Tour of California - 2.HC
USA, February 17-24, 2008
Results & report
Stage 1 - February 18: Sausalito - Santa Rosa, 97 mi / 156 km
Complete live report
Live commentary by Laura Weislo, with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins
Good morning and welcome to the start of Stage 1. We've got good crowds here in Sausalito, with many out to catch a glimpse of the pro bikes and the pros themselves.
There is a bit of sunshine on the riders as they line up for the procession out of Sausalito, but the clouds are thicker up in Santa Rosa. It's a cool day, and calm, but the dampness makes it feel a bit colder.
The riders have three neutral laps of seven total miles neutral. It's still overcast, but the fog is starting to burn off now. Bettini is assuming his favourite position at the back of the peloton just as he did all last year - until the finish in San Luis Obispo, of course!
The riders have 156 kilometres to race today, or 95 miles in the local currency. There are a few tricky hills and descents, including the Coleman Valley Road hill, but with a long descent into Santa Rosa, it should come back together for a field sprint.
Many of the teams have packed their rosters with strong sprinters in order to take on the first couple stages. Can we say Boonen? Bettini? Haedo? And what about the Lion King, Mario Cipollini?
Canadian Dominique Rollin (Toyota - United Pro) is the new signing for his team along with Hilton Clarke. Rollin has been hired to help out in the sprint department, and they've got a few options with Clarke and Ivan Dominguez.
Rollin told Kirsten Robbins, "We've been practicing leadouts and working on our sprint finishes all week. Although there are only three possible sprint stages, we really wanted to focus on stage wins."
Riders are on the third neutral lap, and cruising along having some conversation, maybe a snack - all looking pretty relaxed. Our GC leader Fabian Cancellara is looking good in gold.
We also have strong sprinters here in High Road's Mark Cavendish and Gerald Ciolek, but we can't forget Slipstream's dark horse Tyler Farrar, who put in a great prologue yesterday.
Wearing the green sprinter's jersey today is yesterday's second place finisher Bradley Wiggins (High Road). He'll be happy to pass that off to one of his team-mates this afternoon.
The race is at the zero kilometre mark, but is still rolling neutral as they enter highway 101. When they get off the highway, we'll start the race!
The riders have three intermediate sprints today, the first one is at km 44, so they have plenty of time to get warmed up by then. After the three sprints, the riders will hit the first classified climb of the race at Coleman Valley road. Just one KOM today, so there will be fierce competition to take that mountains jersey.
11:22 PST 1km/155km to go
The flag dropped and the riders are off for today's stage. Before they could get far, a rider has a flat - it's Sébastien Turgot (Bouygues Telecom), and the riders wait to start any action.
The officials extended the neutral to give Turgot time for a wheel change. We're all pretty relaxed here in California. Especially since it's a national holiday - there's no sense of urgency anywhere.
Kirsten Robbins also spoke with Matteo Allegri of the Saunier Duval Team. He said they have one of the fastest sprinters with Luciano André Pagliarini. "We don't have enough horsepower to do a full lead out for him, but they will be keying off the leadouts of other teams."
The Rock Racing team has caused more of a stir than is normal for a continental squad. They've signed on a few controversial riders who were not allowed to start by the organisers. However, they've still got a weapon in former World Champion Mario Cipollini.
11:27 PST 2km/154km to go
The race is back on, and the peloton is spread across the road, going up a little rise. All of the teams are represented at the front, including (surprise!) Paolo Bettini who left his tail-gunners' spot to get a good view of the route ahead.
High Road's Edvald Boassen Hagen traded in his Norwegian TT champion's jersey yesterday for the red, white and blue sun splash of the Best Young Rider's jersey.
The route out of town is a long and winding road, heading up and over some small rolling hills toward the coast. The pace is still "piano", as the Italians call it, and with the holiday the crowds are out en force on the way to Muir beach.
The riders will head up through the Muir Woods, home of some pretty big trees, we hear. One to the coast, they'll travel along the scenic highway 1, which skirts the ocean for several miles before heading through the Golden Gate recreation area. When they get past the park, they'll be just a few miles from the first sprint of the day.
The riders are heading down a twisty little descent through a canyon toward the shore. It's a pretty fast descent, and the white jerseys of CSC are at the front.
