Tour of California - 2.HC
USA, February 17-24, 2008
Results & report
Stage 3 - February 20: Modesto - San José, 103 mi / 152.2km
Complete live report
Live commentary by Sue George and Laura Weislo, with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins
Tune in at 10:00 PST for the live call from stage three of the 2008 Tour of California. Starting in Modesto, the riders will have a rough day in the saddle, especially if the weather continues to be wet. They'll begin heading uphill less than 20 miles into the stage, taking in the category four Del Puerto and San Antonio road climbs before ascending the hors categorie Mt. Hamilton. After passing the observatory, they'll face a dangerous descent down to Milpitas, where they will begin the shorter but quite steep climb over Sierra Grade. It's a day that is sure to break up the peloton!
We're here at the start in Modesto Stage 3 today. We've got 1 minute until the start.
We kick off with two neutral laps, for about 4.5 miles (7.4 km).
Today's course profile looks quite interesting. It is very varied, with the first half more up and the second half is more down.
We're starting in Modesto. It's a different start city than last year, which was in Stockton. It's sunny at the start and about 55 degrees as the peloton wraps up the first neutral lap.
Today's big climb is call Mount Hamilton. It's an HC climb and we're expecting it to be much colder and windier up there. Reportedly gusts are expected to be 15 to 20 mph (24 to 32 kph).
We are with one less rider today after Adam Hansen (High Road) did not start this morning. Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) seems to be having a rough start. He is off the back here in the neutral section. Haussler finished second yesterday at the finish of stage 2 in Sacramento.
He's probably trying to sort out something to do with his clothing before the racing gets going.
You can read all about Mt. Hamilton and Sierra Grade, today's two major climbs from people who've actually suffered their way up it.
The sun is shining brightly on our peloton as it rolls out from Modesto. There are some fluffy white clouds above them, but the roads have dried up from the night's rain. Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole) is off the back with a mechanical, or maybe a bio-mechanical, and the race is waiting for him to catch back up.
The riders have hit the zero kilometer, and Quick Step has taken the lead. They're beginning to pick up the pace, warming up those legs which are surely swathed in warming balm for the potentially cold and wet weather ahead.
Our yellow jersey, Tyler Farrar (Slipstream) has his team at the front keeping an eye on things. Jonathan Vaughters said today that the plan for his Slipstream guys today is to keep as near to the favorite riders as they can. They know that favorite Levi Leipheimer is so good in the time trial that the only way to beat him is to put some time on him today.
Of course, Farrar is a sprinter, so he may be looking to pass the jersey off to one of the other three guys from his team who are high up on the GC, David Millar, Dave Zabriskie or Christian Vande Velde.
Our diarist, Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis), has a mechanical and gets a bike change. You can read his diaries here, which are quite amusing and full of Aussie charm.
The first sprint of the day will have an extra prize on the line, an iPhone for the lucky sprinter. That will come at km 23.7.
There are special time cut rules in place today, one at the bottom of Mt. Hamilton, one at the bottom of Sierra Grade. If riders are 10% behind the leaders, they'll be pulled off the course and given a time penalty - all this to avoid lengthy road closures.
Crash! A High Road and Gerolsteiner rider are down. A touch of wheels, perhaps. Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
Kim Kirchen (High Road)
Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) all went down.
10:25 PST 5km/147.2km to go
Poor Cozza, he's getting frequent pavement surfing points in this Tour. There always seems to be one guy who just keeps getting in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let's hope that's the last of his troubles.
All of the riders have rejoined after that incident. They're all cruising along with their hands on the tops, relaxed. A Saunier Duval rider is getting some camera time at the front, but not really going anywhere. He's got about 25m.
That was a stealthy move by Luciano André Pagliarini (Saunier Duval-Scott), but the Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefits teams react.
It's easy to forget about some of the smaller domestic teams, but Jonny Sundt wants to give his squad some attention. He counters, but is caught.
We've got a BMC rider taking off, but he's marked by Bouygues Telecom, and stringing out the pack with that move.
Pagliarini was dangling off the front, but now he's caught and we'll expect counter-attacks from the US teams. They're passing a school, and all of the children are out front cheering.
A Rabobank rider attacks.
10:30 PST 8km/144.2km to go
That's Paul Martens (Rabobank), but he's not getting far. The Credit Agricole team is next to go.
