Sylvain Georges celebrates winning the 6th stage of the AMGEN Tour of California. (Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images )
Sylvain Georges rode alone for almost 114 of the 116 miles from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake during Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California on Friday.
Then he had to hold the trophy. For that Georges needed help.
The 28-year-old Frenchman on the AG2R La Mondiale team did his lonely journey at the front of the field and for his reward he got not only the fifth stage win of his career but a trophy that was three feet tall, two and a half feet wide and 39 pounds, according to the creator, Kirby Craig of Kirby's Carving's of Big Bear Lake.
Georges will have to put the cedar wood creation, which depicted the lake, the surrounding forest and a cyclist, in his checked luggage and not the overhead bin on the plane back to Europe.
Dave Zabriskie of Team Garmin-Barracuda, who had taken the overall lead after Thursday's time trial, held on to that spot in advance of what is expected to be the decisive mountain stage Saturday, the 78.3-mile trip from Ontario to Mt. Baldy that finishes with a 3.3-mile climb to the finish, which is at 6,445 feet.
Zabriskie's overall time of 25 hours, 37.05 minutes gives him a 34-second lead over fellow American Tejay Van Garderen of the BMC Racing team and a 39-second advantage over Dutchman Robert Gesink of the Rabobank team.
There were plenty of ups and downs Friday as well, almost 19,000 feet of them. But they were gentler altitude changes than the dramatic, straight-up-for-about-three-miles end in Saturday's race.
Georges, whose stage-winning time was 5:07.06, put himself in front almost from the first pedal stroke Friday but he said, through an interpreter, that his solo trip wasn't lonely.
"I was never alone out there," he said. "I knew that I had my friends and family watching on TV. And my [team] director was always encouraging me. Even if it was hard out there, I worked hard to stay concentrated. But I was never alone."
At that Zabriskie smiled and said, "I just want to give him a hug." And he did.
After Zabriskie had won Thursday's time trial, he said he had felt spry. Not so much Friday.
"Can you believe they made us wake up at 6 a.m.? Then you drive to the race. It's hard. But maybe winning will make me a bit more spry."
This is the seventh Tour of California and Zabriskie, who is a Utah native now living in Los Angeles, has finished second three times in the first six races. He's never won. "Maybe winning will make me feel more spry," Zabriskie said.
He expects Saturday that the major contenders will not let him out of their view.
"I expect people to attack me," Zabriskie said. "That's pretty much the only way they're going to win. I expect me to follow. I'll try to retain this jersey. And my dream."
The 750-mile race ends Sunday after a 42.6-mile road course from Beverly Hills to Los Angeles' L.A. Live area.