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Tour of California - 2.1

USA, February 19-26, 2006

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Stage 6 - February 25: Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks, 144km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski

Complete live report

09:39 PST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of Stage 6 of the Tour of California. Again we start in the same town we finished in yesterday with the start line 50 meters from the beach in Santa Barbara. Its another sunny day with temperatures in the high 50's so far. There was a little fog earlier but that has now lifted.

Because this tiny part of the coastline faces south, the race will be traveling directly east but still following the coastline for a while. It then heads inland towards Ojai hugging the Los Padres National Forest, before turning south towards Santa Paula and down to Thousand Oaks. The course is quite hilly and riders will have four KOM sprints to contest, the first being 26km into the race and the last being at 89.1km. At 127km they enter the town of Thousand Oaks and complete three 5.2km finishing circuits.

09:48 PST   
Yesterdays stage finished with another stage win for George Hincapie thanks to a 10km lead from his team. He said after the race, "I didn't expect to get two wins so early. Last season helped my confidence a lot and I believe in myself a lot more than I have in the past, and it is really starting to show. I was a sprinter at one point and I try to work on them once or twice a week, just to not let that totally go away. In situations like this if I can make it over climbs why not have a little... it's easy to do ten second sprints at home and as you saw today it helped a lot -- to keep those fast-twitch muscles going. With all of the training for the climbs and time trials it's easy to let that slide away."

Hincapie was able to take back the sprint jersey after yesterdays stage so we'll be looking for JJ Haedo and team Toyota United to be looking to get that back. There are two sprints along the road today and then the finish. Haedo did say that stage wins are more important to him than the sprint jersey, but...


09:51 PST   
Another jersey that changed hands yesterday was the mountain jersey. Levi's attack on San Marcos Pass to take the KOM points was pretty impressive. Levi was hoping that his breakaway might also lead to a stage win but that didn't eventuate. He now leads Bernhard Kohl by five points in the KOM classification. T-Mobile have four opportunities to get points today, so we'll see some action on the climbs.

09:56 PST   
Five minutes until the start. The neutral section is 5.9km today and then the race will start on Foothill Rd/Hwy 192. The first section of the race is slightly undulating. We have just head that Gilberto Simoni is not starting today.

09:58 PST   
In yesterdays stage we had four riders abandon. They were Bastiaan Giling (T-Mobile), Frantisek Rabon (T-Mobile), Martin Gilbert (Kodakgallery.Com-Sierra Nevada) and Matthew Rice (Jelly Belly).

10:02 PST   
Riders have now started. Another large crowd out to watch. No school kids today but plenty of families.

10:05 PST   
Our reporter Mark Zalewski caught up with a few of the riders on the start. The first was Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner). He told us to expect more breakaways from the Gerolsteiner team today and he is confident that one of his guys will end up in a good break.

10:12 PST   
The field is climbing up a small climb and at the very top is the official start. Andy Bajadali also did not start today. He crashed a couple of days ago so he might still be a bit sore.

10:14 PST   
A lot of people are out at the edge of their driveways watching the race as it cruises by at 40km/h 26m/h). We're also hearing church bells.

10:18 PST   
The field is all strung out now as the pace picked up after the official start. Phonak is on the front again setting tempo. We have an attack. First attack of the day.

10:18 PST   
We have a break of six riders away. They already have about 20" on the field.

10:22 PST   
In the group are Scott Davis (T-Mobile), Michael Jones (Health Net Maxxis), Dominique Perras (Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada), Brice Jones (Jelly Belly), Karsten Kroon (CSC), Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Justin England (Toyota United). The gap is 30".

Viktor Rapinski (Colavita Sutter Home) is trying to bridge.

10:23 PST   
We have a very nasty, twisty turny descent now. The break is working well.

10:27 PST   
The gap is coming down as these roads flatten out.

10:29 PST   
There is still a solo rider in between the group. It is Viatcheslav Ekimov. This guy is amazing. Perhaps he thinks he didn't do enough yesterday because he's at it again. The gap is still there, holding at this point.

10:30 PST    12.6km/131.1km to go
Ok, now the gap has blown out to 45" again, with Ekimov 12" behind the leaders.

10:31 PST   
Ekimov is a good rider to have in the break normally because he can really drive it, but because he's only five minutes down in GC, the GC leaders will not want him to get too much time, so he could also hamper any chance this group has of staying away if he makes it up there.

