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Tour of California - 2.1

USA, February 19-26, 2006

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Stage 2 - February 21: Martinez to San José, 152.7km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski

Complete live report

10:27 PST   
Welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of Stage 2 of Tour of California. This stage is said to be the toughest stage of the race and one that could possibly decide the race along with tomorrows time trial. Starting in Martinez the course heads south to San Jose taking in quite a lot of climbing along the way. The early climbs are shorter and not so steep but later in the day, at the 122km mark they hit the Category 1 climb up Sierra road which is a crusher. We caught up with Michael Barry (Discovery) this morning. He has ridden this climb as says its as bad, if not worse than it looks on the profile.
It is between three and four miles long and straight up. From the peak of the climb home is 30km of flat roads making it very important to be there on the climb.

With the race ending in a bunch kick in yesterdays stage, JJ Haedo (Toyota United Pro) taking the victory, the general classification remains the same with Levi Leipheimer donning the golden leaders jersey. He was very instrumental is designing some of the courses of this tour and expects to be a very tough day.

Following him in second place on GC is Bobby Julich (CSC) with George Hincapie (Discovery) in third. Discovery and CSC have a slight advantage at this early point in the race, both having three or more riders in the top ten so far. This gives them men to play with and a variety of tactics to use. The time differences however are very small and anything can happen on a climbing day like today. Leipheimer is confident his team is strong enough to defend his lead.

10:47 PST   
Its another nice day for racing. Temperatures in the low 50's so far (12-15 degrees Celsius) so a bit chilly but the sun is out. Another big crowd gathers at the start line despite the fact that its a working day and no doubt we'll see big crowds on the climb towards the end of the stage.

10:50 PST   
Riders are starting to line up and they'll go through the call ups and the National Anthem before starting in about ten minutes. Again they'll have three neutral laps through the town of Martinez for a total of 8km before they head out on Alhambra Valley Road for the start proper.

11:05 PST   
The riders are off for their neutral laps. The crowd cheers them on as they go by. Another nice welcome from the people of California.

11:10 PST   
The riders are all a bit nervous about this climb today. Phil Zajicek (Navigators) who recently broke his hand say that is not bothering him anymore. He is feeling good. He hasn't seen the climb himself but a number of his teammates have and they also say its as hard as it sounds.

11:11 PST   
The riders are in their third neutral lap. Lots of school kids are lining the roads.

11:14 PST   
One non-starter today is Ivan Dominguez (Toyota United Pro). He got hit my a car last week and still has a big haematoma on his leg and is still not walking well.

11:14 PST   
The race proper has now started. Gerolsteiner hit the front immediately.

11:15 PST   
Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery) is back at the team car getting service. Perhaps a puncture.

11:20 PST    2km/150.7km to go
The school kids are going crazy screaming at the riders as they go by. The road is winding as they head toward the first climb of the day. Clothing is being shed as the temperature is rising a little. There is a little breeze today. Nothing major.

11:24 PST   
The first KOM comes after only 19km of racing and there are already a couple of climbs before they hit this one. Its only a cat 4 climb and from all accounts its not all that steep. Our local source is John Koslosky who is the owner of Castro Valley Cyclery. He's been riding these roads for 25 years and knows them well. Today he's decided to hire a helicopter and watch the race from above. Our photographer Jonathan Devich is going up with his so there's bound to be some cool photos at the end of todays stage.

11:30 PST   
John has a very cool story. He started riding through these roads years ago as a kid and he says he often used to get passed by the 7-Eleven team. "They used to pass us like we were standing still," he said. When he was a junior he went to a camp at the Olympic Training centre in Colorado Springs but didn't make the cut. A few years later he ended up back there at a mechanics course run by Calvin Jones who is the owner of Park Tool. "I had no talent for bike riding but I was a good mechanic and became the youngest certified mechanic for the US National Team." He has spent a lot of time racing downhill and now owns a bike shop that the race passes today.

11:34 PST   
We're climbing now. Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile are near the front. Spectators already line the side of the climb. There are signs that say "Go George" and "Go Eki" (Ekimov).
This first climb is about three kilometers long but not very steep near the bottom. Its winding through the trees.

