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Tour of California - 2.1

USA, February 19-26, 2006

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Stage 5 - February 24: San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, 169.5km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski

Complete live report

09:34 PST   
Welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the tour of California. Yesterday the riders finished the stage in the town of San Luis Obispo after 210 km of riding along the beautiful coastline from Monterey. Today they start where they left off and head further south along the coast, this time on flatter terrain until they head inland and head through wine country and the hills of Santa Ynez Valley. These will be familiar roads to many of the riders as it is a popular place for team training camps. Discovery for one, hold their training camp in Solvang each year.

After going through Santa Ynez, the race hits the Los Padres National Forest and the hardest climb of the day. San Marcos Pass is a category 1 climb and is 7.5km in length. You'll see a bit of action here, as the race finishes only 20km from the top of the climb in Santa Barbara.

09:40 PST   
Our reporter Mark Zalewski is at the start and caught up with Tom Danielson. He says he hasn't been quite in form yet this race but he did feel good yesterday. Discovery will be saving him for San Marcos Pass today. Danielson has ridden this climb in training camp a few times. "Its not as steep as the Sierra climb we raced over in Stage 2," he says, "but it is longer."

10:02 PST   
The race is underway. Again, riders will complete 5.5km neutral before the real start of the race. Lots of school kids line the roads to watch them go by.

10:04 PST   
Again the crowds are huge. Organisers of the Tour of California estimate crowd numbers of 680,000 over the first five days of the tour. The weather is great again. Blue skies and mild temperatures. It seems that they have picked a good week for this race as weather reports predict rain in the LA area starting Monday.

10:08 PST   
JJ Haedo (Toyota United Pro) pulled through for his new team again yesterday, picking up stage win number two so far. His win yesterday earned him the green sprint jersey. We talked to him on the start line as he feels pretty good. He said, "today will be a lot like yesterday. A lot of climbs to get over and on the last climb there will be a lot of attacking." But he added that he'll see what happens and if he's there at the end he'll be going for it. For sure though he'll be looking for a stage win on Sunday in the circuit race.

10:09 PST   
We already have eight or so riders off the back asking for their team cars. Perhaps its already warm enough for them to take off arm warmers etc.

10:11 PST   
Yesterdays finish was extremely fast with speeds up at 70km an hour in the last 3km of racing. Today the finish is downhill and speeds are estimated to be even faster.

10:11 PST   
We have just hit the 0km mark and the race proper is underway.

10:15 PST   
We're still seeing good crowds as the race heads out towards Corbett Canyon Rd. The first thing to think about for the riders will be the two intermediate sprints. The first one is after only 17km (10miles) and another one comes 20km after that.

10:15 PST   
There is no time bonus at the finish today.

10:16 PST   
Already we have a Gerolsteiner rider off the front. They did this yesterday. They are not going to sit back and make this easy for Floyd it seems.

10:17 PST   
Its Sven Krauss. He has a small gap.

10:23 PST    7.2km/162.2km to go
Krauss has been caught. Its all together again. Another attack has gone. A group of 12 riders are up the road.

10:25 PST   
In the group are Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery), Ben Brooks (Navigators), Craig Lewis (TIAA CREF), Scott Zaizanski (Kodak Sierra Nevada), Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home), Charles Dionne (Prodir Saunier Duval) and David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) are all in the group.

10:26 PST   
The gap stretched out to 18" but is closing.

10:26 PST   
The peloton are moving in on them as they descend into a valley and its going to come back together.

10:28 PST    13km/156.4km to go
5km to the sprint now. We are currently traveling at 51km/h (32miles/h). Its fast already, ahead of schedule.

10:31 PST    16.2km/153.2km to go
Another attack. Seven riders are up the road. There's a large crowd at the sprint line. The break has 1km to the sprint now. Its very twisty and turny now.

10:32 PST   
Its downhill into the sprint. Its wide open though as its in the centre of town, Arroyo Grande.

10:33 PST   
The peloton has caught the break just after the sprint line so its all back together.

10:35 PST   
It was Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile) who took the sprint, followed by Gord Fraser (Health Net/Maxxis) and Jens Voigt (CSC).

10:37 PST   
Another few attacks but nothing is getting away right now. Its moving fast with Phonak on the front. We are about to hit a small climb.

10:38 PST   
It kicks up a bit now. A split is happening in the field. About 13 riders have a small advantage, four riders trying to bridge and Phonak is on the front of the bunch setting tempo. Its fast.