We saw the same thing happen last year in this stage - a flurry of attacks go in advance of the mountains. We may see a lone rider or a small group begin the climb to Mt. Hamilton up the road, but Levi Leipheimer is motivated to win today, and Astana will surely bring it back before Sierra Grade.
10:32 PST 12km/140.2km to go
The Credit Agricole rider bridged to Martens, it's Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole). There are two more riders trying to get across. That's Bryce Mead (Jelly Belly) and Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) again!
Mead can't hold the pace, but Nydam makes the wheel - Mead is actually causing the peloton to react as he's a stepping stone to the break.
The riders are passing by some cattle ranches - the bovines are not impressed, and simply continue chewing their cud and staring lazily into the distance.
We've got a reaction in the peloton now, but Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), our points leader, has had a flat, and they sit up to wait for him - that's good peloton etiquette.
Sutherland gets another bike change! Perhaps going back to his original machine after it had gotten attention from the mechanics. His diary, for real this time, is here.
The gap is going out now as they pass a gigantic barn full of hay. Nydam may not get another chance to spend the day off the front, but we'll see. If he gets caught, he will try to set up a team-mate for a breakaway. The BMC team is based in this area, and motivated to give a show for the local fans.
10:40 PST 14km/138.2km to go
Correction, the gap is coming down. The peloton had sat up for a brief moment, but the chase has resumed in earnest, and is now down to 12 seconds.
The break is not working together, which doesn't bode well for this move, but they are holding a 15 second gap. Paul Martens (Rabobank), Scott Nydam (BMC) and Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole) are our breakaway, the first solid move of the day which went clear at kilometer 12.
10:44 PST 17km/135.2km to go
They've got 5km to the sprint now, and we expect the pace to pick up as the riders vying for the sprinters' jersey go for the points. Haedo is one point behind Haussler, and this is really they're only reasonable chance today to get points with gigantic hills between this sprint and the finish.
10:45 PST 18km/134.2km to go
The break is working a bit better now, knowing that the chase has picked up behind them. The peloton is now single file as they try to bring back our three-man move before the intermediate sprint in Patterson.
10:46 PST 21km/131.2km to go
The roads here are long and straight, lined with palm trees. The gap to the leaders has gone out to 50 seconds, as they are about to enter the streets of Patterson. Looks like the points competition will have to wait another day.
The break is now working well together. Nydam, the King of the Mountains, is actually wearing the jersey of most aggressive rider today. He's doing a big turn on the front.
10:50 PST 24km/128.2km to go
Lemoine comes to the front now and picks up the pace coming into the sprint, and Martens gets out of the saddle and easily takes the sprint. Lemoine was second, while Nydam didn't even try to sprint - he just took a drink from his bottle and let them have the glory.
We have a reaction behind, a group of four has escaped the peloton in pursuit of the leaders. The peloton wasn't about to let them go, and Saunier Duval led the effort to close down the gap.
Correction, Nydam isn't KOM, it's his team-mate Stewart. These BMC guys have spent so much time off the front, it's easy to confuse them! The peloton is having a little nature break as a Gerolsteiner rider finds himself on the wrong side of the median, waiting for a cross street to get back into the shelter of the peloton.
10:54 PST 27km/125.2km to go
We have another attack from the peloton.
Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) is trying to bridge. The gap is out to 55 seconds, with Cozza on his way to the leaders.
The riders are entering Diablo Canyon, a fitting name which foreshadows the devilish slopes up ahead. The riders will take 30 kilometers to the category four KOM at Del Puerto Canyon road, and then it rolls up and down over two more cat. four climbs before they head up Mt. Hamilton.
10:58 PST 29km/123.2km to go
The clouds are brushing the tops of the green hills up ahead, and perhaps sensing the need to conserve for the effort ahead, the peloton takes a group natural, allowing our lead trio to get 1'20. Cozza is still in no man's land, 45 seconds behind the leaders.
We suppose Cozza has decided that riding in the bunch is just too sketchy, and has forged ahead in an attempt to stay off the tarmac. Back in the peloton, there's a whole lot of chit-chat going on. A Toyota United rider is at the front next to one of the Astana boys.
11:00 PST 31km/121.2km to go
Up in the break, Martens is taking a big pull, his arms resting on the tops of the bars in an aero tuck as they head down a short descent before the road heads uphill.
