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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

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Stage 5 - February 23: Solvang - Solvang (ITT), 23.5km

Complete live report

05:15 PST    Our live coverage begins at 11:00 PST today for the decisive stage of the second Amgen Tour of California - the individual time trial in Solvang. The test is only 23.4 kilometres, and leader Levi Leipheimer isn't expecting the time gaps to be large. The elevation profile and the course aren't as selective as some, so Leipheimer will have to get every detail right in order to extend his narrow lead over CSC's Jens Voigt.

10:50 PST    Good morning and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage five of the Tour of California. Today's stage is the individual time trial, and the riders will have their work cut out for them on the way out. While the skies are clear, the riders will be treated to a fierce headwind as they leave the Danish community of Solvang. As they weave their way up to Los Olivos, the course will add insult to injury as the roads turn up. Yesterday's rains will have washed dirt and gravel into the road, so the riders will have to be cautious as they wind their way through the foothills of the San Rafael mountains, and then turn with the wind to blast down the other side back towards Solvang.

10:55 PST    The temperature is on the cool side - 45F/7C - and the wind will make it feel colder. The national anthem is playing, and the first rider is on the ramp. Byrce Mead (Jelly Belly) has those honours.

10:57 PST    The winner of yesterday's 'Guess the catch' contest was Mark Farmer of Columbus, Ohio - he got it on the nose at 5km, and was surprisingly the only one to make that guess.

11:01 PST    The rains moved off late last night, and the roads have dried up, but the washouts will be a factor today - expect more than one rider to have a flat tire before the day's over. Bryce Mead rolls down the start ramp and is the first rider to go off, since he is the last placed rider on the overall classification. Following Mead will be the Italian on the Colavita squad, Davide Frattini. Our GC contenders won't start for a few hours, but now it's Frattini's turn to head off into the wind.

11:04 PST    The winds today are gusting up to 20mph/32kph - so it's going to be a tricky day for pacing. They'll have to put enough effort into the first half to keep the momentum up, but save just enough for the fast run in to Solvang. And now Ken Hanson (BMC) is off to the cheers of the hundreds of fans that are lining the course. Then Brian Dziewa (Jelly Belly) takes the hard turn to head out into the wind.

11:09 PST    Another Jelly Belly rider is on course, this time it's Mike Jones heading out for a stroll through the lovely Santa Ynez valley. The town of Solvang was started in the early 1900's by Danish settlers, and the architecture and overall flavor of the town distinctly reflects that heritage. This should make the CSC team feel right at home - and could it be a presage of things to come today? Will Jens Voigt get just the edge he needs to take the lead from Levi Leipheimer? Brian Sheedy has just taken off for Priority Health, and he's followed by Sean Sullivan, who will have tired legs after spending 160km in the breakaway on stage four. Caleb Fairly, one of the last remaining US National team members left in this race follows.

11:14 PST    Mike Sayers heads out, he's riding two tri-spoke wheels. We've seen a few riders opting for that setup, but Henk Vogels is off with his disc wheel on the back. The descent today is very tricky - the roads are rough and strewn with loose dirt and gravel, and a few tight switchbacks. Not many riders have gotten to pre-ride the course, but the Discovery and CSC teams have, as has as Michael Rogers - the three time World Champion in this discipline. A bit of familiarity with the course will definitely give them an advantage.

11:21 PST    Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) heads off down the ramp, and he's followed by Ivan Dominguez. The early starters will include plenty of sprinters, who suffered in the grupetto on stage three. The mini-Hindi is following Brian Sheedy, who is now on the Baseline road climb. He's running that rear disc wheel, and it's affecting his ability to control the bike a bit. He's got a cross headwind now.

11:23 PST    Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is down the ramp now, and will not be expecting much out of this time trial. He's not a rouler by nature, and is still trying to come back from that broken femur he sustained last October. He's followed by Scott Nydam (BMC) and Tom Zirbel (Priority Health). Up ahead, Brian Sheedy is at the 15km mark, approximately 16 minutes into his time trial.

11:28 PST    The next to go is Alex Candelario - this Las Vegas native is a sprinter, and like the rest of the fast-twitch crowd, is not a big fan of the time trial. He'll be looking to just get through this race within the time cut, get over the hills on tomorrow's stage, and get back into his element on the flat circuit race in Long Beach. Candelario won several stages of the International 'Superweek', a series of road races and criteriums in Wisconsin.