10:32 PST   
The gap is now 1'15" with Ekimov still at 12".

10:36 PST   
Discovery is on the front of the field right now. Perhaps they realise the Ekimov is not going to make it and they want to bring it back. The gap is now 2'00".

10:36 PST   
Ekimov is sitting up and waiting for the field.

10:41 PST   
This is a pretty good little break. They're all working well together and making good time, but its missing riders from a few teams. Discovery won't be happy that they don't have anyone anyone up there.

In the break, they're going down another winding descent with Brice Jones on the front right now.

10:44 PST   
The gap is 1'40" now as they reach 5km to the KOM. The first climb is a category 4 climb, the hard thing about this is that they have the first KOM sprint and only four kilomters later they have another KOM sprint.

10:46 PST    23km/120.7km to go
We are on the climb now. Discovery is still on the front of the peloton. The gap is 1'30".

10:48 PST   
It looks like Michael Barry leading the way in the peloton at this point. He has the field strung out. The Phonak team are taking advantage of Discovery doing the work but they're in there just behind Discovery keep Floyd safe at the front and ready to set tempo when needed.

10:49 PST   
The gap is falling 1'20".

The leaders are approaching 1km to go to the KOM. Its a longish climb but its not steep. Very nice and steady.

10:50 PST    25km/118.7km to go
The gap is hovering at just over a minute. The latest time split is 1'15".

10:51 PST   
We have a few spectators at the top of this climb watching the race. Not all that many though. I'd guess that most people will be watching today from the last climb up Balcolm Canyon or at the finishing circuits.

10:55 PST   
Davis won the first KOM sprint of the day, followed by Michael Jones and Perras. Not long now until the next KOM.

10:57 PST    29km/114.7km to go
The gap is now 1'10". The break have finished the descent and are now on the second climb. Brice Jones has been dropped from this break.

10:58 PST   
The field seems to be closing in on the break now. The break have reached the top of the first climb and the peloton is not far off.

11:00 PST    31km/112.7km to go
Brice Jones has been caught by the bunch. The gap from the break to the peloton is 1'05". Discovery is still on the front. We can see Lake Casitas as the descent wraps around.

11:04 PST   
Sven Krauss won the second KOM, followed by Perras and Davis.

11:07 PST   
We have 20km now until the next sprint. This time its not a mountain sprint. The sprint will be in the town of Ojai and immediately after this riders will start climbing for the third KOM sprint of the day.

11:08 PST   
The gap is still holding. The members of the break are taking pretty even turns. They're taking short turns at the moment as they go over some small rollers. The gap is currently at 1'00".

11:18 PST    44km/99.7km to go
The gap has come down to 45" now. Discovery is still on the front of the peloton chasing this down slowly. We are entering the outskirts of Ojai. We have about 6km to the sprint.

11:20 PST   
This breakaway is definitely preventing Bernhard Kohl taking back the KOM jersey and any real competition going on for the sprint jersey, but these teams are probably more interested in stage wins now.

11:23 PST    47km/96.7km to go
The break is down to 20" now. Discovery really want to bring this back. It looks like the break will be caught before the sprint line.

11:24 PST   
The sprint is a pretty wide open road in the town of Ojai. Krauss has attacked the break with 1km to the sprint line.

11:24 PST   
We have a left turn with 500m to go before the sprint line and then its wide open.

11:26 PST    50.2km/93.5km to go
The break has been caught just before the sprint line and it was contested. Now we have counter attacks coming off the sprint. Its very fast.

11:26 PST   
Now we only have 5km to the next KOM.

11:27 PST   
Krauss took the sprint as he was clear of the bunch before the sprint.

11:29 PST   
He is still up the road and three riders are chasing him. They are Hayden Roulston (Health Net Maxxis) Jean Marc Marino (Credit Agricole) and Caleb Manion (jelly Belly).

11:29 PST   
They have been caught now and we are seeing more counter attacks.

11:29 PST   
We can see a Kodak Sierra Nevada rider attacking now with one other rider.

11:30 PST   
The results of the sprint were Sven Krauss, David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and Tom Danielson (Discovery).

11:31 PST   
We are on the climb now. This is more of a winding climb and it kicks up a bit. We have Sven Krauss off the front again!!

11:32 PST   
There is a pretty good crowd on the side of the road. We have a German flag and some Levi supporters. Krauss still has a gap. Two other riders are trying to bridge to him.