The views here are spectacular. The ranchers are out watching the race go by, and the tree-less hills are a bright green thanks to all the rain. It looks like Scotland or maybe Switzerland - simply beautiful with the brilliant blue skies contrasting against the green hillsides.
Ivan Dominguez shares a joke with his team-mate Henk Vogels. There is a relaxed feeling in the peloton, with lots of joking and conversation goinig on. The Quick Step and Astana riders are present at the front. They will have their work cut out for them a bit later.
Cozza is still in no man's land, languishing 45 seconds behind the leaders, who are not waiting, and a Kelly Benefits rider gestures to the rest of the guys that maybe they should end Cozza's misery and chase a little. There is no reaction.
The caravan cars are having some trouble with the sodden ground - when they pull off the road for service they're getting stuck in the mud.
The riders have encountered a few cattle grates along the route today. The leaders just went over one, and the motorcycle ref is there to wave the yellow flag of warning to the peloton, which is more than three minutes behind. The grates are metal plates with bars lying in the pavement, designed to deter cattle from walking over them and escaping the ranch. For riders, it's a short, jarring trip which can easily knock bottles out of cages.
Up on Sierra Grade, the sodden ground may have let loose, as there are dirt embankments lining the sides of the roads at the top. At the start of the descent, there are several patches of pavement where the road has been repaired after it collapsed in heavy rains, so we hope the organizers have their shovels handy in case of mud slides.
11:12 PST 34km/118.2km to go
Tom Danielson is one rider who may do well today. The Slipstream rider spoke with our reporter Mark Zalewski before the start. He's had some problems with his shoulder, which he had surgery on last fall. He's hoping to be able to climb his way up the general classification today, but is unsure of his form.
Cozza is still languishing 50 seconds behind the break, while the three leaders have extended their gap to nearly five minutes. The peloton is more lined out now as they hit some narrow roads, passing by some cattle.
The peloton is inside a canyon, surrounded by rolling hills, some of which cut straight down to the road. Signs for "Falling Rock Area" warn them to keep an eye up.
11:16 PST 40km/112.2km to go
Looks like Cozza's has made progress, and is now 20 seconds ahead of the field. The three leaders, still working together, have extended their gap to five minutes now. Lemoine is on the front, followed by Nydam and Martens.
11:20 PST 44km/108.2km to go
This is Lemoine's second time here in California. The soon to be 25 year-old placed 14th in last year's final stage. Martens, also born in 1983, will turn 25 in October, is a good time trialist, and once was German TT champ.
Cozza has made it to the break, while the peloton is now lined out single file with the Bissel squad putting its entire team just behind two KBS riders, and the two Astana domestiques. Aaron Kemps (Astana) is doing the lion's share of work, followed by Sergey Ivanov (Astana).
Cozza caught the break! He was in between cameras, but now that we can see the front again, the Slipstream rider is clearly in the break.
11:27 PST 46km/106.2km to go
The break of four still has a good five minutes as the road kicks up a little bit more. They're going past some sheer cliff walls on the left, and a sharp drop off on the right. Don't look down!
The riders are still about 15 kilometers away from the first KOM of the day, which comes at km. 63. Local riders will know this sprint well, as it comes at the Santa Clara county line - surely a big sprint for many of the Sunday "world championships".
The Astana boys are really picking up the pace now in the peloton, with the entirety of the Bissel squad behind. They've got local rider Ben Jacques-Maynes on their team.
Nydam has a little snack, going back to his team car to get a bottle from John Lelangue. The riders will have a feed zone after the first KOM, but it's important to stay well fed and hydrated when you've got the enormous effort like the one these riders are facing ahead of you.
Steven Cozza seems to be taking personal grooming lessons from David Zabriskie. He's sporting a Yosemite Sam moustache, which is quite unlike anything we've seen in the peloton before.
Cozza could be the rootin'est, tootin'est, shootin'est bike racer North, East aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand west of the Pecos!
11:39 PST 50km/102.2km to go
Levi Leipheimer is coming up through the peloton, passing by Paolo Bettini, who has is usual position at the back of the bunch. Leipheimer may have gone back to the car or taken a nature break, but he's working his way through to the front easily.
11:41 PST 58km/94.2km to go
The sun has now disappeared behind the clouds, and the riders will probably not see it again until they get back down off of Mt. Hamilton. They're on a fairly flat road now, and the gap is holding steady at 5'15. The Astana team is not letting the gap grow, as Leipheimer is determined to seize the day today.
