Posted by Editoress on 02/19/07
Tour of California
Coverage sponsored by: Maxxis, Shimano, Enervit
"Real" racing got underway today on stage one of the Amgen Tour of California, however, the finish was marred by a crash which race leader Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) was caught behind. Graeme Brown (Rabobank) barely held off Greg Henderson (T-Mobile) and Allan Davis (Discovery) to take the stage win, but Leipheimer was one of many caught behind the crash with 9 kilometres to go, and appeared to have lost his jersey to Ben Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health) who finished with the front group. After a lengthy delay, it was announced that all the riders in the main peloton at the time of the crash would be given the same time as the winner (racing regulations normally limit this allowance to 3 kilometres). Overall favourite David Zabriskie (CSC) went down in an unrelated crash at the run in to the finish and is out of the race.
The 156 kilometre stage took the riders from Sausalito over Mount Tamalpais and north along the coast by Point Reyes National Park and Bodega Bay, before turning inland and immediately hitting a short but steep Category 3 on Coleman Valley Road. Once over the top, a surprisingly narrow and twisty descent took the riders back to sea level for a 35 kilometre run in to Santa Rosa for 3 laps of a 4.5 kilometre finishing circuit.
Jurgen Van de Wall (Quick Step) took the first KoM, and was joined on the descent by Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto), Steven Cozza (Team Slipstream), William Frischkorn (Team Slipstream), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner). The group gained 20 seconds by the bottom, as they rode through Stinson Beach and along the Bolinas Lagoon, however, a stiff headwind put paid to any chance of opening up a significant gap.
Discovery kept tight control on the field, and no break was able to gain more than a few seconds before being reeled in. At the 90 kilometre mark, a lone rider - Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home) - managed to sneak away and gain 40 seconds within 10 kilometres, but the Coleman Valley climb was approaching, and the peloton scooped him up as they hit the base.
Jurgen Van de Wall (Quick Step) attacked again to take maximum points on the KoM, solidifying his lead in the Climber's competition, and was joined by Theo Eltink (Rabobank), Adam Hansen (T-Mobile) and Tom Peterson (Slipstream) for the descent. The tight, narrow road assisted the breakaways, who stretched the lead to 1:20 before being caught shortly before the race entered Santa Rosa. It was on the flat section after the descent, at 112 kilometres, that Zabriskie crashed. The circumstances are still not completely clear, but no one else appeared to go down, although Discovery was pushing the pace as they chased the break (which contained Hansen - a threat at only 6 seconds to Leipheimer).
According to medical personnel, Zabriskie crashed into a ditch and hit his head. "Once there is a suspicion of a head injury, we sometimes have to take the decision for the rider. He clearly 'had his bell rung' - he had a mild concussion, and we had no argument from him (when they pulled him from the race)." It was also announced that results of a workup and Head CT at the local hospital showed no ongoing problems.
The circuit in town, which the riders entered enmass, was full of twists and turns, but it turned out to be small metal traffic control bumps on the finishing straight that turned out to be a problem. The metal dots (called 'Botz Dots') were hit by Gerald Ciolek (T-Mobile), according to Leipheimer, who was behind the accident.
"His hand slipped off and he fell to the right, and then the others piled into him. We were controlling well, and in good shape until the crash, and then George (Hincapie) and Ivan (Basso) had to do a lot of work in the last couple of laps. I was honoured to have George and Ivan sacrifice for me today, and I will do everything I can to win for the team."
The unusual decision to extend the neutral section to 9 kilometres left knowledgable race watchers shaking their heads, but it was definitely pleasing to the huge crowd that came out to greet native son Leipheimer.
"I'm definitely disappointed to keep the jersey this way, and I am disappointed to hear that David Zabriskie crashed out of the race. He was a favourite, with the time trial coming up, and if I win, this isn't the way that I would want it to be."
"But I think the circuit finishes are important for the growth of races in America, for the crowds. You saw the size (of the crowd), and they are looking for a show."
- Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net) moves up to 9th on the GC, after Rory Sutherland (Health Net) and Hilton Clarke (Navigators) lost time on the stage.
- Tomorrow the race heads from Santa Rosa to the state capital Sacramento for 186 kilometres - the second longest stage. This is a new stage, and runs east through the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, with two Categorized climbs; a Cat 2 called the Trinity Grade at 27 kilometres and a Cat 4 at 85 kilometres. The second half of the stage is pretty much a flat ride into Sacramento, with 3 finishing circuits in front of the state legislature.
- A writer for the San Francisco Chronicle had a rather interesting turn of phrase in his article on the Prologue. Steve Rubenstein first talked about the "tight black shorts" of the riders before interviewing a spectator who boasted of slapping Hincapie on the butt before the start: "I feel much more powerful now. I think we bonded." His final comment of note: "the cyclists' rear ends were plugging a brand of jelly beans, a bank, a mutual fund, ...
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