The Astana squad is sitting just behind the group which appears to be led by Bobby Julich. It's nothing but left and right turns here - not a bit of straight road.
The road is pretty torn up from the rough winter storms, and Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) gets a flat tire. Luckily they're heading back up hill and not on that fast descent anymore. They'll be able to see the ocean here in a minute.
11:42 PST 9km/147km to go
The sun is starting to peak through the clouds a bit more now as the riders hit Muir Beach and take in the gorgeous views from the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. The pace is still relaxed as they head over a little rise.
The road is getting a lot better along this ridge, the smooth pavement will be welcome relief for the riders. Mario Cipollini is back again in front of the camera, kitted out in the black, white and red jersey with barbed wire which was fashioned out of protest for the exclusion of Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero from the race.
Cipollini pioneered the special kits back in his days at the Saeco team. Who can forget the stars and stripes pants, or the Caesar kit he wore back in the day? And that crazy pink skinsuit? He always lends style to the peloton.
Mariano Frederick of Rock Racing told our reporter Kirsten Robbins, "We are very, very excited to see how the sprints go. We think today will come out to a sprint finish. It'll be first time Mario is back in a field sprint since he retired in 2005. Since we only have 5 riders, we won't have horsepower for a full leadout, but Mario has so much experience that he's capable of doing that on his own and winning a stage."
11:50 PST 14km/142km to go
The peloton is still all together, cruising along on a nice rolling course. They've still got another 30kms before the first sprint. With this many sprinters in the peloton, and most of the teams banking on the bunch gallop, it will be up to teams like Bouygues Telecom, Credit Agricole or BMC to light things up with an attack.
We have an attack finally! Kelly Benefits' Justin Spinelli, Victor Hugo Pena (Rock) and Danny Pate were off the front, but things came back together on the descent. Now Jackson Stewart (BMC) is off the front.
At the finish in Santa Rosa, the women's criterium is about to begin. Poor Jackson Stewart is just 15 seconds ahead of the peloton as they descend to Stinson Beach. Lots of folks are out here to see the race come past, and now the sun is even shining on the riders who plowed down the hill at 40mph.
11:58 PST 18km/138km to go
Stewart is persisting with this break, even though he's got another 25km to go before the first intermediate sprint bonus and a hungry bunch of fast-twitch guys breathing down his neck.
The women are off on the inaugural ToC criterium. They've got about a 100-rider field, which is impressive. A Vanderkitten rider lead through the first lap followed by the Cheerwine squad.
Stewart has extended his lead to 1'40, and the peloton has decided it can sit up and take things easy for a while.
12:06 PST 22km/134km to go
Jackson Stewart is giving this breakaway a substantial amount of energy. He's doing a solid 25mph while the peloton is at 17mph, so the gap is growing quickly. It's up to 3'45 now and ballooning.
In the women's race, the Vanderkitten team is still driving the pace, but the field is all together. This criterium is part of the US National Racing Calendar, so along with the prestige of being part of the ToC, it has importance for the riders' rankings.
Back in the men's race, Stewart has left the coast will get to the Golden Gate rec area soon, so there are lots of trees here. Stewart is entering the town of Dogtown, population 30.
12:10 PST 27km/129km to go
Looks like the peloton might be picking up the pace a bit, but it's still conversational back there. David Millar is having a chat with Stuart O'Grady. Both are in white - Millar in the British road champion's kit and O'Grady in the crisp white of Team CSC.
12:15 PST 28km/128km to go
Our lone breakaway rider is heading through some beautiful forests - he's being dwarfed by the gigantic redwoods that are all around. The peloton is definitely waiting to start its chase, as the gap is up over five minutes now. 5'45 to be exact.
12:16 PST 30km/126km to go
The BMC team car is giving instructions to Stewart, who is in the drops and powering along a flat section, his chiseled quads pumping the pedals in an attempt to grow this gap even more.
In Santa Rosa, the women's race is being treated to an insanely loud and raucous crowd. The Value-Act Capital team tried to break things up, but the long straightaways are keeping the speed high, and the Cheerwine team is controlling the race for its sprinter Laura Van Gilder.
