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HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers keeps Amgen Tour of California lead

May 21, 2010 |  4:26 pm

Rogers_300 Michael Rogers of the California-based HTC-Columbia team finished third in Friday's Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California, the mountain stage from Palmdale to Big Bear, but the Australian held on to the overall lead and will start last in Saturday's time trial in Los Angeles.

Three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack lost time on the climbing stage and fell into fourth place, behind Rogers, Garmin-Transitions' Dave Zabriskie and Stage 6 winner Peter Sagan of the Italian Liquigas-Doimo team. Sagan, a 20-year-old from Slovakia, also won Stage 5 in Bakersfield Thursday.

Friday the stage started in the windy high desert, and riders had to negotiate nearly 15,000 feet of climbing during the 135-mile route that took nearly six hours. The peloton was riding at altitude nearly all day and the scene at the finish was of riders stumbling off their bikes and falling to the ground in exhaustion.

The stage provided dramatic vistas over the San Bernardino Mountains and around the deep blue Big Bear Lake, where spectators chugged along the shore following the finish and picnickers grilled burgers around the Snow Summit ski area and the finish line.

In Saturday's time trial, riders go one-by-one in reverse order of their position in the race. It is considered an advantage among the overall hopefuls to start last and have a good idea of what the competition is doing.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Tour leader Michael Rogers (center) takes a drink during Friday's sixth stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press