11:33 PST   
Krauss still has a gap but the other two riders have been caught. This climb is still winding up. The crowds are huge on this climb. Theres probably about 400 people up here. Leipheimer is on the front of the peloton now after Krauss gets caught.

11:34 PST   
We are about 1km to the KOM.

11:34 PST   
Fabian Wegmann is on the front for Gerolsteiner now. They are making sure Levi stays up close to keep his KOM jersey.

11:35 PST    56.5km/87.2km to go
100m to the KOM now. A group of 14 have a created a small split in the field.

11:36 PST   
A couple of riders are trying to bridge. It looks like Fabian Wegmann is slightly off the front of the field as they go over the top.

11:37 PST   
The road goes down slightly and then climbs a bit. This is where the feed zone is. Its quite narrow up here.

11:38 PST   
Wegmann took the KOM sprint with Levi just in behind him. Sebastian Portal (Credit Agricole) took third followed by Floyd Landis (Phonak), Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Nathan O'Neill (Health Net Maxxis).

11:39 PST   
We are now in the feed zone and things are slowing down a bit whilst the guys gran their feed bags. Ten kilometers from here is another sprint. Its basically all downhill from here to the sprint in Santa Paula.

11:42 PST   
While these guys are feeding, I'll fill you in on some other comments from riders at the start this morning. We talked to Gord Fraser who said that his team just hasn't been perfect yet. "Two or three teams here have been perfect so far and we haven't yet. We just have to work on our execution, but it will come."

11:44 PST   
With the feed zone been and gone we have more attacks. Mick Rogers, tried with Henderson, Creed, O'Grady and Marino but its all back together right now.

11:46 PST   
The descent is fairly technical. If riders are going to contest the sprint, they'll need to be thinking about their position on the way down.

11:49 PST   
We talked to Mark McCormack this morning who said his legs are "smoked" after this stint in the break yesterday. "The racing has ben getting harder everyday," he added. "We are down to five riders now but I think Kyle Wamsley might be good in a break today. Tomorrow will be fun because its supposed to rain," he laughed. You can see the New England boy coming out in that statement.

11:52 PST    68.8km/74.9km to go
We have about seven riders with a slight advantage on the field right now, but only just. We are close to coming off the descent, not long until the next sprint.

11:53 PST   
Michael Jones (Health Net Maxxis) and Kirk Albers (Jelly Belly) have abandoned the race.

11:54 PST   
The sprint is wide open and fast.

11:57 PST    75km/68.7km to go
3km to the sprint now. The break has been caught.

11:57 PST   
The field is entering the town now. Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) has attacked.

11:57 PST   
He has a small gap. Gerolsteiner will just not give up.

11:58 PST   
Right after the sprint is a hard turn which will be interesting. Lang has a 10" gap.

11:59 PST   
The road gets a bit bumpy leading up to the sprint. Lang is 1km to the sprint.

12:00 PST   
At 600m is a left hand bend. At 400 m to the sprint is a railroad crossing followed by a hard left hand turn.

12:01 PST    77km/66.7km to go
Lang still has a gap as he approaches the sprint line.

12:02 PST   
Lang took the sprint and still has an advantage on the field as we leave the town.

12:03 PST   
Lang is flying and has 30 seconds on the field now.

12:03 PST   
His next obstacle is the final KOM which is in 11km.

12:05 PST   
Steve Zampieri (Phonak) won the bunch sprint to take second place. Martin Elminger also from Phonak took third. The sprint wasn't really contested. Phonak are just setting tempo on the front of the field again now.

12:08 PST   
Lang's lead has increased to 50 seconds now. Lang is well down in points for the KOM, but him going up the road and taking the KOM points will protect Levi's lead.

12:10 PST   
The next climb is apparently very steep. Its not long, perhaps a mile, (1.6km) but its one of those climbs that people point to when they're riding along and say "imagine going up that." It is called Balcolm Canyon.

12:11 PST    84.1km/59.6km to go
The gap has increased again. Its now 1'25". He has 5km to the top of the KOM.

12:16 PST   
Lang continues to increase his lead. It now sits at 1'50".

12:19 PST   
This climb is very steep. The crowds are huge on the top. You can see the top from the bottom and you can see the crowd.

