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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

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Stage 6 - February 24: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, 169.6km

Complete live report

07:49 PST    Today's could be a pivotal stage for the 2007 Tour of California. One of the longest stages at 105 miles, it is heavy on climbs with four KOMs, two sprints, and a demanding finishing circuit in Santa Clarita. Once the peloton hits Highway 150, the racers will face two KOMs before they pass Lake Casitas and ride into the scenic town of Ojai for the first sprint of the day. The third KOM will be just a few miles outside Ojai, and then the course will head downhill into Santa Paula for the second sprint of the day among fragrant citrus groves. The ominous Balcom Canyon will be the final climb of the day, followed by the long, straight false flat drag into the three circuits that end the day in Santa Clarita on McBean Parkway at the Valencia Town Center. Join us starting at 11am PST for all the action.

10:51 PST    Yesterday's 'guess the winning time' contest set a record for entries. Hundreds of you wrote in, and we compared each to Levi Leipheimer's winning time of 29.40.44. Since we didn't designate if we'd pick the closest under or over the actual time, we picked the two readers who came closest in each direction. Shane Anderson from Seattle, Washington picked 28.38.12 (2.32 seconds under) and Jared Willden of Kaysville, Utah chose 29.42.42 (1.98 seconds over). Congratulations!

11:05 PST    The riders are off for their 5km neutral - they've got gorgeous weather for stage six of the Tour of California. The skies are a deep blue, the winds light, and the temperatures a pleasant 60 degrees F. The racers are heading down the road beside the bay, which is surrounded by mountains - a sign of things to come.

11:08 PST    We're getting some updates on the tense situation between the UCI and the ASO - the ProTour team managers who are present at the Tour of California had a meeting last night to discuss the situation. In the race, one of the race moto's - a television motorcycle - has run into a stopped police car and crashed.. the crash has spilled gasoline all over the road - unpleasant. But nobody appears to be seriously injured.

11:13 PST    This little incident has held up the neutral parade lap, so it'll be a bit longer before the riders will be off to head down the coast for this 169km stage. The first 18km or so are fairly flat, but then the road will turn up and at 26.3km they'll have the first KOM of the day. Christophe Laurent will be fighting to keep his climber's jersey. And we're off! The race has started - will we see frequent attacks as we have throughout this Tour of California?

11:19 PST    4km/165.6km to go There are a lot of attacks, Antonio Cruz (Discovery Channel) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) have crashed at the back of the peloton! Shawn Milne attacks, but doesn't get far.

11:21 PST    No word on how Hincapie and Cruz are, or how the crash happened, but the field has slowed down a bit to let them rejoin. Meanwhile, Shawn Milne (Health Net p/b Maxxis) is still off the front, and Bruyneel has gotten George Hincapie going again.

11:23 PST    Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank) is trying to bridge across to Milne.

11:28 PST    9km/160.6km to go Cruz has rejoined the peloton, and Ardila Cano and Milne have extended their lead out to a minute.

11:31 PST    14km/155.6km to go Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health), Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home), and Veleriy Kobzarenko (Navigators) tried to go across to the break, but were quickly caught. The roads here are flat, but there are plenty of turns as the race weaves its way toward the Santa Ynez mountains.

11:36 PST    Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins spoke with the Rabobank and T-mobile team directors this morning regarding the ASO/UCI standoff. Erik Breukink (Rabobank d.s.) assured her that the news that Rabobank would ride Paris-Nice in violation of the UCI's rules is patently false. He said that all the ProTour teams are firmly behind the UCI. He said what the ASO is doing is ridiculous. The T-mobile director Brian Holms agreed, but less strongly. He said it is too early to decide anything, that the ProTour teams have to sit down with the ASO and the UCI.

11:43 PST    21km/148.6km to go George Hincapie is receiving medical assistance - hopefully it's nothing too serious. Up front, the leaders are approaching the Ventura County line.

11:45 PST    23km/146.6km to go The leaders are on the first climb of the day - about 4km from the top, and have extended their lead to 2'45 now. Hincapie was back at the doctor's car getting one of his wrists checked out, but the doctor, who happens to be a hand specialist, gave him the green light to keep riding.

11:53 PST    26km/143.6km to go Cane gets the points at the first KOM ahead of Milne, and back in the peloton, there is an attack to go for the rest of the points. Adam Hansen (T-mobile), Darren Lill (Navigators), Danny Pate (Team Slipstream p/b Chipotle), Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole), Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) and Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) have a 50m gap.

