BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- Sylvain Georges of France pedaled to a long, solo win, and Dave Zabriskie maintained his race lead Friday with a main field finish in the mountainous sixth stage of the Tour of California.
Georges, a second-year rider who competes for Ag2r-La Mondiale, claimed his fifth career win after pedaling alone in the lead for the final 30 miles en route to his victory in 5 hours, 7 minutes, 6 seconds.
"The most difficult thing about the final kilometers was in my head," the 28-year-old Georges said. "I hurt everywhere. I was starting to go cross-eyed and getting cramps, but I was able to focus and fight through it.
"It was the hardest 15k of my life."
Former race lead Peter Sagan of Slovakia, who won the first four stages, finished second in the stage, 28 seconds back.
Peter Velits, also of Slovakia, finished third in the same time in the stage that ended at an elevation of 6,750 feet and featured four climbs.
Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda), a Utah native who lives in Los Angeles, finished 21st in the main field. He maintained the 34-second race lead he took over Tejay van Garderen (BMC) of Tacoma, Wash., with a dominating time trial win in the fifth stage.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) of the Netherlands remained third, 39 seconds back.
Georges, who improved from 43rd to 22nd place overall, emerged at the front about mile into the stage that featured four climbs.
After the second mountain sprint, he attacked and eventually built more than a five-minute lead.
The main field quickly lowered its deficit in the waning miles, but Georges had a large enough cushion to ease to the finish and wave to the crowd.
"For me it's the most beautiful victory of my career," said Georges, who had four victories in 2011, but claimed his first this season. "I've never arrived solo for victory like this and it was incredibly special. It's a beautiful race with all the big teams."
Defending race champion Chris Horner (RadioShack) of Bend, Ore., is 26th overall, 2:50 behind after finishing eighth in stage six.
The eight-day, 735-mile race continues Saturday with the 78.3-mile seventh stage road race from Ontario to Mt. Baldy, the second and last mountain stage.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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