11:30 PST    Tony Cruz is now on course for Discovery Channel - he's been getting his time trial practice all week, setting pace for hundreds of kilometres while protecting Leipheimer's jersey, so today will be just another day in the wind for him. Bryce Mead is at the 3km to go mark, and is 30 minutes into his effort.

11:34 PST    Mead is on the finishing stretch, and this first year pro comes in at 33'59

11:39 PST    Tom Zirbel is out on course, and blows Michael Rasmussen's doors off - he's really moving!

11:41 PST    The Colavita sprinter Alejandro Acton comes through in the fastest time, 32'30 - a full minute ahead of Mead. He's in good form, and has been quite aggressive all week.

11:44 PST    JJ Haedo is on the course, cruising along in his bright green points leader jersey. He'll probably be saving his legs for Sunday.

11:50 PST    Bobby Julich is one rider who wants to put in a good effort today. He's 13th on GC, and is only 23 seconds behind. If Voigt has a bad day, Julich will be the CSC team's GC hope. Julich said the course "is just perfect - perfect for me".

11:53 PST    Karl Menzies is in the start house - the big Australian sprinter had a bad finish yesterday when he double-flatted within 10km to go and wasn't able to get up front for the sprint.

11:54 PST    Tom Danielson is up next, and he'll be one of the fastest early starters. He'll be using this as a test for his time trial position, with his goals being later in the season.

11:56 PST    And Tom Zirbel comes in with a very fast time - the first rider to go under 31 minutes. That will last a while.

12:00 PST    World Champ Fabian Cancellara is out on course now, he's here getting some good training in, and isn't in top form, but should post a good time. He's working out a new position this year, possibly influenced by Floyd Landis, with hands more upright than level.

12:03 PST    Out on the climb, there are loads of fans, and names painted all over the road. Tony Cruz comes through with a very good time - 32 and change, scoping the course out for Levi Leipheimer.

12:08 PST    Cancellara is out on course, really looking strong. He's using a high cadence, turning over that gear as he blasts past another rider. JJ Haedo at 31.57?? Incredible! The sprinter set a blazing time, and is now in second place.

12:10 PST    Graeme Brown didn't do quite as well as Haedo, and comes in at 34'33.

12:12 PST    There are no sprint or mountain bonuses out on the course today, so the only classifications that will change tonight will be the young rider, teams and, of course, the overall GC. Chris Wherry (Toyota United Pro) comes in with a 32'29 - a good time for the former US Pro champion.

12:13 PST    Slipstream's sensation from the prologue, Jason Donald, is out on course, looking smooth and strong. He's got the argyle on his shoe covers, too.

12:15 PST    Cancellara catches his two minute man, Aaron Olson. He's heading out toward the top of the hill, and is still in the aero tuck, using those big quads to power up the incline.

12:17 PST    Jean Marc Marino (Credit Agricole) and Brent Bookwalter (USA National team) come in with 33'51 and 33'35, and then Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) with the same time - 33'35 as well.

12:19 PST    Ben Jacques-Maynes is done with his warmup, and says he has ridden this course plenty of times. He's excited, and wants to do a great time today - he'll get his time checks and see if he's on target for a top 5 time, and if he's not, he'll save his legs for tomorrow, because he wants to have a good ride to Santa Clarita.

12:20 PST    There are lots of riders coming in around the 33 minute mark, Shawn Milne (Health Net Presented By Maxxis) and Gerald Ciolek (T-mobile) with 33'12 and 33'01.

12:21 PST    Cancellara is past the 10km to go and is getting the downhill and the tailwind to help him reach very high speeds.

12:23 PST    Ooh - the big Credit Agricole sprinter Thor Hushovd comes in with a 31'00 - he's the fastest of the sprinters now.

12:24 PST    Ivan Basso is on the stage now, and the crowd is going nuts. We're getting to the faster riders now - Hincapie, Bettini, Tim Johnson, Bernhard Kohl...

12:26 PST    Tom Danielson comes in with a good time - right around the 31'00 mark.

12:29 PST    Zirbel is still leading, just by seconds now. Danielson got close, as did Hushovd. Cancellara is within the last kilometre - he's passed a couple guys on the course, and will definitely come in with a good time. Cancellara is in! 30'17!