11:35 PST   
We've got somebody playing a Banjo sitting in an old pickup truck. There are also a lot of cows out here. They don't seem to be all that interested in the race.

11:37 PST    10.4km/142.3km to go
They have just made a left turn on to Bear Creek Rd towards the cat 4 climb.

11:37 PST   
We have an attack by Mark McCormack (Colavita/Sutter Homes).

11:38 PST   
We caught up with Mark this morning who was very surprised with the speed of the race yesterday. Especially the final part of the race. He commented that everyone here is taking this race very seriously.

11:45 PST   
Mike Sayers tried to join McCormack which got the field chasing and they were both caught. Michael Barry is up near the front with some Gerolsteiner boys. They are midway up the Cat 4 climb right now and Mike Creed (TIAA CREF) has attacked and holds a small gap.

11:46 PST    16km/136.7km to go
The road goes down a little bit now before heading back up to the KOM. Mike Creed has 11 seconds on the field now.

11:47 PST   
They are making a hard left hand turn now onto Happy Valley Rd. which is the main part of the climb.

11:48 PST    11km/141.7km to go
One and a half km to the KOM now. A few switchbacks here. Its easy to get out of sight here so its a good place to break away.

11:50 PST   
Its really windy near the top. The road is a little rougher too and narrow. Lots of fans line the side of the road cheering Creed on. There is a Belgian flag on the side of the road and lots of Cowbells. The Specialized Angel is also at the top of the climb.

11:51 PST    19km/133.7km to go
At the very top of the climb there is a sign that says 5km to the sprint sign. So riders going for the sprint category have to stay up there to contend the sprint at the very bottom of the hill. Creed hits the top of the KOM. He must be going for KOM points. He'll have the lead after this.

11:52 PST   
The field is now 200m to the KOM. The descent is also very winding with lots of sharp off-camber corners.

11:55 PST   
Ben Jaques-Maynes is attempting to bridge now. More school kids on the side of the road. The road is getting a little bit smoother as we enter the town of Lafayette.

11:56 PST   
Tim Johnson (Health Net) is also trying to bridge a little behind Jaques-Maynes (Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada).

11:57 PST   
Johnson has caught Jacques-Maynes and they are working together now. They'll take a hard left towards Lafayette and they have 200m to the sprint.

11:58 PST    24km/128.7km to go
Creed is crossing the sprint line now. The field is 45 seconds behind him with the two chasers in between.

12:02 PST    25.6km/127.1km to go
The gap is now 1'10" between Creed and the field.

12:03 PST   
The three riders are together now.

12:04 PST    28km/124.7km to go
They've increased their lead to 1'20".

12:06 PST   
The results from the first sprint of the day are:
Mike Creed, Tim Johnson then Ben Jacques-Maynes.

12:08 PST   
There has been a change in the riders in the break. Officials couldn't see the number correctly. Its not Tim Johnson in the break (who is number 83), it is actually number 63, Mads Kaggestad (Credit Agricole).

12:09 PST   
They trio have increased their lead to 1'40"

12:11 PST    30km/122.7km to go
Thirty kilometers have passed and they are entering the town of Moraga. They have another couple of climbs to contend before they hit the next sprint of the day in Castro Valley in 25km.

12:13 PST   
Two minutes gap now and the three breakaway riders are working well together. Back in the field the Gerolsteiner team sit the front of the bunch setting the pace. This break away is good for a lot of riders in the bunch because it makes their ride to the bottom of the major climb a little easier.

12:14 PST   
We caught up with the Phonak director Rene Savary this morning. He said "Its tough with this hard stage before the time trial tomorrow. I expect the race to stay together until the climb today. It would be nice if there was a small break of non climbers up the road to make things easier in the lead up to the climb, but I think they’ll keep it together."
So he'll be happy with this break.

12:16 PST   
They are climbing again now. This Pinehurst road climb is about four miles long and has sections of 10% grade. Its quite tough.

12:18 PST    36km/116.7km to go
Ben Jacques-Mayne is a local boy. He grew up near the start of today's stage in Berkley and currently lives 15 min bike ride away from the foot of today's monster climb...Sierra. Apparently, according to reader Rob, "Ben showed up to a few local cross races this season in preparation of the Tour, he was literally riding circles around the competition. Expect a good show from Ben today, he has army's of fans waiting for him on Sierra!"