12:01 PST    31km/138.6km to go Shawn Milne has attacked for the second KOM, and takes the points - opening up a decent lead in the process. Ardila Cano comes over second, and it's a race for the rest of the points. The first KOM had Jurgen Van de Walle in third, and KOM jersey holder Laurent in fourth.

12:03 PST    Back in the pack, Jens Voigt (???) has attacked to go across to the chasers, and Leipheimer himself is forced to respond!

12:05 PST    Sorry, that was Ardila Cano who attacked and took the KOM ahead of Milne... Van de Walle takes third again ahead of Laurent, and this battle for the climber's jersey today is almost more intense than the battle for the yellow. But the rivalry between CSC and Discovery is pretty hot, since Voigt was willing to attack Leipheimer. These are two of the strongest ProTour teams here, and have been at each others' throats - at least on the road. Team directors Johann Bruyneel and Bjarne Riis were sightseeing during stage four, stopping together to check out the elephant seals on the coast, and then jumping back into their cars to regain the caravan.

12:07 PST    37km/132.6km to go Ardila Cano is still out front, about 1'30 ahead of the chasers, while Milne has sat up and has decided to go back to the field. That effort by Voigt has brought the gap to the break down considerably.

12:09 PST    38km/131.6km to go They're at the 12km to go mark for the bonus sprint in Ojai, and with only a 21 second lead on Voigt for Leipheimer, the Discovery boys will be paying close attention to any action by the CSC rider.

12:11 PST    We got a request for info on the moto driver that crashed at the start of the stage - he was up and seemed fine, which is more than could be said for his machine.

12:16 PST    40km/129.6km to go The peloton has split with the effort of the chase, and the long gradual ascent that followed the first two KOM's have put a lot of riders into difficulty. This is a furious start to the stage. Ardila Cano is in sight of the chasing peloton, which is strung out all up and down the road.

12:18 PST    45km/124.6km to go 5km to go to the sprint and we have a counter-attack from the peloton as Ardila Cano is caught.

12:21 PST    48km/121.6km to go There's a 20 second gap between the two halves of the peloton as the sprinters start getting their lead-out trains formed for the intermediate sprint. Or maybe they're sprinting for the Ojai town line? That's not the bonus point!

12:23 PST    49km/120.6km to go The CSC team is setting up their sprinter with Cancellara setting pace, and Voigt with JJ Haedo to help him get some points in order to keep that lime green sprinter's jersey.

12:24 PST    49.5km/120.1km to go Haedo, last year a relatively unknown sprinter on a domestic squad (Toyota United Pro), has got to be thrilled to get a ProTour lead out for a intermediate sprint. But he won't get the points because Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) attacks! He opens up a big gap!

12:24 PST    Behind Lagutin, the sprinters are going all out for this Ojai sprint bonus! Unreal!

12:26 PST    Another factor contributing to the speed going into this sprint is the next KOM that's just 6.3km after the sprint, so the climbers will be looking to launch their moves off of the sprinters' lead out.

12:29 PST    52km/117.6km to go And the results of the sprint are Sergey Lagutin (Navigators), who kept his lead going ahead of Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC). And now it's time for the climbers to work their way back up to the front to continue their war for the orange jersey. They won't have an easy time, as the pack is still completely strung out. A group of six has rolled off the front...

12:29 PST    54km/115.6km to go Yikes! Jason McCartney is in this group! A coup by Discovery?

12:30 PST    No wait - it's not McCartNey, but McCart-ey! Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), Jakob Piil (T-mobile), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), David Vitoria (BMC) Jonathan Patrick McCarty (Team Slipstream p/b Chipotle)

12:32 PST    Now that makes more sense... The little group of six has a small gap, and meanwhile, the breakneck pace today has spelled the doom of Jonathan Garcia (BMC), and he climbs into the broom wagon.

12:32 PST    55.5km/114.1km to go There are big crowds all up and down the hill, and chaos reigns - we have 'the Pope' and other whacky folks dressed up in costume cheering on the riders as the leaders hit the 1km mark to the KOM.

12:36 PST    57km/112.6km to go The third KOM is not at the top, but is actually mid-way up the hill, so the road keeps going uphill after the sprint. Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) gets the points ahead of Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step), Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank), Thomas Danielson (Discovery Channel) and world champ Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). But the pack is strung out now.