Back in the peloton, the Saunier Duval canary yellow kits are present at the front, but they're not pushing the pace at all, even if they have brought a sprinter along to contest the stage finish. Stewart is still speeding along, now going slightly downhill. It's a long rolling descent to the first sprint point.
12:26 PST 35km/121km to go
Right now, Stewart has nearly nine minutes on the peloton, which is clearly on holiday. He's two miles ahead of the bunch! Not a very exciting situation, unlike the women's criterium, which is heating up.
Laura Van Gilder has decided to go up the road, and is away with a Tibco rider and one of the High Road women. They're driving the pace, and gaining ground.
The women's criterium has come back together - it was High Road's Mara Abbott in that move, and she probably didn't fancy her chances against a sprinter like Van Gilder.
Cipollini and Bettini are having a little siesta at the back of the peloton. The bunch is coming up past a group of fans waving a big Swiss flag in honour of leader Fabian Cancellara.
There was a little crash in the women's crit, an Aarons' rider and a Colavita rider went down, but are in the pits getting fixed up. The ProMan team has been aggressive here, and are trying to keep the pace high.
12:34 PST 42km/114km to go
Stewart is heading into the town of Point Reyes, the site of the first intermediate sprint. There are lots of spectators here watching Stewart come by. They'll have to wait nearly nine minutes to see the field come by.
12:38 PST 45km/111km to go
At the Point Reyes Station sprint, Stewart has 11'30 on the bunch - eleven minutes! Leader Fabian Cancellara is chillin' at the front with the Credit Agricole team, while Jens Voigt has a little snack. It is lunchtime, after all, so many of the riders are feeling peckish.
The peloton is going to start picking up the pace soon, to be sure. They've got two time bonuses on the line in about 5km. Stewart has long since passed through the sprint line and taken the three seconds. His 12 minute lead makes him virtual leader of the race.
Stewart began the day in 74th place, 21 seconds down. With those three seconds, he'll move up into the 40's if he gets caught before the finish in Santa Rosa. He's still driving it - going down hill and tucking into an aero position to get the most speed out of this descent.
The peloton is being led to the sprint by Wiggins, in green, who lines the peloton out and then pulls off. Boassen Hagen takes over, and then Cavendish takes off, passing a Rock Racing rider to take the two seconds bonus. That puts him into 4th or 5th overall so far.
In the women's race, they've got six laps to go, and the Vanderkitten ladies are starting to assemble their lead-out train. There was a break of two with a Value Act Capital rider and a High Road woman, but they were brought back by the Cheerwine team, who is keen to see a bunch sprint.
12:49 PST 50km/106km to go
Intermediate sprint results:
Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team)
Mark Cavendish (High Road)
Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing)
Yes, Mario the Lion King was that Rock Racing rider who took off and was passed by Cavendish.
12:52 PST 56km/100km to go
The pace eased up a bit as leader Fabian Cancellara suffered a front flat tyre, bringing the gap out to 12'45. There is a little bit more speed in the peloton, but they're going down hill. The CSC team is at the front with Cancellara tucked in at the back of the white and red train.
In the women's race, Kelly Benjamin from Cheerwine has taken Laura Van Gilder to the front and is clearly setting up the pocket rocket from the Poconos for the sprint win.
Stewart should have enough real estate, given that 12 minute gap, to stay clear for the second intermediate sprint, coming up at the town of Tomales. He's got about 15km to go before that line.
12:56 PST 58km/98km to go
Jackson Stewart is getting some more advice from John Lelangue - maybe sharing a joke? He has a laugh and then pedals off - still in the drops and hammering along.
The women's criterium is being dominated by the Cheerwine team, a High Road rider tried to get away, but no go.
12:59 PST 62km/94km to go
Stewart powers through the town of Marshall - population 50. It looked like the majority of the town was out on the street cheering for this escape artist, there were at least 30 folks out there.
The women have one lap to go! A Colavita rider has snuck into the Cheerwine train - and is now sitting second wheel. They're all single file and blasting through this course at high speeds.
Stewart is passing by a field which is bright yellow with wildflowers. In the summer, this area is fairly brown and dry, but after an unusually wet winter, the hills are alive with all sorts of flora.
13:05 PST 65km/91km to go
CSC is still taking responsibility for the gap, but now the High Road, Quick Step and Health Net riders can be seen near the front. A few riders take advantage of the rural area to have a little commune with nature at the side of the road...