The Rabobank car pulls up alongside Martens to give some advice on the course ahead. About 4km to go
to the KOM, so they may be planning something.
11:44 PST 58.5km/93.7km to go
Kevin Lacombe (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) has abandoned the race on this climb. Possibly not feeling too well. He climbed in the team car. Astana is still leading the peloton, still trailed by the entire Bissell team in red. They're 5'15 behind the four leaders, who have just over 4km to go
to the KOM.
Lacombe is actually being transported in an ambulance off the course, it's nothing serious, but they decided it was best that he get medical attention. We'll try to find out if he was in a crash.
Cipollini has a flat or a mechanical - he's getting service from his team car.
As the break nears the KOM, they've pulled out their gap to six minutes. Astana still has Kemps and Ivanov setting the pace for the peloton.
The road is considerably steeper here, as the break heads up this category four climb. Lemoine is on the front with Cozza behind, followed by Nydam and Martens, who is drawing up alongside the BMC rider.
Up above this climb - 500m higher in elevation - the Mt. Hamilton "Hamcam" is showing a thick pea-soup of fog.
11:55 PST 62km/90.2km to go
The KOM is coming up in less than one km, and Nydam takes the front. Cozza looks like he's hurting at the back, while Martens is sitting second wheel looking smooth. We're putting our money on the Rabobank rider.
Nydam is still on the front of the break, his hands on the hoods, shifting into an easier gear as the grade increases.
It's much steeper heading up to the KOM line, and Nydam and Lemoine are up and out of the saddle. Cozza also stands up to keep his speed up.
11:59 PST 63km/89.2km to go
There are quite a few fans at this KOM, one man runs alongside with a US flag as Nydam attacks! Nydam takes the points ahead of Martens by 10 meters, with Lemoine in third and Cozza bringing up the rear.
Results of the Del Pueblo Canyon Rd. Climb:
Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team)
Paul Martens (Rabobank)
Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole)
Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
If you weren't following our live coverage yesterday, Scott Nydam was off the front solo for just about the entire day. He spent four solid hours solo, and now is in the break again. This time he has help, but it's still not an easy row to hoe doing this for two consecutive days. But he's motivated to share this battle with his father, who is seriously ill with leukemia. Check back later in our news edition for a full story from our reporter Kirsten Robbins, who got the full, poignant story from the BMC rider this morning.
The peloton is led over the KOM by Astana, 4'50 behind the break. Cozza is taking the lead on the descent up ahead.
As the riders in the peloton take a little nature break, the gap for our leaders is hovering around five minutes - going up and down. It looks like a few riders have come out the back of the peloton on that climb, but they're not so far behind that they can't catch up.
The peloton has three time cuts today: if the riders can't make it over Mt. Hamilton and down the other side within 10% of the leaders, their race will be over. The officials will be checking times at km. 113.6, again at 126.3 and then again at the top of Sierra Road at 136.2 kilometers ridden. All of this is to ensure that the road closures disrupt the traffic for the least amount of time possible.
12:12 PST 72km/80.2km to go
The conditions atop Mt. Hamilton are brutal - just above freezing, thick fog, and limited visibility. The descent will be made more dangerous by the wet roads - it's already a tricky one with plenty of switchbacks.
The yellow jersey, Tyler Farrar was one of the riders dropped on the climb, but he's back in the group now.
The leaders are now 5km to the second KOM of the day, a little bump, just a category four.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road) and Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) have been dropped, and are 1'30 behind the peloton. This is not looking good for our previous best young rider. The break has 4'50 on the peloton as they enter the feed zone.
Cozza is getting his radio adjusted by the team mechanic, and then he takes a bottle and pedals back up to the wheel of Martens. The mechanic was sporting a might fine argyle beanie cap.
12:20 PST 74km/78.2km to go
The breakaway riders are certainly on the second climb of the day, and are all out of the saddle going up a steep switchback.
The Mavic neutral support is right behind the breakaway, wheel in hand, ready for any call for assistance from our four intrepid men up front. Nydam, Martens, Cozza and Lemoine are all fine for the moment.
12:22 PST 76.8km/75.4km to go
Nydam, Martens, Cozza and Lemoine don't even contest the KOM and cross the line in that order. Now they've got a bit of a respite before the next climb in just over 10km.