12:32 PST    Now it's time for our contest of the day - 'guess the winning time'. Cancellara has come in just over 30 minutes, but Hincapie is on course, and will be setting time splits for Leipheimer. The GC favorites will start just after 1PM PST - the riders are one minute apart until the last 10 riders. Pellizotti will start at 12:56, then O'Grady, Lagutin, Rogers, Jesjedal, Day, Ardila Cano, Horner, Sutherland, Voigt and finally, Leipheimer.

12:35 PST    Former young rider jersey holder Tom Peterson (Slipstream) is out on course, and will be followed by New Zealand's Glen Chadwick - a Cyclingnews diarist. Paolo Bettini gets to wear his normal team kit today, and is out on course. For our 'guess the winning time' contest, please send minutes, seconds, tenths and hundredths. The winner will receive a pair of Cyclingnews socks!

12:40 PST    Big George is out on course, and has his minute man in his sights. At the finish, we've got a slew of riders coming in all at once. Jason Donald, Moos and Jackson Stewart all came in - Donald at 33'20, Stewart 32'20, Moos 34'17

12:46 PST    Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole) comes in under 32' - the Frenchman hits 31'27. Viktar Rapinski has a good time, too - 31'55. Justin England is getting ready to start his time trial - another California boy.

12:49 PST    Paolo Bettini had a good sense of humor about today's race. He's not a time trialist by any stretch of the imagination, and said he wanted to go out and ride slow and have a nice leisurely ride. Former U23 world champ Danny Pate is going down the ramp, the rainbow trim on his argyle giving an interesting contrast in style...

12:52 PST    Christian Vandevelde is in the start house now. The American comes from a long line of champion cyclists... his dad was an Olympian in the late 60's / early 70's, and also was a keen six day rider. Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole) is in with another under 32 minute time - 31'37.

12:55 PST    Now we're starting to get the last of the riders out on course. Chris Baldwin, husband of former pro Kimberley, has gone down the ramp and will be chased by Bobby Julich. Ivan Basso comes in with a massive time of 30'42 - a great ride from the Giro d'Italia winner, but not good enough to take over the lead. Cancellara is still on top.

12:58 PST    Mick Rogers, the three time World Champion in the TT, is getting warmed up now, and is feeling motivated today. He's had a chance to ride the course several times, and feels like it suits him. Here comes big George! The Disco boys are setting pace for their leader, and he hits 30'20 - a fabulous time for the US road champion.

13:00 PST    Bobby J is just a few kilometres into his effort, and he's already on the front of the saddle, pushing hard, but looking strong. The flags are still flying horizontal in the strong winds. Jacques-Maynes is in with a great time! Priority Health will be thrilled to see him up there on the leaderboard with that 30'54.

13:01 PST    That's good for third place at the moment - he was obviously setting good time checks out on the course, and moved himself into a great position for the overall.

13:02 PST    Michael Rogers is in the house now, and the mini-Hindi will be following the T-mobile rider today.

13:05 PST    There are a few power hills out on the course, and all of the top riders are staying aero, pushing in the saddle up and over the rises - Bobby Julich takes a hard left to head out into the wind... he takes it very fast, and gets quite close to some spectators on the outside of that turn. Glen Alan Chadwick (Navigators) is in with 31'34 - a good effort. Hincapie set the fastest intermediate time with 16'18 - setting the standard for Leipheimer and then cruising home.

13:06 PST    Dimitri Fofonov (Credit Agricole) goes under Chadwick with a 31'18.

13:08 PST    Mick Rogers is pushing a huge gear - in a standard TT position with horizontal arms. He's got that disc wheel really spinning now, his style much different than Julich's fluid, high cadence method.

13:09 PST    The wind is now shifting to more of a cross wind on the way out, instead of the block headwind that the earlier riders encountered. Bram De Groot comes in with tongue hanging out - and has set the 4th fastest time now with 30'54.03

13:10 PST    Chris Horner goes down the ramp and sets out into wine country... the hills are a beautiful green thanks to the recent rains.

13:14 PST    Mick Rogers is still looking smooth, rocking the bike back and forth as he pushes that big gear. He just made a left turn at the 8.7km mark, and his father, who is in the team car, hangs out the window to cheer on his boy.