10:40 PST   
The group has grown to 16 riders. They have gone over the top of the small climb and are on small rollers. After these rollers we have a very fast 50m/h descent.

10:41 PST   
The 16 riders have been caught now. This descent is straight and fast. Should be fun and fast. Its single file. A few guys are trying to get away but the pace of the field is so fast right here.

10:42 PST   
A small group is trying to form. Four or five riders have a small advantage.

10:43 PST    25km/144.4km to go
A few riders are bridging. We have ten riders with a small advantage on the field. The road is wide open now as they are on HWY 1.

10:44 PST   
The group has 17" on the field.

10:47 PST   
In the break are Lars Bak (CSC), Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Michael Barry (DIscovery), Mick Rogers (t-Mobile), Ben Brooks (Navigators), Mike Jones (Health Net/Maxxis), Justin England (Toyota United), Kyle Wamsley (Colavita Sutter Homes), Dominique Perras (Kodak Sierra Nevada), and Caleb Manion (Jelly Belly).

10:47 PST   
Mike Creed (TIAA CREF) is trying to bridge. He is 20" behind the group and the field is 30" behind him.

10:49 PST   
The gap has grown to 43", the break is strung out and working hard together.

10:50 PST   
Creed is not going to make it alone. Its too fast up there. He is getting caught by the bunch.

10:52 PST   
Speaking of TIAA CREF, Thomas Peterson still holds the young riders jersey and his two teammates Taylor Tolleson and Craig Lewis are in second and third. Great results for this team.

10:53 PST    33.8km/135.6km to go
They are on a descent now into wide open farmland. Mike Jones is on the front of the break as they come up to the second sprint. 4km to the sprint now.

10:54 PST   
The sprint comes after a kilometer long bridge crossing. The gap is now 35".

10:57 PST   
For those locals reading, a great place to watch today is up on San Marcos Pass. Riders are expected to go through there at about 1:20pm. According to one reader there is good food and drink up there at Cold Springs Tavern.

10:58 PST   
Sprint coming up, there is a slight right hand bend into town for the sprint.

10:58 PST    37.8km/131.6km to go
A lot of school kids out here to watch the sprint. They're quite loud! A Harley driver revs his engine to the riders as they go by.

11:00 PST   
TIAA CREF is up with Phonak on the front of the field helping set the pace. Creed didn't make it across so they don't have anyone up there.

11:01 PST   
The winner of the sprint was Ben Brooks (Navigators), followed by Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) and Dominique Perras (Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada).

11:06 PST   
Our reporter Mark Zalewski is in a car with former Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff and Saturn rider Steve Hegg. Hegg was also a member of the US team in the 1984 Olympics and won a gold medal in the pursuit. He's been very informative, giving us details of the roads coming up etc.

11:07 PST    44km/125.4km to go
The gap is 35" seconds now. Its falling a bit.

11:10 PST   
Michael Barry is attacking in the bunch. It looks like he's trying to liven things up a bit and get rid of some of the slower riders who weren't working.

11:12 PST    46km/123.4km to go
The gap is still 35". Lars Bak is on the front now and actually has a bit of a gap from the rest of the break. He's looking back to see who's with him. He has Caleb Manion with him and a few riders bridging.

11:13 PST   
The break is all over the road again. They are obviously not happy with this break. They are still holding the gap at 30" though.

11:13 PST   
Another attack out of the break and another rider trying to bridge up to him.

11:16 PST   
Lars Bak and Haselbacher are off the front of the break. Bak is wearing the "most aggressive rider" jersey from yesterday, nothing has changed. He is still making this race.

11:17 PST   
The rest of the break has been caught. Mark McCormack is trying to bridge out of the field to the two up the road. The gap is 20" between Bak and Haselbacher and the field.

11:19 PST   
McCormack has now reached the break so we have a lead group of three. Three guys are trying to bridge, followed by the field at 25".

11:20 PST   
The chasers have been caught by the field. The field is flying and the gap is coming down quickly.

11:22 PST    55km/114.4km to go
The gap is only 11 seconds now. The three are still working together as we come up to some more winding roads and some hills. It looks like the gap is coming up again as they go through the town of Orcutt.

11:22 PST   
20" is the latest split.

11:23 PST   
It looks like Lucas Euser (TIAA CREF) is trying to bridge now.

11:25 PST   
Thirty seconds is the gap now. The break is working hard now.