12:24 PST 78km/74.2km to go
The official results of the KOM#2 are as follows:
1 Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team)
2 Paul Martens (Rabobank)
3 Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
4 Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole)
Another interesting note, there are no time bonuses on the finish line today.
The breakaway loses some time now that they've taken a break for the call of nature. Meanwhile, Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road) and Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) have abandoned after being dropped on the first climb.
Boassen Hagen was suffering from the same illness which forced his teammate Adam Hansen to abandon yesterday, according to the a team spokesperson. Too bad, as the Norwegian had worn the best young rider jersey and has far more potential than he was able to display here.
12:32 PST 83km/69.2km to go
There's a bit of blue sky showing as the riders speed along San Antonio Valley road. They've got a third KOM on this road, about 4kms away. The grade is still pretty gentle at the moment.
Tyler Farrar, our yellow jersey, is off the back now - even behind the caravan. This is not looking good at all. He's actually abandoning!
Tyler Farrar (Slipstream) has abandoned the race while in the leader's yellow jersey. We'll try to find out why he decided to drop out during this mostly flat to rolling section. Perhaps he's decided to save his energy for the Spring Classics, which are his season's goal. Realistically, he didn't stand a chance of holding onto that jersey.
Apparently Farrar was suffering like a dog on all of the climbs, shaking his head - not able to hold the pace. It's got to be hard for him to stomach, but he's only 23 and will have plenty of time to do good things on the bike in the future.
The break is looking a bit more ragged. Nydam is bobbing his head a bit while pushing in the saddle, Cozza is out of the saddle, but not looking great. Martens is still quite smooth, as is Lemoine.
12:40 PST 87km/65.2km to go
Nydam has been on the front the whole time, and it looks like they've decided not to contest the KOM's. Nydam crosses the line, followed by Cozza, Martens and Lemoine.
CSC has now decided to take over the chase in the peloton. An Astana rider reacts to the surge, but the peloton is single file and breaking apart. The base of Mt. Hamilton will be just after a short descent, so the fireworks will begin soon!
Results of third KOM:
1 Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team)
2 Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
3 Paul Martens (Rabobank)
4 Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole)
The gap has come down under the pressure of CSC now that the GC contenders are smelling the chance to put the hammer down on Mt. Hamilton.
That surge has fractured the peloton, and the riders who want to stay within the time limit will have to work hard to rejoin the bunch. There are a couple Saunier Duval riders, a Toyota United rider, Jelly Belly, a Rock Racing rider... about 15 guys who are struggling to get on terms.
Hilton Clarke (Toyota - United) and Matthew Rice (Jelly Belly) have been dropped, as the break is on the lower slope of Mt. Hamilton and the peloton also is heading uphill.
The Rabobank rider Martens was up the road, Cozza bridged to him, while Nydam and Lemoine have been dropped. It's every man for himself now.
The grades are between 4-5% on the straights, up to 9 on the turns. Martens leaves Cozza behind on the steep turn and then gets into his aero position and continues to hammer. He's got the vest unzipped now.
Tyler Farrar is sitting in the back of the broom wagon looking quite depressed, as Clarke and Rice load up their bikes and climb in as well. At least he's got some company now...
Martens is still enjoying dry roads and spectacular views, as the clouds have broken up a bit down on the lower slopes of Mt. Hamilton. But he'll be climbing for about five miles - it's a long, long trip.
The US champion's jersey of Leipheimer is right up front behind his loyal team. They've strung the bunch out single file, and the riders in the back are holding on for dear life.
12:53 PST 90km/62.2km to go
Nydam and Lemoine are just about caught - they swerve across the road looking behind. Martens continues to forge on ahead.
12:54 PST 91.7km/60.5km to go
5km to the top for the leader, as the peloton is still chugging up behind.
The layer of clouds has lifted above Mt. Hamilton, giving a somewhat dismal view of the road up ahead. It's fairly relentless, this climb, but not quite as steep as the last climb of the day, Sierra Grade.
Martens is now out of the saddle, fighting with his machine as he tackles one of the steeper sections of the climb. Cozza has been caught by the Astana train behind. We've got Leipheimer in second wheel, a BMC rider in third wheel.
The temperatures are about 20 degrees F colder at the top of Mt. Hamilton, and its still foggy. Martens is just dangling ahead of the peloton, about 20 seconds ahead.
David Millar is near the front behind Jose Luis Rubiera who is setting pace for Leipheimer.