12:20 PST    87km/56.7km to go

12:20 PST   
Lang is out of the saddle working hard. Its very steep. At least 12, maybe 14%. At least a couple of thousand people are here watching.

12:22 PST   
Its very Touresque here with this crowd. Lang has 200m to the KOM now and will take the points. This ensures that nobody else can take the lead of Levi today.

12:22 PST   
The descent is very twisty and narrow.

12:23 PST   
Tomorrow there are no KOM sprints either, so Levi's mountain jersey is safe for the tour.

12:23 PST    89km/54.7km to go
The gap is now 2'45".

12:25 PST   
After the descent we have rolling hills and another short climb up to Thousand Oaks.

12:29 PST    93km/50.7km to go
Taking second place in the KOM was Riccardo Ricco (Prodir-Saunier Duval), followed by Bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile) and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).

12:29 PST   
Jean Marc Marino (Credit Agricole) has attacked off the front of the field.

12:32 PST   
Marino has been re-absorbed by the field and Dominique Perras (Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada) has countered his move. Perras is another one who has been active today.

12:35 PST    97km/46.7km to go
Phonak is on the front setting tempo but not hammering. Lang has 2'25" on the field and Perras is in the middle, 1'50" behind Lang.

12:38 PST    98km/45.7km to go
A few Discovery riders are also up in the mix with the Phonak boys helping in the chase. Lang is holding his gap at 2'30". We are going through a small town here. We have just under 30km until we reach Thousand Oaks for the finishing circuits.

12:43 PST   
The peloton is not moving along that fast just yet. They are cruising at 32km/h. They still have plenty of time to bring this back if they want to. Its most likely going to be the sprinters teams heading up the chase soon. Teams like Toyota United and Health Net.

12:43 PST   
Lang's gap has increased to just over three minutes as the race turns on to Los pasos Rd.

12:44 PST   
Perras is still in no mans land trying to catch Lang.

12:46 PST   
Perras is 1'55" behind Lang, so he doesn't seem to be making any ground on Lang. The field has picked up the pace and things are moving along faster now!

12:48 PST   
It looks like the Toyota United team are setting the pace. They're going to run with their form right now and try to deliver JJ Haedo to the line for a third stage win.

12:51 PST   
Lang's gap is still at three minutes. He is on fire and very strong but its always hard to hold a gap solo when you have the bunch in chase mode. Perras seems to be slowing down a little. He has been very aggressive today.

12:53 PST   
We can see a big crowd at the finish. They all have their thundersticks ready.

12:54 PST   
Perras has been absorbed by the field. Lang's gap has fallen dramatically as he punctured and had a very slow wheel change. He has lost time. He is back and moving now but he'll struggle to get his rhythm back.

12:55 PST   
He is out of the saddle trying to get his speed up.

12:56 PST   
They are now bringing the Mavic neutral support car up here so that Lang has more support. His gap is 1'45".

12:57 PST    112km/31.7km to go
A few riders from T-Mobile are helping on the front of the peloton now.

12:57 PST   
Lang is out of the saddle on a false flat, but he just doesn't look comfortable like he did before.

12:58 PST   
Only 5km to the finishing circuits now.

12:59 PST   
The gap is falling rapidly. Very unlucky for Lang.

13:01 PST    115km/28.7km to go
Just up ahead the climb into town is actually quite tough. If Lang gets caught here it will be a good little spot for some counters. The gap is 25" now.

13:03 PST   
Lang will get caught but it has been decided that he will take home the "most aggressive rider jersey" if thats any consolation to him. Probably not.

13:04 PST   
A few hundred people are gathered on the climb heading into town. Its tougher than it looks on the race profile.

13:06 PST   
Lang has been caught.

13:07 PST   
Its all together as the crest of the hill. Things are going to hot up now with the circuits coming.

13:08 PST   
We have an attack. But it get reeled in pretty quickly.

13:08 PST   
25km to the finish now.

13:10 PST   
Sven Krauss has attacked again. This guy is on fire today.

13:10 PST   
Gerolsteiner are really making this race today. The gap is 8 seconds.

13:12 PST    122km/21.7km to go
Only 5km from the circuits today. The gap is 15".

13:12 PST   
Krauss is going over a small rise and is working hard.

13:13 PST   
We have one rider trying to bridge. Its Marco Pinotti (Prodir).

13:14 PST   
Krauss' heart rate is 170 at the moment. He's in time trial mode. He has his head down hammering away.

