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Tour of California 2012, Stage 5: Individual Time Trials On Rugged 18.4-Mile Stretch

As he has all week, Peter Sagan of Slovakia sits atop the leaderboard heading into Thursday's Stage 5 of the eight-stage Tour of California.

Stage 5, held in Bakersfield, is a bit of an outlier compared to the other stages. It is an individual time trial and, according to this stage description, should be a lung-buster:

Right from the start, the riders will go from zero to nearly 60 mph in a matter of seconds. The start ramp will launch them onto an immediate descent to Alfred Harrel Highway. From there, it will be a straight - but not exactly flat - route to the turnaround point at Lake Ming....

The route is full of 100-foot rollers, and as the riders approach the finish, they'll be able to see it...up on a 300-foot bluff. The prepared rider will have saved a little for the China Grade, which presents an eight percent climb to the top and then a hard left, and it won't be over there. The riders will still face a slightly uphill, .44-mile run to the finish.

For those hoping to watch the action: Live TV coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. Central on NBC Sports Network. It will re-air at 10:30 Central. Viewers can also stream the Tour -- or view oodles of highlights and videos -- at the Tour of California "Race Video" page.

Additional television coverage info is available here, and a complete leaderboard is available here.

For more information on the 2012 Tour of California, check out this SB Nation Minnesota story stream.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.