The lead group is down to about 15 riders now, and Martens has been caught and dropped by this group.
The BMC rider Alexander Moos is the BMC rider, and they now have 1.5km to go to the top. Hincapie has lost contact with the leaders, and is dangling just behind.
It's getting much darker up toward the top as Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) loses contact with the leaders.
Gesink (Rabobank) is in third wheel, as we get near the 1km to the top sign.
13:07 PST 95.7km/56.5km to go
Rubiera pulls off, his work done as the road heads slightly downhill. It's so cold that you can see the riders' breath.
The riders have crested the climb, and we'll get confirmation of the order...
13:09 PST 98km/54.2km to go
There are still about a dozen riders in the lead group as they hit the long, twisty descent. Fortunately, the roads are dry.
The road is not straight for more than about 100m - it's constantly turning left and right, twisting down, down, down.
Hincapie pulled himself back into this lead group, along with Millar, Leipheimer, Gesink, Rubiera.
Robert Gesink was fourth on this stage last year, so he is comfortable with the roads ahead. Right now, however, we're on virgin roads for the Tour of California. We'll hope that the tricky descent doesn't cause any trouble for the chasers behind.
The leaders are simply bombing this descent - Rubiera is still leading as we are awaiting the results of the KOM.
Area local Ben Jacques Maynes is trying to chase up to the front group on the descent. He's from San Jose, so will be familiar with this descent.
The front group is still rocketing down Mt. Hamilton road, and we're having trouble identifying who exactly is in this elite group. A Gerolsteiner rider is up there, too. Moos, Hincapie, Leipheimer and Rubiera have already been confirmed. There are 16 riders here, and woah! There comes Bettini!
Brajkovic nearly went off the cliff - he overcooked a lefthand bend.
The entire peloton is over the top now, and on their way down to San Jose. A Saunier Duval rider is at the back of the front group, digging in his pocket for some food as the road levels out a bit and becomes less dangerous.
Hincapie is one of the 18 riders in this elite group, he's alone just off the front.
13:23 PST 113km/39.2km to go
Hincapie opened up a 45" lead on the descent. He's passed the first time cut point.
The gap has come down a bit as the riders hit another fast section of descent. The time raced at the bottom of Mt. Hamilton is 3 hours, 20 minutes. That would put the 10% time cut at 20 minutes or so, and we don't think anyone will have trouble making that.
The entire peloton crested the climb five minutes behind, so all riders on the road will safely make the first time cut.
Astana is still leading with three riders at the front. Chris Horner is one of them. Hincapie has a lead of about 25 seconds.
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Alexandre Moos (BMC), and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) are among those in the lead group.
Hincapie is opening his gap from 25 to 35 seconds now, and is in an aero tuck speeding past some farms. He'll be familiar with the Sierra Grade, having ridden it the past two years. It's shorter but steeper than Mt. Hamilton, and will be painful!
13:40 PST 120.7km/31.5km to go
Hincapie has 35 seconds on a group of 20. We're descending - really just flying downhill - and overlooking San Jose and Livermore.
Hincapie has 35 seconds on the group of 20. The next group on the road is at about a minute back. We're still waiting to hear the results of the KOM, but we'll let you know as soon as possible. There are seven places for Mt. Hamilton since it's an HC climb.
The group behind has swollen to more than 25 riders now as the course continues downhill between the two big climbs of the day. They'll be on flat roads shortly.
The Astana team is flat out chasing Hincapie. He's in an aero tuck, takes a bottle from the team car.
Our chauffer Chris Nolder has gotten us down the mountain safely, with expert skills. He's 42, a Gemini, and single for you ladies.
13:48 PST 129km/23.2km to go
We're getting close to the base of Sierra Rd. It's pancake flat until they take a right turn, then it's straight up.
13:49 PST 129km/23.2km to go
Hincapie is making the right hand turn onto Piedmont, 1km more or less from the base of the climb, which goes immediately to 15%.
Astana has five riders on the front chasing, as the jockeying for position is kept to a minimum under the pressure from the team. Looks like Dave Z is up there in the Leipheimer group.
13:50 PST 130km/22.2km to go
Here's the turn! And there's the wall!
Hincapie can see the climb now, and he's still aero. He gets into the small ring, and is out of the saddle now, hitting the steep slopes.