In the women's race, the ProMan team led the sprint out, and Van Gilder tried to take the sprint, but Brooke Miller (Tibco?) was far too fast and with the long sprint, was able to pass the Cheerwine rider to take the win.
13:11 PST 69km/87km to go
Stewart is within a mile of the second intermediate sprint, his head down and powering along. The peloton is way, way behind and Mario Cipollini is calling up the Rock Racing team car to dispose of some clothing.
13:14 PST 71km/85km to go
Stewart is through the sprint line in Tomales and still many minutes ahead. The peloton has yet to pick up the pace, and are out of the saddle, going up a rise at a leisurely tempo.
13:16 PST 72km/84km to go
Sorry, that wasn't the sprint line back there, this is the sprint line now and he's in Tomales, population 550. Of course, he's taken the three second bonus. We'll get a time gap here soon....
Stewart is in the feed zone now, taking on board some lunch. He's got 11'30 now - a bit less than previously, but still plenty of breathing room for the third sprint in Bodega Bay some 23kms up the road.
The peloton appears to be having some sort of "how slow can we go" contest. The gap has gone out to 13 minutes, and Stewart is still working hard. Perhaps this sprint line coming up for the bunch will speed things up a tad. Toyota United is at the front now en masse.
We haven't seen much of the Slipstream team at the front. They've got four riders in the top ten, and sprinter Tyler Farrar looking to gain that points leaders' jersey off the shoulders of Bradley Wiggins.
We spoke with Farrar after his fabulous ride to third place yesterday. Here's what he had to say:
"I was a bit nervous sitting there - I think I was more nervous sitting there than I was beforehand! I had a long time to wait before I finally knew how it would come out."
"I knew I could do a decent ride here, and I had it in my head that if I could do well in the prologue I would be in a good position for the next few days in the sprints, but the form's really good. I did the Tour of Bahamas a few weeks ago and had a decent prologue there, so that kind of helped the confidence coming into this."
The peloton has finally decided to race, and now CSC yields control to High Road's Wiggins, who has Boassen Hagen on his wheel again. Looks like a repeat of the first sprint, but this one is a little uphill.
This sprint is a lot slower than the previous one, up a decent little hill. Looks like Farrar picked up third behind Mark Cavendish, who was delivered to the line with perfection by Wiggins' leadout.
We have the official results of the second intermediate sprint:
Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team)
Mark Cavendish (High Road)
Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
And in the women's race, Brooke Miller and Van Gilder were followed to the line by Team High Road's Emilia Fahlin, a 19 year-old from Sweden.
The clouds have rolled in and the temperatures have dropped over the peloton. They're on some damp roads, and the moisture is making it feel quite a bit cooler. Stewart is on dry roads, so it may be just a brief shower.
The forecast is calling for possible storms on Tuesday, which could put the Mt. Hamilton crossing into jeopardy. It's not unheard of to get snow up at that altitude this time of year, but AEG has a contingency plan in place to bypass the climb if it is impassable.
Toyota United Pro has sent their riders to the front to set the pace now, and they're being marked by BMC, who clearly wants this breakaway to stay clear. There's a figure in all white moving up on the right - could that be Paolo Bettini?
13:39 PST 85km/71km to go
The rider in white could be Fabian Wegmann, the Gerolsteiner German road champion, too. There are a few national champions in white - including David Millar. It makes identifying riders hard when CSC and High Road also have all white jerseys.
13:44 PST 88km/68km to go
The gap is coming down now, back to 11 minutes. In seven kilometres, Stewart will get the last sprint of the day in Bodega Bay. Can he hang on that long? It's likely! But not far after the sprint is the climb up Coleman Valley road, and after a long day in the lead, it's not as likely he can hold off the climbers for that KOM.
Finally - finally! the peloton is beginning to get lined out thanks to CSC and Toyota. Rabobank is up there, as is High Road. The gap should start to come down now.
13:52 PST 91km/65km to go
Levi Leipheimer is in the US road champion's kit today, making it hard to spot last year's leader. It's all red, white and blue, and nothing like the teal and yellow of the Astana kits. He is riding along next to Cancellara, looking relaxed. He's heading home, after all - he's from the finishing town of Santa Rosa.