12:20 PST   
Another reader has written in about Mads Kaggestad. Georg Reidarsen writes "[Mads] is a very close friend of Thor Hushovd and started the season quite well when he got sixth place overall in Etoile de Besseges. A fairly good climber. But useless in sprints :)

12:22 PST    39km/113.7km to go
The gap continues to increase. The three riders in the break working well allowing the bunch to cruise behind at this stage. TIAA Cref is on the front blocking for Creed. Its a very windy climb right here.

12:25 PST   
There are heaps of people on the top of the climb. Our reporter Mark has even seen Winnie the Poo up here. TIAA team director, Jonathan Vaughters has come back from the break to watch his team doing a good job on the front of the field.

12:27 PST   
Mike Creed is a good climber so the bunch won't want to see this break get too far up the road. Despite the fact there are no other KOM's until the main climb, there is a lot of climbing in between and Creed will be using this to his advantage.

12:32 PST   
After Pinehurst they do Redwood which is also tough and then a bit later comes Palmares which is another ten minute climb with some very steep pinches.

12:36 PST   
One reader has just written in. He is following the Cyclingnews coverage on his blackberry. The URL is http://live8.cyclingnews.com/wap/. He says "I'm sitting at the KOM point, Blackberry in hand, reading your updates. There's already several hundred people here. The climb is definitely a monster and this road is definitely the place to be to watch the peloton get ripped apart."

12:38 PST    44.8km/107.9km to go
The gap is now four minutes and they climb Redwood. Gerolsteiner is on the front. They are not pushing the pace too hard as they field us spread across the road as they climb.

12:39 PST   
We've just had an email from Ben Jacques-Maynes' wife Goldi. She's reading the live coverage from the finish line. She says "go Ben".

12:40 PST   
Again when they crest this climb they have to be prepared for another sprint at the bottom of the descent. Its not such a big deal now that their is a break up the road but it would have been interesting if the bunch was all together as the descent from Redwood is also winding and quite gnarly.

12:45 PST   
Mike Creed's father just wrote in to say that he talked to his son last night and he was nervous. "Thats a good sign," he said.

12:50 PST   
The riders have just gone through the sprint line in Castro Valley. Mads took the sprint from Ben and Mike. The sprint was on the top of a little hill. Alot of kids are out in the town with their American flags.

12:50 PST    56km/96.7km to go
The gap is now 5'50".

12:51 PST   
Gerolsteiner is on the front again setting the pace. Not panicking about this five minute breakaway but they'll make sure it doesn't get too far away.

12:53 PST   
The family of Mick Rogers in Italy (Mick is from Canberra in Australia but recently married an Italian girl, Alessia and now spends most of his time in Italy. They say "Forza Michael!!!" from Fabrizio, Stefania, Alessia, Jodie, Giampy and Angelo.

12:57 PST    61km/91.7km to go
The leaders are now on Palmares Rd, the field are 4km behind them. They are still working very well together. The road starts going up again as they start the climb to Palmares.

12:59 PST   
We've just heard from our photographer Jonathan Devich who is up in the helicopter with John Koslosky. He says it looks very cool from up there. Its a very clear day. They can see the blue of the Gerolsteiner team on the front of the peloton and the three riders in the break working well together.

13:00 PST   
We've just heard from the older brother of Levi, Rob Leipheimer. He says, "We are very excited to see the enormous amounts of crowds in California - this is what America needs - like the Tour de France - the passion & festive environment that lures in the public. We are very excited that Levi is leading the first Amgen Tour of California! We are also impressed with the crowds that turned out in Santa Rosa yesterday - the crowds were great! Thanks for your great updates.....Cheering all the way from Montana...."

13:01 PST   
Another reader, Chris Coble from Fremont Freewheelers has written in, "As a Cat 3 racer from southern Fremont by San Jose, I have seen Ben screaming up Sierra three or four times in the past month. The peloton would be wise not to let him go too far, especially with help.