12:38 PST    The teams of Discovery and CSC are being very attentive - their entire teams are up front to control things on this long, long drag up the Santa Ynez mountains. The hills here are wide open - there's little shelter from any trees. Luckily there aren't the same high winds that buffeted the riders in the time trial yesterday, so it's not as much of a factor.

12:41 PST    The roads here wind through some of the many citrus groves that exist in Southern California... and now we have an attack - Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) hasnt' had enough today, and he goes with Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step), Jakob Piil (T-mobile) and Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC).

12:50 PST    67km/102.6km to go O'Grady and Hayman, Rogers, Tankink and Gasparotto have gotten a good gap as the race heads back downhill for about 20km. Chasing behind the front five are Visconti, Jufre Pou, Rapinski and Will Frischkorn, who has been active all week.

12:56 PST    75km/94.6km to go O'Grady is on the front, pulling, and the nine leaders are starting to work well together on this long shallow descent. O'Grady will be happy to help this breakaway stick until the sprint coming up in 5km. JJ Haedo is back in the second peloton, and if they aren't able to get him back up for the finale, at least none of the other sprint contenders will gain points on him in Santa Paula.

12:59 PST    And now the riders are screaming into Santa Paula, the self-professed 'Citrus capitol of the world'. The local fire department has their ladder up and is holding a large American flag over the road.

13:07 PST    82km/87.6km to go The sprint in Santa Paula was taken by Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) ahead of Michael Rogers (T-mobile) and Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step). O'Grady is the highest placed rider on the GC in this move - he was 1'20 behind Leipheimer at the start, and just picked up three seconds. With the current gap, he's the virtual leader on the road, but the Discovery Channel team is chasing hard. This is a brilliant move by CSC - they had such a strong time trial, as did Discovery Channel - that they had a few cards to play today. After the next KOM, there is an uncategorized climb, which could slow the break down enough to bring down the gap.

13:12 PST    87km/82.6km to go There was some confusion over whether it was Pate or Frischy up there in the break for Slipstream, but we've gotten out the telescope up here in the Hindenburg V-2, and it's clearly Frischkorn. The leaders are heading up out of the canyon and into the green rolling hills above Santa Paula now, and the crowds are starting to get thicker as they work their way up to the top of the last KOM of the day.

13:22 PST    90km/79.6km to go Correction - it is Pate up there. The bright California sunshine made it hard to see his number.

13:25 PST    91km/78.6km to go It's so bright and beautiful today that the white paper numbers are reflecting the sunshine and not letting us get a clear view of the numbers, but we finally have absolute confirmation that the late escapee from the stage to Sacramento, Danny Pate is the Slipstream rider in the break. And we have results of the final KOM - Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor-Lotto) rolled through ahead of Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas), Michael Rogers (T-mobile) and Viktar Rapinski (Navigators).

13:29 PST    93km/76.6km to go The wicked pace of today's stage has proven to be too much for another rider. Mike Sayers (BMC) has packed it in. The last KOM was a doozy - not too long, but it was steep, and as none of the riders in the break are going for the climber's jersey, they did not contest it. They've got a short, fast descent through the citrus groves and we can imagine that the aroma of the oranges and lemons that are ripening on the trees is quite nice - especially at the rate they're breathing it in.

13:33 PST    99km/70.6km to go This is a very dangerous breakaway for the Discovery Channel. They lost a couple of their motors earlier - Hincapie and Cruz had that little tangle, and were caught back in the second group for a while. But on the climbs the two groups came back together again, and now Hincapie is back up there driving it, trying to bring the gap back down.

13:43 PST    105km/64.6km to go The leaders are on a false flat going into the last uncategorized climb - past some gigantic mansions. There's some expensive real estate up here. The team cars for the breakaway riders are moving up and giving encouragement to their riders. They want this break to succeed.

13:45 PST    So the confusion over Pate vs. Frischkorn came from the fact that Frischy was in the beginning of this move. But the peloton brought them back within a few seconds, so Frischkorn sat up and then Danny Pate came rocketing off the front of the peloton and bridged across to the leaders. Jonathan Vaughters is in the argyle car, giving Pate some food and a few words of encouragement. The climb isn't too bad - the roads are wide and open.

13:48 PST    106km/63.6km to go The climb looks a lot worse on the elevation profile, and the break is able to work smoothly together. They opened their gap up to three minutes as the crested the top of the last climb. Behind, the chasing peloton is being led by Basso and the slightly bruised Hincapie. They've managed to pull the gap down slightly on the climb, but will have a lot of hard work ahead of them. The road into Santa Clarita is one big, long false flat.