11:28 PST    59km/110.4km to go
School kids everywhere along this street. The gap has increased to 45". Lucas Euser is 30" down on the break but still out there trying.

11:31 PST   
The race has just crossed over HWY 101. The field is totally strung out and the gap is 45". Euser has been caught by the bunch.

11:32 PST    61km/108.4km to go
The road narrows here as they go up a small climb. The gap seems to be coming down. Its now 30".

11:33 PST   
The climb is just over a kilometer long.

11:36 PST   
The riders in the break are on a long flat road now, wide open. Haselbacher is caling for his team car. They have their heads down and their powering away.

11:37 PST   
Bak rolls off and Haselbacher comes through. McCormack looks over his shoulder to see if the field are coming.

11:38 PST   
They are all looking back, the field is on them. Haselbacher is all over the road. Another Gerolsteiner rider has countered the move just as the break is caught.

11:39 PST   
The field is still totally strung out and its all together again.

11:39 PST   
Gerolsteiner attack again!

11:40 PST   
One solo rider off the front. The field hesitate.

11:41 PST   
More riders are bridging. Its CSC again and another rider.

11:45 PST    72km/97.4km to go
The break is now four riders on this wide open descent. They are Jens Voigt (CSC), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery) and Nick Reistad (Jelly Belly). They have about 20" on the field.

11:47 PST   
We are about 5km from the feed zone here. We are on Foxen Canyon Road. The gap has blown out to 1'05".

11:49 PST   
Its dead flat farmland here but after the feed zone riders will hit some more climbing as they continue along Foxen Canyon Road.

11:51 PST    75km/94.4km to go
Ekimov is driving the break at this point. They are doing about 30" turns. Nick Reistad rolls through now.

11:54 PST   
The peloton is in chase mode. They are strung out, Phonak on the front with six riders.

11:56 PST    79km/90.4km to go
Mike Sayers and Tim Johnson tried to bridge to the break. Johnson was caught but Sayers is still out there. The time gap between the peloton and the break is increasing. Its sits at 2'10" right now. Sayers is somewhere in the middle.

11:57 PST   
The bunch has slowed a little to go through the feed zone. They've all picked up there feed bags and they're getting organized again.

11:58 PST   
The gap is 2'40" with the bunch sitting up a bit. Sayers is 35" behind the break group.

12:00 PST   
Its about 67 degrees right now, so its getting warmer. Phonak is back on the front of the peloton starting to pick the tempo up again as they go over a small roller. This is where the road continues to go up for quite some time.

12:04 PST   
The gap is 3'15". Sayers is still solo in the middle. The Health Net team car has just been called up to sit behind Sayers. That might give him a bit of a boost.

12:06 PST   
The road is still going up gradually and the Phonak riders are setting a pretty fast tempo on the front of the bunch. The have the riders strung out around these curvy roads.

12:08 PST   
We talked to Robert Hunter this morning who has been working hard for Floyd his week. He said he did not even contest the sprint yesterday. He was at the back trying to recover from working all day. He added that keeping the jersey was obviously the most important thing for the team at the moment, but perhaps if they have it under control, he might be able to go for a stage win on the last day.

12:10 PST    87.7km/81.7km to go
Sayers is sitting up now. He can't make it up to the break.

12:13 PST   
Phonak is at the front and it looks like Fabian Cancellara is up there with them.

12:18 PST   
One thing Robert Hunter did say today was that Floyd will not be alone of San Marcos Pass as I'm sure some of the other teams are hoping for. He is confident that Floyd will have teammates with him on the climb.

12:22 PST   
I was trying to figure out why Cancellara would be up working with Phonak and couldn't, then I got a better view and realised it is a T-Mobile rider up there helping in the chase.

12:23 PST   
The gap is still 3'15". They are on another climb now. Its about 3km long and steep in parts. Steve Hegg adds that this climb causes a lot of people to get off and walk in the Solvang Century ride that comes through these parts. So its pretty steep.

12:25 PST   
If any of you are fans of the movie Sideways, They shot some of the film here.
One reader tells us, just after Zaca Mesa winery is the sting in the tail, a slightly brutal hill known as “heartbreak hill.” Then they have a fast descent before hitting the next hill, known as “the wall.” This has an even faster descent.

12:26 PST   
The gap has started to come down now. Its 2'45" as they go down a descent.