13:05 PST   
Hi to Phil Ligget who has just written in, he says, "I am thoroughly enjoying the cyclingnews.com coverage. I may even stay at home this year, and follow the Tour on CN." ha ha

13:07 PST   
This is a tough climb that they are on. Strange that this is not categorized, but not all of them can be. Very consistent 10% grade here and the last kilometer gets very steep.

13:12 PST   
The crowd continues to gather on the Sierra Rd climb. Its going to be a great atmosphere up there when these guys roll by. They'll need the support too by all accounts. People have been riding their bikes up to be there for the race to go by. A great atmosphere.

13:13 PST   
A reader Ben wants us to say hi to US National Women's RR champion, Katheryn Curi, from Webcor. "She's a Bay Area resident these days and a regular at many of the local training rides. She has a LOT of friends around here. Unfortunately, she was injured in a freak training accident - hit by another cyclist - last week and is out with broken ribs and a (now fixed) collapsed lung. Please wish her a speedy recovery so we can see her Stars and Stripes jersey and bike later in the season."

13:18 PST   
The leaders have gone over the top of Palmares. The bunch is still climbing. Lots of people cheer them on. Gerolsteiner still on the front.

13:21 PST    76km/76.7km to go
The bunch have started descending now and its single file going down. At the bottom they'll come to the feed zone and refuel for the next climb and then the Sierra. Before hitting the major climb they have another climb called Calveras.

13:22 PST   
On the way down there was unfortunately a few protesters holding a sign saying "Not on our roads." Apart from this there has been nothing but support for the race.

13:23 PST   
At the bottom of the climb there are some very sharp turns.

13:24 PST    78.4km/74.3km to go
All of the guys in the breakaway have been working well together on the climbs. Creed seemed to be on the front a little bit longer that the other two but overall it seems very even.

13:25 PST   
The field are still descending single file. These are beautiful roads that they are riding through.

13:28 PST   
Katheryn Curi just wrote in and in the middle of writing in she saw the update from her friends. She says thanks! She also says "these guys gives me inspiration. The course they are racing today is on roads that I train on weekly. Pretty cool to see a world class field on them."

13:30 PST    81km/71.7km to go
The field are not on flat roads and its still strung out. The break are just getting to the feed zone. Their lead is 6'10".

13:31 PST   
Gerolsteiner still man the front on the bunch. Up in the break Mike Creed is asking for his team car.

13:32 PST   
Its about 60 degrees now (about 15 Celcius). Its sunny with no read wind to speak of. After the feed zone they head slightly uphill for a while before hitting Calaveras.

13:33 PST   
The gap is falling now. Its back down to 4'55".

13:35 PST   
Its cool to see the whole Gerolsteiner team strung out at the front. They've really picked up the pace. Still 35km to the bottom of the main climb so they have plently of time but this long flat stretch of road is a good chance for them to up the pace.

13:37 PST   
The Credit Agricole car is also headed back up to the break again to be behind Kaggestad.

13:37 PST   
A middle School band is playing on the side of the road as they head through Scotts Corner.

13:40 PST   
They have just crossed under Hwy 680. The road is pretty straight for a while until it gets to the Calaveras climb passing Calaveras Resevior, then its fairly windy again.

13:41 PST   
The gap is 4'45" now, falling again slightly. The bunch slowed a bit as they went through the feed zone.

13:45 PST   
A couple of Toyota United Pro riders are up near the front of the peloton now. We talked to Tony Cruz this morning who said "The team is excited about yesterdays win, being our first major race win." Tony says that so far things on a domestic team aren't all that different from what he's been used to on Discovery due to the quality of the field here and the racing. Its just like racing in Europe he says.

13:46 PST   
Still flat roads here. Fairly open with farmland on either side. Gerolsteiner still has the whole team on the front.

13:48 PST   
Another excellent result yesterday was young Bradley Huff (Team TIAA-CREF). He was US National Amateur Crit Champion last year and yesterday he took fourth place in that fast finish. Not a bad result.

13:51 PST    93km/59.7km to go
They are Calaveras Rd climb now. At this point the climb is not that windy. Its under trees so quite shady. The gap is 4'50" and holding.

13:53 PST   
The pace is picking up a little bit now. One of the Toyota United Pro riders went down on the uphill. Not sure how that happened. The road is narrowing here. There is a very steep drop off on the left side of the road. Phonak riders are moving up towards the front.