13:51 PST    111km/58.6km to go On the descent, the break is hitting speeds of 50mph or more - it's a big, beautiful descent - wide open gently curving roads that look like they've been recently paved. Pate signals for his team car, perhaps wanting to send JV back to the Taqueria they just passed for a burrito.

13:52 PST    112km/57.6km to go O'Grady has been throwing his heart into this breakaway, and he did a lot of work on that last climb. Everyone up front is motivated to make this break stick, but the Discovery-led peloton has their heads down and are chasing full on.

13:54 PST    113km/56.6km to go Levi Leipheimer is tucked down low behind his teammates, getting the maximum draft. Up ahead, Pate was signaling for the car because of a flat or mechanical. He had to stop, and is now chasing back through the cars. The breakaway will want him to rejoin because they'll need all the help they can get against the chase.

13:58 PST    117km/52.6km to go An interesting note, the Discovery Channel team has not been sending Jason McCartney to the front to help pull back this break. They're keeping their high cards in their hand as the race heads through the valley on its way to Santa Clarita.

14:08 PST    123km/46.6km to go The leaders are approaching a section of gravel road - there's dust flying everywhere as the cars, motorcycles and riders speed through the little country lane.

14:11 PST    124km/45.6km to go The gravel section lasts less than half a kilometre. O'Grady pulls through followed by Jufre Pou, Rogers and Hayman. They're all working together still, but the gap is coming down ever so slowly.

14:14 PST    129km/40.6km to go Back in the chasing peloton, Hincapie takes a big pull, and the Discovery train is being closely watched by the CSC riders. Voigt is up there, and the bunch is strung out single file, now behind Danielson - going at a brisk 30mph on the flat road. The Discovery team is putting the screws to CSC, and have gone to the far side of the road trying to put the rest of the bunch into the gutter. It has to be no fun to be in this peloton at the moment.

14:20 PST    O'Grady is still the leader on the road right now. He's got two of his countrymen in the break with him - Matt Hayman and Mick Rogers are both from Australia as well. The gap is still hovering around two minutes, but Discovery is still hammering on the front of the peloton. Ivan Basso takes a big pull, and behind him, Hincapie and Danielson are ready to take over. Leipheimer is sitting 5th wheel, with Voigt and Julich behind. Bettini is staying close to the front, as is Thor Hushovd, who's riding next to Chris Horner. All the 'big' names that were in the second peloton earlier have regained this peloton, but there is a bunch that is struggling off the back - about 15 riders.

14:23 PST    130km/39.6km to go To recap, we have a break of Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Michael Rogers (T-mobile), Bram Tankink and Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas), Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor-Lotto), Viktar Rapinski (Navigators) and Danny Pate (Team Slipstream p/b Chipotle), all who are taking their turns working to make the move stick. They've got two minutes on the field, which is led by Discovery Channel. O'Grady, who was 1'20 down on GC picked up a three second time bonus earlier, so he's now only 1'17 down if the break gets caught.

14:25 PST    136km/33.6km to go The gap is starting to come down quicker now. The leaders and the field are now moving along highway 126, a five lane major thoroughfare, and it's straight and fairly flat - the peloton will be able to see the break up ahead, and that is good motivation for the chasers.

14:28 PST    137km/32.6km to go The riders cross into Los Angeles county, and will have 16km before they hit the finishing circuits. O'Grady is trying to motivate his companions to keep going - to keep working together instead of panicking and trying to break the group up with futile attacks. Those kinds of antics spelled the end of the break on the San Luis Obispo stage, and O'Grady knows they all have to be fully committed or they don't stand a chance.

14:33 PST    143km/26.6km to go The lead group is in the sight of the chasers, but O'Grady has cracked the whip on these guys and they've responded by pulling out another five seconds - 1'30 now.

14:36 PST    O'Grady is clearly motivated by the overall standings, not the sprint finish. He's putting in monster pulls, draping his arms over the bars in an aero position. Then Rogers comes through to give it a go. Back in the peloton, Voigt and Julich see the gap is 1'25, thanks to the moto official, and they'll be hoping that Discovery will fade.

14:38 PST    144.6km/25km to go The leaders hit the Santa Clarita city limit, and the gap is down to 1'00.

14:41 PST    145.6km/24km to go Leipheimer is sitting behind his teammates, with Voigt on his wheel. As this break gets closer, Leipheimer will have to watch out for counterattacks. Voigt is a strong rider, and he's not above attacking the yellow jersey.