12:29 PST   
We've just had our Chris Brewer report. "I just drove over the final San Marcos Pass climb, and the cowds are starting to form with many riders heading up to the top. Despite being a 5km Cat 1 effort, it's not that steep and there are no violent grade changes or switchbacks to attack from. A rider will really have just crack from a high pace, if Landis comes to the base with his rivals and is good he should be able to make it over OK, I think."

12:30 PST    100km/69.4km to go
The race heads through lots of Vineyards here, its beautiful countryside.

12:32 PST   
We are going up a sharp climb here. Looks like about 10%. Its starts off easy but it kicks up. Quite a lot of spectators line the road here too. The break is working well.

12:35 PST   
Despite the break working well, the gap is still coming down slowly. Its now 2'15". Phonak have been really driving it on the front. The bunch is still climbing and most of the are out of the saddle at this point.

12:35 PST   
They just crest the climb leaving a long trail of riders in their trail.

12:37 PST   
They are descending now but will have another couple of pinches soon.

12:39 PST    108km/61.4km to go
They're descending here at about 80km/h. They are just turning onto HWY 154. More people on the side of the road watching the race.

12:40 PST   
Ekimov is on the front now, they all seem to be taking equal turns. Great ride by Mick Reistad (Jelly Belly). The gap has increased again now to 2'45".

12:43 PST   
They are entering the Los Padres National Forest here and will go past the Santa Ynez River. The gap is up to 2'50".

12:47 PST    114km/55.4km to go
The road is flat again, almost downhill.

12:49 PST   
We have about 30km before we reach the top of the main climb of the day. Ekimov is on the front now doing another strong turn. He's going 36.8km/h up a false flat.

12:50 PST    117km/52.4km to go
Reistad has his team car up here now. The gap is three minutes.

12:51 PST   
We've just seen a Danish flag cheering on Lars Bak. We are near Solvang which has a large Danish population.

12:54 PST   
Danny Van Haute (Jelly Belly DS) just had a word with us. He says that he can see Ekimov as a threat today. He is only five minutes down so the bunch won't want him to get too far up the road.

12:55 PST   
The gap is 3'25" right now so its gradually increasing still.

12:56 PST   
The bunch is cruising a little bit now. Not so strung out. Floyd looks comfortable in there with his team around him.

13:01 PST   
Its fast again at the front now. Phonak the ever present force at the front.

13:04 PST    126km/43.4km to go
The gap is 2'55" now. They are going over some small rolling climbs now in the lead up to the big climb.

13:07 PST   
Downhill again now. We have about ten kilometers to the base of the climb now.

13:09 PST   
UP another roller now. The bunch is spread across this wide open road. The gap is down to 2'15". Phonak still lead.

13:11 PST   
Phonak would be happy with this gap at the moment. They have Ekimov under 3 minutes. He's a good climber, but they don't have to panic if they can keep the gap steady at around two minutes.

13:13 PST   
T-Mobile is also still very present at the front of the bunch. Bernhard Kohl still holds the mountain jersey by five points from Levi. They'll be wanting to set him up for the climb to retain that.

13:16 PST   
They are heading uphill again now. The field is spread across the road. This is quite steep as well.

13:16 PST   
The gap is down to two minutes. These rollers are pretty big out here.

13:20 PST   
The gap is under two minutes now and we can see the start of the climb. The field is going down a small descent that leads down to the start of the climb. They can see the break ahead now.

13:21 PST   
Mavic are servicing Mick Rogers, giving him a new front wheel.

13:22 PST    137.7km/31.7km to go
Its 6.5km to the top front here. The start of the climb is gradual. Wide open and slightly up hill. It curves a little bit here which is preventing the field from seeing the break.

13:23 PST   
It basically a very consistent climb. About 7-8%. Its a really beautiful canyon road.

13:25 PST   
Phonak still sits at the front of the field. The new gap is 1'33". The riders are all out of the saddle now as the field sees 5km to go to the top.

13:26 PST   
The break riders are all out of the saddle. Reistad is on the back. Eki is setting the pace.

13:26 PST   
Reistad is falling off the back..

13:27 PST   
Voigt and Ekimov are swapping off setting the place on the climb. Lang is sitting on at this point.

13:28 PST   
Reistad is about 50m off the back now. Eki just pulled off and pulls in behind Voigt. Voigt takes over. Lang looks to be struggling a little.

Leipheimer has attacked out of the bunch and has 75m on the field.

13:29 PST   
Leipheimer is closing quickly on the break. Lang will be waiting for Leipheimer to help him when he makes it up.