13:16 PST    Sutherland and Voigt are off, and now Leipheimer, not wearing the yellow jersey (guess ToC didn't provide a yellow skinsuit) - he's in his standard kit and hammers off into Solvang.

13:18 PST    Coming into the finish, Jason McCartney (Discovery) has set the new best time with a 30'05.14 - wow!

13:19 PST    J-Mac was sporting a dimpled skinsuit that is supposed to be more aerodynamic, as well as disc wheel...

13:23 PST    Leipheimer has a unique time trial position. His arms are tucked right under his face, hands slightly up - very tight front end, compared to Voigt who has a very open frontal area.

13:26 PST    Bobby J is just behind Hincapie's time - 30'22 - now Jason McCartney has moved himself up in the GC, and with only a few riders still out on course, he will give Discovery more options for tomorrow. Michael Rogers powered up the climb, and then just flew down the descent with absolute abandon. He's going for it, his intermediate split was about 20 seconds slower than Hincapie, but he's really pushing back towards town.

13:29 PST    Rogers tears around a left hand bend, not giving up one bit of speed - taking every turn with the shortest possible line. Now the leaderboard is littered with CSC and Discovery as Stuey O'Grady comes in just over 30'.

13:31 PST    Now Rogers gets out of the saddle to kick up and over a small power climb, he's about 3km from the finish. Horner is over the climb, and it's his turn to tear down the curvy road. Jens Voigt has now set the fastest intermediate split with only Leipheimer left to come through that point.

13:33 PST    Jens Voigt is now on the curvy part of the road, powering up the climb in the saddle, rocking and rolling in the aero bars. Rogers hits the left hand turn and will not be happy to see more than 30 minutes on the clock - 30'55 is his time, and Jason McCartney is still on the top awaiting the arrival of the final few riders.

13:35 PST    And now Leipheimer comes through the time check with the new fastest time - we're not getting numbers, but he did go through faster than Voigt. He's out of the saddle up the hill, and gets cheered on by some crazy person in a clown costume.

13:36 PST    Voigt is getting blown around a bit on the descent as he speeds past a vineyard. He was 4 seconds behind J-Mac at the split - but is now powering down through the flats - rocking and rolling and bobbing on his machine.

13:37 PST    Meanwhile, Leipheimer looks very smooth and powerful, keeping low on his machine and keeping his frontal area as small as possible. Ben Day (Navigators) is in with a 31'00 - not bad for the young Aussie.

13:41 PST    Jens Voigt is in the last 4km now, and is still looking strong. He's got Leipheimer 1km behind... Ardila Cano finishes well down at 32'59, as Chris Horner takes the last turn...

13:42 PST    Horner not on a good day, comes in 31'33 and will be disappointed with that ride. Sutherland is the next finisher and is inside the last kilometre.

13:43 PST    Voigt has 2km to go now... Sutherland is heading toward the final turn - the big Aussie is pushing a massive gear. He gets onto the cow horns and takes the left hand bend at high speeds, and will get a 31'41 on the line.

13:44 PST    And hot on his heels is Jens Voigt! He's in with a new best time!!! 29'58!

13:45 PST    And now Leipheimer is in the final kilometre, and the clock is ticking over 29 minutes.

13:45 PST    29'25 at the final turn

13:45 PST    He gets out of the saddle and sprints for the line to the cheers of the crowd!

13:46 PST    And he gets it!! 29'40.41

13:47 PST    He pumps his fist and is just thrilled to hold that effort all the way to the line. Voigt rolls by to offer his congratulations to the American. What a good sport!

13:50 PST    So we've been told that Jason McCartney doesn't actually like being called J-Mac from a reliable source, his wife Andrea who is following the race on Cyclingnews. All good moms and wives follow their boys on Cyclingnews. With all the entries in our contest, it will take a bit of time to sift through all the emails to find our winner, so we will announce it tomorrow.

13:53 PST    And while there were no sprints out on the course, we'll give a sentimental award to Stewart O'Grady for the fastest sprinter in this time trial. He put in a phenomenal effort to get inside the top ten. We gotta root for our Ozzies!

14:15 PST    By our calculations, Credit Agricole's Cyril LeMoine is the best young rider of the day.

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