Just a few clicks before the third sprint of the day, but there's a bit of concern from the organisation that cars parked near the sprint line are making the road too narrow. That isn't a concern for Jackson Stewart. The BMC rider still has a solid gap as he heads over the rolling hills on the way to Bodega Bay.
13:55 PST 94.5km/61.5km to go
Stewart has one kilometre to go before the sprint. He's been in those drops, hammering all day long - since kilometre 17 or so. He's not looking too bad for a 75 kilometre time trial, but those legs have to be starting to sting.
13:58 PST 95.5km/60.5km to go
Jackson Stewart's lead is beginning to fall, and has reached the ten minute mark. He'll get this third sprint, and his nine seconds accumulated today will move him up to the top 20 overall if he stays with the bunch to the finish. Wait... are we assuming he'll get caught? Not us!
The peloton has 5km to go to the sprint, and the Slipstream team is gathering near the front to help Tyler Farrar. Meanwhile, Stewart is now 5km to the KOM.
The sprint line is really narrow at 200m to go, but the peloton is lined out single file, so hopefully it won't cause a problem. There are only a few guys battling it out for the two and one second bonuses left at Bodega Bay.
Stewart is still riding along the coast, but will turn inland now and will face the category three Coleman Valley Rd. KOM at 252m. He's on a very narrow road now, and heading up hill.
One kilometre to go for the peloton and the gap is coming down.
There was a crash before the sprint in the peloton - Steven Cozza (Slipstream) fell, but is back up and riding.
14:06 PST 100km/56km to go
The road is quite narrow on this climb and Jackson Stewart is working his way up it but not looking fresh. There are dozens of spectators on the climb now cheering him on.
The intermediate sprint, won by Stewart, Farrar was second followed by Millar.
Results of sprint three:
Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team)
Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
Jackson Stewart is following a crazy man wearing gigantic antlers on his head. Could he be a Longhorn? The gap for Stewart is still over nine minutes, so he might just take this KOM!
Stewart isn't too far from the top now, it's wide open here although the road is narrow. Behind him, the peloton is quite animated, with the guys gunning for the mountains jersey moving up and jostling for position.
Stewart is looking pretty good, nearing the top and he knows the pain is nearly over. After the KOM, he still has a bit of climbing to do - it's a false flat for another kilometre or two, so it could be a bit demoralizing.
14:10 PST 102km/54km to go
Stewart is approaching the top of the climb, and the peloton behind is just making the turn onto the climb. He takes the points and now has a drink before heading onto the gentle descent.
We're seeing Astana, Quick Step and Gerolsteiner near the front of the bunch. Cancellara is near the front, as is Chris Horner - but the group is lined across the road. They'll be lighting things up here in a minute or two for those mountains points.
Slipstream's Tyler Farrar gained three seconds worth of time bonuses, putting him into second overall on the GC on the road (not counting Jackson Stewart's nine minute lead, of course. He could very well take that yellow jersey if this comes to a bunch sprint. He's got a strong lead-out train with David Millar and Dave Zabriskie.
14:16 PST 106km/50km to go
9'15 for Stewart with the field just 1km from the top of the climb. Our fearless leader is on the nasty little leg breakers after the KOM, while the peloton starts to string out a bit as they go for the mountain points.
Mark Cavendish picked up two second places for a total of four seconds. That puts him very close to Farrar - but neither one has surpassed Cancellara as of yet.
The peloton is over the climb 7'30 behind Stewart.
With this breakaway, Stewart has pulled himself into the lead of the points classification as well as the mountains classification since there's only one prime today. If he stays away, he'll get the yellow jersey, too! That's a lot of fleece.
The peloton is single file on this descent, which is quite fast but followed by a couple painful little bumps before heading down, down, down all the way to the Sonoma valley.
14:22 PST 111km/45km to go
The results of the KOM are as follows:
Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team)
Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step)
Jens Voigt (Team CSC)
Stewart is still on some narrow, tree-lined roads as he draws up alongside the team car for some encouragement and refreshments.
14:28 PST 114km/42km to go
Stewart is getting to the bottom of the first irritating bump in the road (this is supposed to be a descent, right?) and will now head up the last rise before plummeting down the hill.
