SAN LUIS OBISPO — Germany’s Jens Voigt won the fifth stage of the Tour of California on Thursday, and American Tejay van Garderen surprisingly took the overall lead a day sooner than expected.
The 41-year-old Voigt, riding for RadioShack Leopard, jumped to the front with about three miles left and completed the windy 115.4-mile Santa Barbara-to-Avila Beach road race in 4 hours, 41 minutes, 11 seconds.
“There was a sticky little uphill with about five kilometers left,” said Voigt, the oldest rider in the field. “I said ‘now or never’ and it worked. It worked once again.”
American Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp was second in 4:41:22, followed by Norway’s Thor Hushovd of BMC in the same time.
Voigt, a two-time Tour de France stage winner who turned professional in 1997, and van Gardener, riding for BMC, were among 18 riders who escaped from the main field in strong coastal crosswinds about 33 miles from the finish.
Van Garderen, who trailed Colombia’s Janier Acevedo of Jamis-Hagens Berman by 12 seconds at the start of the stage, took a 44-second lead over 2010 race winner Michael Rogers of Australia and Saxo-Tinkoff.
Van Garderen, fourth in the event last year and fifth as the leading American finisher in the 2012 Tour de France, is the favorite in the stage-six time trial in San Jose.