Posted by Editoress on 02/18/09
Our coverage of the Amgen Tour of California made possible with the support of Shimano
Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-High Road) finally got the victory at the Amgen Tour of California that has been eluding him, although Tom Boonen (Quick Step) came oh-so-close to snatching it away when Cavendish sat up to celebrate a little early. JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank) took third.
Despite the five KoM climbs in the first 110 kilometres of the 187 kilometre stage through California's Central Valley, the race did not fracture. Possibly the riders wanted to savour a day of sunshine after three consecutive days of rain and wind.
A flurry of attacks began almost immediately after the race left Merced, with the most dangerous containing George Hincapie (Team Columbia-High Road), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) and Rory Sutherland (Ouch). Astana certainly wasn't willing to let this one go, and Armstrong led the chase.
A group of four finally did get clear before the first KoM - Tyler Hamilton and Francisco Mancebo for Rock Racing, Serge Pauwels (Cervelo) and Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank). Mancebo was the big threat - leading the Climber's and Points Jerseys, and 53 seconds behind Levi Leipheimer (Astana). So, after taking the maximum points on the first climb and intermediate sprint, he dropped back to the peloton (speculation is that he was ordered to by the Rock Racing DS). This immediately settled things down, and the three leaders zoomed out to a six minute lead.
On the final KoM, with 75 kilometres to go, the chase got serious, with Columbia sending Michael Barry to the front to start to pull things back. He was joined by Lowe and Peterson for Garmin-Slipstream, and riders from Quick Step and Cervelo, and the gap began to shrink rapidly, with the catch coming less than 5 kilometres from the finish.
Cavendish shot out of the middle of the charging peloton with 200 metres to go, and looked to have it sewn up with 25 metres remaining, when he began to sit up and celebrate. However, Boonen was still charging up on his left and threw his bike at the line. It was Cavendish, but only by a tire's width.
- It was a bad day for crashes, with Scott Nydam (BMC) and Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-High Road) both out of the race with broken clavicles, and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) suffering two broken ribs. Vande Velde and Floyd Landis (Ouch) were two others who went down, but did not appear to suffer any serious injury.
- UCI President Pat McQuaid was at the race today, and revealed at the press conference that he discussed with organizer AEG the possibility of moving the Tour of California to later in the season. It became apparent that this is a necessity if they hope to take the race into the mountains, when road crews had to work overnight to remove snow from the final KoM.
McQuaid said that the UCI will 'study' moving the race later, with organizer Andrew Messick from AEG throwing out possibilities in April, May or even June.
- Tomorrow is another day for the sprinters, with no categorized climbs. It is the longest day, at 216 kilometres, starting in Visalia and heading southwest into the San Luis Obispo area to finish at Paso Robles. Mancebo is likely to lose his Points Jersey to Thos Hushovd (Cervelo) or Cavendish, but it is starting to look like he has the Climber's Jersey locked up.
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