13:15 PST    123.7km/20km to go
Pinotti is 8 seconds down on Krauss now and the field is another 7 seconds down.

13:16 PST   
The gaps are increasing. The field can see Pinotti but he's holding his gap.

13:17 PST   
Krauss keeps getting out of the saddle. He looks back to see his gap.

13:18 PST   
Toyota United is on the front of the field setting the pace.

13:18 PST   
They have a slight downhill now. Pinotti has been caught.

13:19 PST   
Krauss still has over ten seconds. He's powering.

13:19 PST    127.5km/16.2km to go
Toyota on the front and some T-Mobile riders helping out. Krauss is entering the circuits.

13:20 PST   
He is going past the finish line now. The crowd is huge!

13:20 PST   
The field enters the circuit now. He has 20 seconds.

13:20 PST   
Health Net has a few riders on the front now too.

13:21 PST   
He turns a corner and gets out of the saddle to keep his speed up. The gap is going down again. Its 15". The field is flying.

13:22 PST   
What an amazing day from Krauss. How do decide who gets the most aggressive. Both he and Lang were amazing. The whole Gerolsteiner team have been on fire today.

13:23 PST   
Still Toyota on the front with Health Net. The gap is 10".

13:23 PST   
He starts looking back. He knows he will get caught soon but he's not giving up. He's out of the saddle driving.

13:24 PST   
A Phonak rider is moving up in the field. They will all be around Floyd looking after him. Eight seconds is the gap. Will be see a counter from another Gerolsteiner rider?

13:25 PST   
He's in the drops and going down the downhill, still looking over his shoulder. The field is completely single file.

13:26 PST   
The field can see him up the road on this wide open long stretch here. He's going over a small rise. OUt of the saddle. Five seconds is the gap.

13:26 PST   
He knows he's just about to get swallowed up but still drives it.

13:27 PST   
Krauss has been caught just as they go through the finish line. CSC is on the front with 6 riders.

13:28 PST   
CSC are driving the pace. Its single file.

13:28 PST    134km/9.7km to go
Just under two laps to go

13:29 PST   
Its fast and teams are jostling for position. CSC still dominate the front on the back side of the course.

13:29 PST   
Toyota United and Health Net have moved up to the front again.

13:30 PST   
Health Net on the front leading the way. They'll be trying to pull of that perfect finish that Gord was talking about this morning.

13:31 PST   
They are winding through the back side of the course, making a right turn back towards the finish. Toyota United take over but CSC is back up there too.

13:32 PST   
They are going under the 1km to go to the finish line where they will see 1 lap to go.

13:34 PST    138km/5.7km to go
They are going through the finish line now. That lap took 6'20". One lap to go. CSC are back on the front being led by Lars Bak and Cancellara. They'll be setting up O'Grady for the sprint.

13:34 PST   
They are on the downhill section. Its still single file. CSC are driving this.

13:35 PST   
Flat road again on the back side of the course. Slight uphill and the field is bunching up a bit. CSC drive it over the top though and maintain control.

13:36 PST   
Left turn now, its fast and strung out now. They are riding at 51km/h (32m/h). About 2km to go.

13:37 PST    142.7km/1km to go
Winding around the back they'll be coming up to the 1km to go banner. Its single file and fast!

13:37 PST   
Flat again now, right turn. Its in the gutter.

13:38 PST   
CSC on the front with 4 riders. We have Davitamon Lotto trying to come up the outside. 1km to go.

13:38 PST   
Gerolsteiner has attacked. 500m to go.

13:38 PST   
He has a gap!

13:39 PST   
The field is sprinting, he still has a gap. T-Mobile coming up and they pass him and take the win.

13:40 PST   
It was Olaf Pollack !!!!!

13:40 PST   
It looks like Riccardo Ricco (Prodir) took second.

13:42 PST   
Fred Rodriguez took third.

13:45 PST   
T-Mobile will be happy with this. Its the first win for the men's T-Mobile team for the season. The women's team kicked off the season with the first win in Geelong on Thursday when Ina Yoko Teutenberg took the final stage.

13:46 PST   
Thanks for tuning in. We'll be back for the final stage of the Tour of California tomorrow.

Results

Provisional
1 Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile) 
2 Riccardo Ricco (Prodir Saunier Duval)
3 Freddy Rodriguez (Davitamon Lotto)

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