The climb has caused some damage in the peloton, with some groups being split off. The Rock Racing team car is at the back of the gruppetto, perhaps Cipollini's climbing legs aren't quite there yet?
The lone man out front is in the town of Occidental, and will have to head back up out of town before hitting the highway into town. His gap is coming down still, at 6'30 and falling as he goes up and the chasers are still descending.
The riders will have three laps to go when they get into Santa Rosa in about 25 kilometres. Will this be a heartbreaking catch of Stewart inside the closing circuits? Will he be caught on the descent? Or will he stay clear? He's got five minutes now and still descending.
Slipstream is leading the chase on the up and down roads before the long descent. Stewart has a few bottles in his pockets - perhaps to lend some gravitational advantage to his descent? Or maybe to pass off to team-mates if/when they come by...
Stewart is on the steep part of the descent, and fortunately the roads are a bit wider and smoother here. He'll have a painful 20kms of flat roads at the bottom, and after 100kms off the front will have lots of trouble staying clear.
14:38 PST 120km/36km to go
A group of 33 riders are in the gruppetto as Slipstream drives the main peloton along with Quick Step. Looks like Tom Boonen wants his first American victory today.
Stewart's gap is coming down quickly now, 3'30 and dropping as the peloton climbs up a little shoulder of the hill. That will break up their momentum briefly, but we're afraid that three minutes won't survive the trip across the valley. Especially not if Boonen is feeling well, as he's the master of driving his team to gobble up breakaways.
Cancellara is staying close to the front, sitting about 20th wheel behind the Quick Step and Slipstream trains which are beginning to form. We can't forget about Rabobank. Oscar Freire is crafty, and even when he's not on great form, he can capitalize on long, straight, flat finishes like this one.
14:44 PST 121km/35km to go
Stewart is heading up and over a miniscule hill before the valley, and that dropped his gap way down to 1'15. Boo! Those sprinters are so greedy and won't give this win away to this man who worked so hard all day.
14:45 PST 122km/34km to go
The peloton is breathing down Stewart's neck, just one mile behind him and closing fast. Quick Step and Slipstream are still doing the work, but High Road is now in the mix as is Saunier Duval.
BMC's Jackson Stewart will soon see the end of this long, lonely road. He's had a lot of time in the spotlight, but in just a few minutes he'll have company. Just 50 seconds to the peloton, which is broken into three separate groups.
14:49 PST 126km/30km to go
Just 30 seconds for Stewart - the cars have been pulled from the gap and the first chasing peloton. The second piece of the peloton is nearly a minute back, and then the gruppetto is two minutes behind. They'll have plenty of time to get back on terms.
With the way Slipstream is driving it, it's possible High Road's Mark Cavendish didn't make the front split. They're just hammering down this highway and have the bunch single file and on the ropes.
14:51 PST 126.5km/29.5km to go
And Stewart is caught. He radios back to the car and lets the Quick Step train come zooming past.
A Gerolsteiner rider has a rear flat, and is a bit confused as to where he should go for service. He finally gets a wheel and leaves his vest and arm warmers for the mechanic to pick up.
The sprint bonuses today are 10, 6 and 4 seconds at the finish, putting Boassen Hagen (High Road), Cavendish (High Road) and Farrar in contention for the leader's jersey (of the sprinters). But who knows? Cancellara is crafty, and pulled of an upset of the sprinters in last year's Tour de France while in yellow, so he might have liked how that felt and want to have a repeat!
15:00 PST 25km/131km to go
The peloton is now in the final 25 kilometres of the stage and are done going uphill for the day. It's flat from here on out, and will be a fast finish.
Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) is seen at the back, possibly going back to the team car. He gives an annoyed gesture for the moto to go away.
15:03 PST 131km/25km to go
10 kms to go before the finishing circuits, and they'll have a few turns to negotiate before getting there. Danny Pate is still driving the pace for Slipstream.
15:04 PST 136km/20km to go
Inside the final 20 kilometres for the peloton, and Slipstream is in control as the support cars start streaming into Santa Rosa.
With the 3 km circuits, the riders who are too far back could interfere with the sprint, so they will be pulled when they get into town and given a time gap for when they were pulled.