14:44 PST    153km/16.6km to go The break is now on the finishing circuit, O'Grady still pushing hard, and giving encouragement to his companions. They've brought that gap back out to 20" - so far nobody is helping Discovery Channel with the chase, and with the speed today it's possible that they're tired and not motivated to help.

14:45 PST    154km/15.6km to go The closing circuits are the least technical circuit of the Tour. Four turns, and all the roads are smooth, wide, highways. Now Liquigas finally starts to help with the chase!

14:48 PST    156km/13.6km to go Rogers is on the front, and with the majority of this breakaway on the first page of the results of yesterday's time trial, this break could succeed. Pate has sat up and gone back to the field - and Health Net is helping with the chase. O'Bee is pulling through.

14:49 PST    The break is still working together - 1'18 is the gap, and Health Net couldn't do enough work to bring it back. Discovery takes control of the pace again - Hincapie, who had to haul the second peloton back to the first when it was split, is still able to pull the group along at 30+mph.

14:50 PST    157km/12.6km to go Hincapie lets Health Net take over again, but O'Grady is driving the break up front - he's in that aero position again, and there are gaps starting to open up in the back of the break. Tankink takes over and is hammering. They're believing they can do this - they want to stay away.

14:52 PST    Now the Navigators come to the front to lend a hand, and up ahead Rogers is pulling through. The break has gotten reorganized after stringing out on a turn. Pate is actually still in the break! We thought he went back to the field.

14:53 PST    159km/10.6km to go Joufre Pou takes over, and O'Grady is on teh front again - Rogers on his wheel. These guys are simply hauling - trucking along through Santa Clarita. Rogers gets out of the saddle to accellerate, and the gap is still around 45" with just 10km to go.

14:55 PST    159.6km/10km to go Now Danielson comes through and the peloton is strung out single file, tongues wagging - up ahead O'Grady is working so hard he is almost attacking. He's pulled so hard that the Quick Step rider who just pulled off opens a gap to the Liquigas riders' wheel. Rogers is still on O'Grady's wheel.

14:56 PST    160.6km/9km to go The break is all back together, Gasparato gasps for air as Pate takes his pull, and they don't look committed anymore - that pull by O'Grady might have angered a few of the riders.

14:58 PST    161.6km/8km to go The field is strung out single file all down the course - O'Grady is driving the break again, the break is also single file. The crowds are really getting their fill of the race today! The riders in the back are hanging onto wheels by a thread - the pace is well up over 60kph now - as the break speeds along Tourney Road.

14:59 PST    6.3km/163.3km to go Discovery and Health Net are still doing the work, but the chase isn't as organized as the break. The break is getting the bell and they've got 40 seconds! This will be close - 40 seconds, less than 7km to go.

15:00 PST    163.9km/5.7km to go There are only eight riders left in the break, and Rogers is on the front simply DRILLING it - Pate is on his wheel, then O'Grady and it's 30 seconds gap with one to go!

15:01 PST    164.6km/5km to go Hayman hits the front and pulls so hard that he opens a gap behind him. It's easy to get too excited and pull too hard - but that's not good for the break. They've got to work smoothly together if they're going to stay away.

15:02 PST    Credit Agricole on the front and Pate attacks! The field is on their heels and Pate gets caught and O'Grady goes!

15:03 PST    165.6km/4km to go The break is back together, but those attacks were the nail in the coffin for the break - the peloton is just 200m back.

15:04 PST    166.6km/3km to go And the break is caught, so the Discovery team goes to the back and lets the sprinters team take over.

15:05 PST    168.6km/1km to go The last kilometer - and CSC and T-mobile have their trains up front. Gerolsteiner is up there. Hushovd is 5th wheel!

15:05 PST    T-mobile and CSC on the front, and now Healthnet comes through!

15:05 PST    Barry is up there for Ciolek.

15:06 PST    Gerolsteiner is now driving it, here comes another train! Navigators are pulling up!

15:06 PST    Health Net lost it, and Fred Rodriguez is now 5th wheel behind T-mobile

15:06 PST    Gerolsteiner opens up the sprint

15:07 PST    They've go the line in sight!

15:07 PST    And it's JJ Haedo!

15:08 PST    Bettini came from nowhere for second?

15:08 PST    The CSC camp is in full celebration now, thrilled with O'Grady and Haedo.

15:12 PST    There was some confusion over the finish, since Haedo should have been in the green sprinters' jersey...

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