13:55 PST    96km/56.7km to go
The gap is holding at 4'55" right now. Getting near the top now.

14:00 PST   
The descent is very narrow and quite gnarly. When they get to the bottom they'll be in the town of Milpitas and will head straight for the big climb of the day.

14:03 PST   
The main bunch is descending now. Its tight around a few of the corners and they are single file going down.

14:06 PST   
Its beautiful terrain here as they descend. They'll all be a bit nervous now for the climb.

14:09 PST   
They are going along the flat road now. Not long until the climb. The field is still strung out single file.

14:11 PST   
A few Toyota United Pro riders are up helping out Gerolsteiner in the chase.

14:13 PST    106km/46.7km to go
The gap has fallen under four minutes. These breakaway riders have done an amazing job so far and they will still have a three minute advantage going onto the climb. Lets see if that will be enough when the climbers put the hammer down.

14:15 PST   
The gap is down to 2'45". Its really falling fast!

14:17 PST    110.4km/42.3km to go
They are making a hard left now to head towards the next climb. The break is still working hard trying to keep some advantage for the climb.

14:19 PST   
They actually do a loop from here to climb up Sierra and then descend back to Milpitas before heading to San Jose for the finish.

14:20 PST   
They are going through a wide open road through town with the gap holding at 2'45".

14:22 PST    114km/38.7km to go
The riders in the break are still doing equal turns. The gap is 2'10". They still look strong but its tough to keep that gap after being out there all day.

14:23 PST   
The crowds are getting excited on the climb. The break has made the left turn onto Sierra. It goes straight up after they turn left. The road narrows and there are people lining the road three deep on this section. Very steep, looks very similiar to the Manayunc wall in Philadelphia.

14:24 PST   
It has to be a 12% grade. It just keeps going and going. Its unbelievable.

14:25 PST   
The field has just turned onto the road too. It looks like they're going to catch them. They are about 6km to the KOM right now. At 5km to the KOM it turns a switchback and then kicks up even steeper. This is tough! They weren't joking.

14:26 PST   
The riders in the break are out of the saddle. They're working hard.

14:26 PST   
The riders in the bunch are also out of the saddle. Its still about an 8% grade at this point. You have an amazing view all over the city from here.

14:27 PST   
The break is down to two riders. Ben Jacques-Maynes is just off the back.

14:27 PST   
He's catching back on as it flattens out but its going to kick up again soon.

14:28 PST   
It keeps winding around and kicking up in parts. Lots of "Go Levi" signs.

14:29 PST   
Creed and Kaggestad have a gap on Jacques-Maynes again.

14:29 PST   
A Saunier Duval rider sits on the front of the peloton leading the way, they are in and out of the saddle.

14:30 PST   
Discovery hit the front. A CSC rider is also up there.

Up front Creed is alone and has dropped Kaggestad as well now.

14:31 PST   
They three break riders are all riding solo now but none have them have been caught by the bunch yet.

14:32 PST   
The field is single file and there are lots of splits developing. Jacques-Mayne has been caught by the field.

14:33 PST   
Its kicking up really steep again. Kaggestad has also been caught by the field.

14:33 PST   
Creed is just about to get caught.

14:34 PST   
It looks like about 20 guys are still holding onto the front off the group.

14:37 PST   
Only 12 guys left up front. They're still climbing. It flattened out a bit but it goes up again now.

14:38 PST   
More riders are getting dropped. Only eight left.

14:38 PST   
Gerolsteiner rider on the front setting pace followed by CSC probably Julich, then Saunier Duval.

14:39 PST   
Only three left. One gerolsteiner, CSC and Phonak.

14:42 PST   
It looks like Levi, Julich and Floyd are up there with Levi setting the pace.

14:42 PST   
Floyd is losing the wheel as Levi and Julich ride away.

14:43 PST   
A fourth rider is not far off the back. Its Saunier Duval. Probably Simoni.

14:43 PST   
Julich hits the front now. Levi on his wheel. Floyd chasing hard as it flattens out a bit.

14:44 PST   
On the descent now.