Slipstream, CSC, Quickstep are still on the front. Wegmann is up there, too, as is an Astana rider.
The peloton is slowing up slightly now, spread out across the road as the trains start to re-form on the front. Could be that second group has made their way back to the bunch.
The pace eased for some railroad tracks, which are 500m from the entrance to the finishing circuit, so they're just about to start the final three laps of Santa Rosa.
15:10 PST 142km/14km to go
Quick Step is still leading - for Boonen? For Bettini? Slipstream is up there, too, setting it up for Tyler Farrar.
The peloton is lined out single file behind the well-oiled machine that is Tom Boonen's band of loyal domestiques. The speed is quite high, making the peloton a colourful blur as they zoom past.
The peloton is still in pieces, three groups on the road as High Road puts a man on the front.
The finishing circuits are three miles long, not kilometres. Just under five kms.
There is a lot of jockeying for position going on behind the top ten riders. The High Road team moves up, Rabobank is trying to get on terms, but the Slipstream train is still driving.
15:15 PST 144km/12km to go
Wiggins and Cancellara are sitting comfortably behind the sprinters' chaos.
15:15 PST 145km/11km to go
Last year, the finish in Santa Rosa was disrupted by a big crash. Let's hope they stay upright this year.
15:17 PST 146km/10km to go
10kms to go and the Quick Step team is still in control, lining out the field - a slightly reduced field as about 1/4 of the riders have been dropped. Half of the Astana team is being held up at the circuits for being too far behind. Rubiera is one of them.
15:18 PST 146km/10km to go
Two laps to go, and word is Cavendish is in a second group, which explains why Slipstream was driving the pace so hard.
CSC has a big group of riders sitting behind the Quick Step train, keeping the yellow jersey safe.
Slipstream has dropped off the front, but now Gerolsteiner is moving up.
15:21 PST 151km/5km to go
CSC is up there with JJ Haedo, who is experienced winning in the Tour of California. Quick Step has their two on the front, and Leipheimer is right up there, too.
One lap to go! CSC and Quick Step controlling but they're not lining it out like before. It's getting a bit messier, and the Rabobank team is working its way forward.
The riders are swarming now, with no clear control as they head into the final few turns. Quick Step takes the front on a turn and puts the gas on, and finally lines it out a bit.
15:23 PST 153km/3km to go
Another train swarms, and we get an attack from the right side.
A BMC rider, perhaps Moos is off the front.
Cancellara is in 10th wheel, and Moos is caught, and the peloton is a mess! It's totally disorganized.
Bettini is moving up now, Slipstream is coalescing behind.
CSC on the front - it's Bobby Julich picking up the pace for Haedo.
Quick Step is right behind, and Cancellara is in fifth wheel - is he going for the last kilometre attack?
15:25 PST 155km/1km to go
15:26 PST 155km/1km to go
One kilometre to go! It's the ProTour teams taking the lead in the finale as they hit the final straightaway.
Bettini is up there.
Here comes Millar!
15:26 PST 155.2km/0.8km to go
Millar is trying to bring up Farrar, and he's next to Bettini as they head thru the tunnel to the finish.
Boonen and Bettini take off for the line.
But the Quick Step train is overtaken!
JJ Haedo! He wins for the second time in Santa Rosa. There was a crash in the background, Hincapie went down.
George Hincapie (High Road) was inside the final kilometre when he went down, so won't lose time. He's up and riding.
Unofficially, Gerald Ciolek (High Road) was second, and Johannes Fröhlinger (Gerolsteiner) in third. We're waiting on confirmation.
Tony Cruz, Ivan Dominguez, Henk Vogels and Mike Creed were all among the riders who were in the back, and held up at the finishing circuits by the officials.
Correction, third was Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), not his team-mate Johannes Fröhlinger.
So Cancellara will keep the yellow jersey. Cavendish took four seconds and Farrar took three seconds. That means Farrar is at 2.2 seconds behind Cancellara and Cavendish is 4.4 seconds back by our calculations.
Haedo was 22 second behind in the prologue and even that ten second bonus can't move him into the top ten. Ciolek, who took 6 bonus seconds, was 15" behind yesterday, so is now somewhere near the top ten.
Hincapie escaped his crash with just road rash, having been checked out by medical and sent to the team car.
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