escape on the final day? Of course.

“I’m going to try,” Hoehn said. “The legs are about to fall off. I’m getting a little tired, but I’ll do everything I can.”

Team director Mike Sayers said his riders did another good job on a tremendously difficult day.

“Today was another hard day on the road for our riders,” Sayers said. “I am really impressed by the tenacity and grit our guys have shown so far this week. Alex and Keegan turned themselves inside out to ride in the front groups. Like we’ve been saying all week, we take each day as its own race, and we will be back in the morning ready to race.”

Saturday’s final stage will take the riders 141km from Santa Clarita to Pasadena. The last day won’t be a processional, however, as it includes two final KOMs and 2,592 metres of elevation gain. The stage and overall race will close out with three laps around the iconic Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.

The stage looks tailor made for team sprinter Travis McCabe, who finished second to Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the stage 1 sprint in Sacramento.

“If the breakaway leaves early, then I’m definitely going to try and go,” Hoehn said of Saturday’s final test. If not, then we’re absolutely all in for Travis. We believe he can get a great result.”

In the the Amgen Tour of California Women's Race empowered by SRAM, Katie Hall was victorious on the climbing stage for the second year in a row. Hall and teammate and eventual race winner, Anna Van der Breggen attacked inside 5km from the finish and rode together to the line with Hall finishing slightly ahead of Van der Breggen and securing the polka dot jersey for the day.

This year’s National Team presence at the Tour of California was made possible with the additional support of JustBARE Chicken and VolvoUSA.

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