14:45 PST   
Its fast and wide open country here. Floyd made it back on.

14:46 PST   
One Saunier Duval rider chasing solo and then a group of 12.

14:47 PST   
The officials are saying that its not Julich, its Bernard Kohl from T-Mobile. So the lead group is Leipheimer, Landis and Kohl.

14:51 PST    127km/25.7km to go
When they get to the bottom of this descent they hit travel along the same road as they did when they came off Calaveras and head back to the town of Milpitas. From here they have about 20km to the finish.

14:54 PST   
Kohl won the KOM followed by Leipheimer and Landis. These three still have a 15 second gap over a group of four that includes Cadel Evans (Davitamon Lotto), Ricardo Ricco (saunier Duval) and Jean Marc Marino plus one other.

14:54 PST    132.7km/20km to go
There are quite a few groups on the descent. The second part of it was narrow and winding with some dangerous sections.

14:56 PST   
Danielson is also up there and Zabriskie is not far behind that. A group of nine are not far behind.

14:58 PST   
Zabriskie and Ricco are together at 25" from the lead three. Then another small chase group followed by a group of 11 riders. Some of the small groups are gathering together.

14:58 PST    134km/18.7km to go
The leaders have made a left hand turn and are in Milpitas.

15:00 PST    137km/15.7km to go
Zabriskie and Ricco have been caught by the large group of 12 riders. They are now 30 seconds behind the three leaders.

15:00 PST   
The leaders have seen 15km to go.

15:01 PST   
There are three Saunier Duval riders in the chase group. Discovery have a Danielson up there, CSC are up there too. The gap is still holding.

15:03 PST   
The chase group is growing. They now have 19 riders and they have the three leaders in sight.

15:04 PST    140km/12.7km to go
Still 12km from the finish. It will be hard for them to keep the gap with that large chase group.

15:04 PST   
Michael barry and Tom Danielson are setting the pace in the chase group.

15:05 PST   
The gap is still holding.

15:06 PST    142.7km/10km to go
Ten kilometers to go now.

15:08 PST   
The gap has fallen to only 6" now. It will be a bunch of 22 for the finish.

15:08 PST   
The break is now caught.

15:09 PST   
There's an attack now. Bobby Julich, Michael Barry and Gomez Marchante have a small gap.

15:10 PST   
They were chased immediately but Julich still has a small gap. Prodir are right on him though.

15:11 PST   
It will be an important sprint as there are time bonuses. Leipheimer will have to be up there.

15:12 PST   
Dicovery and CSC have guys on the front now.

15:13 PST   
Christian Vandevelde (CSC) has attacked and has a small gap.

15:13 PST   
Discovery is on the front chasing. He still has 30m

15:14 PST   
He's been caught. Discovery is on the front followed by CSC. Levi is up there.

15:15 PST   
Its single file, they are coming into town. A T-Mobile rider has come to the front. They're making a turn.

15:15 PST    149.7km/3km to go
3k to go. discovery rider leading. It looks like Tom Danielson then Barry.

15:16 PST   
Barry now on the front driving hard. Hincapie is up in that group.

15:16 PST   
They are making a hard right turn. Discovery is completely in control driving this break. Left hand turn now.

15:17 PST    151.7km/1km to go
Under the 1km to go banner. A small gap in the group. Its single file.

15:17 PST   
Hard right and then a sweeping left. 500 to go - riders falling off the back.

15:18 PST   
Barry driving hard, Levi is in third place. Julich is up there.

15:18 PST   
Hincapie takes it followed by four Davitamon Lotto riders.

15:19 PST   
George gets a six second bonus for winning which puts his on equal time with Levi!

15:20 PST   
The Davitamon Lotto riders were Chris Horner and Josep Jufre Pou.

15:21 PST   
George will be the leader going into tomorrows stage now.

15:22 PST   
More groups are slowly coming in minutes down.

15:23 PST   
The time bonus is actually ten seconds. George takes over the lead.

15:34 PST   
Thanks for tuning in to our coverage of stage 2. We'll be back tomorrow for the Time Trial.


1 George Hincapie (Discovery) 
2 Chris Horner (Davitamon Lotto)
3 Josep Jufre Pou (Davitamon Lotto)

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