Leopold Konig of the Czech Republic won the seventh stage of the Tour of California in a mountaintop finish Saturday, and American Tejay van Garderen finished third to keep the overall lead for the third straight day.
Koenig, riding for the German team NetApp-Endura team, quickly moved ahead of Janier Acevedo of Colombia with about 400 yards left and completed the 91.4-mile stage from Livermore to Mount Diablo in 3 hours, 54 minutes, 17 seconds.
Acevedo, the Jamis-Hagens Berman rider who won the second stage, finished second in the stage that closed with an 11.4-mile climb, 7 seconds behind.
”To be truthful, I wish the climb was a little longer,” said Konig, who claimed his fifth career win and first since a 2012 Tour of Britain stage win. ”Today, I felt real good. I knew I would have a good race. I haven’t won any big races, so this was very good.”
Van Garderen, the 24-year-old BMC rider from Bozeman, Mont., was 12 seconds back. He took the overall lead with a 10th-place finish in the fifth stage, won the sixth stage and is within a day of his first pro stage race title. The eight-day, 727-mile event concludes Sunday with an 80.7-mile morning road race from San Francisco to Santa Rosa.
”I’m thrilled. I’m still soaking it in,” said van Garderen, who was surrounded by four teammates through much of the final climb. ”It was an unbelievable team effort. I knew they were strong, I knew they’d be motivated, but they went above and beyond expectations today.
Australia’s Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff finished fourth in the stage in the same time as van Garderen and remained second overall, 1:47 behind.
”They (his team) made my life somewhat easy, although it still was a hard day but stress-free,” said van Garderen, who finished fourth in the event last year and fifth in 2011.
With his runner-up stage finish, Acevedo moved into third place overall – 3:26 back.
A group of 10 riders, including Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, the RadioSchleck Leopard rider who won the 2010 Tour de France, held an approximately a 3 1/2-minute margin. But as the field of 111 approached the base of the final 11.4-mile climb to the finish, the field reduced its deficit to a minute.
Schleck and four others then accelerated alone and held a 50-second margin with 10 miles or about 45 minutes left in the stage. Three miles later, Dutchman Liuewe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM, the winner of the first stage, and Spain’s David De La Cruz of NetApp-Endura moved to the from and built more than a minute cushion.
Spain’s Francisco Mancebo, the 5-Hour Energy/Kenda rider who won the fifth stage, joined Westra and De La Cruz at the front with about a 20-second cushion with less than three miles left.
Konig waited until about two miles left to join Acevedo and then time his sudden move, with Acevedo only briefly able to respond.