13:29 PST   
Leipheimer has reached Reistad. He is only 5 points off Kohl for the mountain jersey so he'll be trying to get points here.

13:30 PST   
He's 1'10" down on Landis in the race.

Kohl is also bridging up to defend his KOM jersey.

13:31 PST   
Riccardo Ricco (Prodir) has managed to bridge up to Levi, Kohl is behind and chasing but not making it. He has been caught by the field.

13:32 PST   
Ricco and Leipheimer are together and sit 14" behind the leaders.

13:33 PST   
Leipheimer and Ricco have reached the break. So we have five in the break. Lang has hit the front and is setting the pace.

13:35 PST   
I'm pretty sure its 6 points for the first over the KOM, so if Levi takes the KOM sprint and Kohl doesnt' get any points, Levi will take the mountain jersey.

13:36 PST    143.8km/25.6km to go
1km to the finish.

13:37 PST   
The peloton seem to closing in a bit. A lot of people await at the top of the climb for the riders to come through.

13:39 PST   
The gap between the break and the field is 34". They have crested the mountain. Leipheimer and Ricco are away on their own.

13:40 PST   
This is a fast descent with a lot of turns. The original three riders in the break have been caught by the bunch, which is now 28" down.

13:40 PST   

13:41 PST    149.9km/19.5km to go
A lot of riders got dropped on the climb. The main front group is about 40 riders now. The lead two riders have 20km to the finish. The gap has dropped to 12".

13:42 PST   
The are now descending at 55m/h (88km/h). The gap is coming down. Its ten seconds now.

13:44 PST   
At the bottom of the descent is a hard turn that heads towards town. The leaders have been caught. The bunch is all together. Well a field of 40 riders that is at this point. There are chase groups behind.

13:46 PST    153km/16.4km to go
Its still rolling as they head into town, its not exactly a flat easy ride into town. The last few miles are downhill though and the finishing sprint is downhill and will be very fast.

13:50 PST    155km/14.4km to go
The Discovery riders are on the front of the front group pushing the pace. A full Discovery team with Phonak behind them

13:51 PST   
When they get near the finish, the road narrows at about 1km which is right on the coast again at Santa Barbara. Then it just curves along to the finish on one side of the divided Hwy. A straight shot in, not technical at all.

13:52 PST   
There's a lot of people at the finish. JJ Haedo must be in the field because Toyota United are on the front driving the pace.

13:52 PST   
Discovery are sitting in just behind them. They're flying.

13:53 PST   
Its single file. Discovery are back on the front.

13:54 PST    161.9km/7.5km to go
They are making a hard right turn now. The forty rider group is totally strung out. Discovery has four riders up front driving. A Phonak rider sits in behind them. Its not Floyd but Floyd isn't far back either.

13:55 PST   
8km to go now.

13:55 PST   
Three more Discovery riders sit behind the Phonak rider so they basically have their team all up there.

13:56 PST   
Two Davitamon Lotto riders are up in this group.

13:57 PST   
Discovery still driving the pace. They'll be going for a stage win and possibly trying to get the sprint jersey back for Hincapie. He is 5 points behind JJ Haedo at this point.

13:59 PST    164.4km/5km to go
There is no time bonus for this stage so its all for the stage win and the sprint jersey. Discovery still have the field strung out. Its single file. They are making the last turn, under 3km to go now.

14:00 PST   
Michael Barry pulls off, he's done his turn, another Discovery rider pulls through. Riders from other teams are trying to move up. Davitmon Lotto has a rider moving up, but Discovery still dominate this bunch right now.

14:01 PST    166.9 km/2.5km to go
Three kilometers to go. The road curves along the coast under the palm trees. Still single file. Its slightly downhill and they're flying.

14:02 PST   
Jostling for position now, we are at 1km to go.

14:03 PST   
Discovery still lead. There is another train trying to start but Discovery still leads. A straight shot from here.

14:03 PST   
The sprint has started. Discovery leading....

14:03 PST   
A Health Net rider got pushed out, Discovery still on the front and its Geroge Hincapie who takes the win!

14:04 PST   
That probably gives him the sprint jersey.

14:05 PST   
Two more groups are finishing now, a couple of minutes down.

14:06 PST   
We think Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) took second place.

14:14 PST   
Thanks for turning in again. See you tomorrow for the penultimate stage from Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks.


1 George Hincapie (Discovery) 
2 Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
3 Chris Horner (Davitamon Lotto)


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