Astana leads the bunch into the turn onto Sierra Rd. behind. They're not pouring on the pressure yet.
One of the Astana riders pulls off and is done... three left for Leipheimer.
The results of the Mt. Hamilton KOM are as follows:
1 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Astana)
2 Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step)
3 Alexandre Moos (BMC Racing Team)
4 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank)
5 Iker Camano Ortuzar (Saunier Duval-Scott)
6 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)
7 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
8 Christopher Horner (Astana)
9 David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
The gap is coming down as Hincapie powers through the steep switchbacks and gets out of the saddle when it straightens out. His left knee is still bandaged from his stage 1 crash in Santa Rosa.
The group behind has thinned out to about 14, Leipheimer has Rubiera and Brajkovic on the front, and they catch Hincapie...
The group is getting whittled down even more on this horrible, horrible climb. Leipheimer in third wheel ahead of the Rabobank duo and Dave Z.
There's a Rock Racing rider up here too, most likely Pena. They're down to six as Hincapie is Goo-oooo-ooone.
Looks like it's Leipheimer, Rubiera, Brajkovic, Gesink and his teammate (Ardilla?), Pena and Zabriskie.
Sorry, that's Horner, not Brajkovic.
Rubiera is dropped as Ardila puts the pressure on at the front. Leipheimer is looking strong in second wheel.
Millar is working his way up through dropped riders. He's caught Pena, and is looking well within his comfort zone. The lead group of five is still led by Ardila Cano, the Colombian, and Leipheimer in second. They pass the beligerant cows.
Gesink takes over and puts in a huge attack - he's turning the screws on Leipheimer and Dave Z is losing touch.
14:03 PST 134km/18.2km to go
Horner is on the back looking in no tourble, Dave Z made it back, too. Cano has dropped off.
Gesink's attack didn't last, and Leipheimer is looking quite solid today. Zabriskie is hanging on. There's no CSC here - which is surprising considering their team looked strong at the start.
Zabriskie loses the plot and is dropped along with Horner.
14:05 PST 135km/17.2km to go
Gesink is out of the saddle, Leipheimer having no trouble holding the tall Dutch rider's wheel. The skies are clear as the pair up front get to the 1km to go
Gesink is still leading, and he's on the slight descent before the last ugly kick to the top.
14:07 PST 135.5km/16.7km to go
Leipheimer is content to sit back... he gets out of the saddle on the penultimate pitch.
They're closing in on the KOM line, and Gesink is still leading.
14:09 PST 136.2km/16km to go
The pain and suffering is nearly done, as they cross the line there is one little insulting rise. Gesink gets out of the saddle and Leipheimer lets him take the points.
The sides of the road are a thick mud, left by last night's pouring rain. Fortunately, the skies are clearing up and the guys didn't have to spend these four hours in a soggy chamois.
Zabriskie leads Horner over the top, as Horner waves to some fans on the road side. Leipheimer takes the lead on the descent, and clearly doesn't want Dave Z to get up to him. He might need the seconds over the Slipstream rider, who is the US TT champion.
A sharp left hander, and Gesink takes the lead on this very narrow road. It's not a steep descent, but it's long and a bit bumpy. The chasing group is over the top.
The rest of the KOM came from that large chasing group. Results of Sierra Rd. KOM are:
1 Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
2 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
3 David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
4 Christopher Horner (Astana)
5 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank)
6 Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step)
7 Thomas Peterson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
Leipheimer and Gesink are pouring a bit of effort into the descent, pedaling the whole way down this gentle slope. It's mostly 3-4%, but has some steeper pitches, but also some little flat and even uphill sections.
14:18 PST 129.2km/23km to go
They'll still have nearly 20km to go
from the bottom to the finish line in front of City Hall in San Jose.
There are plenty of bumps and reflectors to avoid on this descent. Leipheimer radios back to his team car as they blast down one of the more treacherous sections.
Behind, Horner and Zabriskie have been caught by a chasing group of 12, they're back about a minute on this descent as Leipheimer puts down the hammer.
14:21 PST 132.2km/20km to go
On the last bit of the descent, the riders can wave goodbye to the lovely ranch and farm land and say hello to suburbia. Leipheimer gets into an aero tuck to get the most advantage out of the last downhill section.
The chasing group of 14 is single file, the Astana riders taking a back seat. Pena is on the back in his lime green kit.
The riders enter the town of Milpitas, and Leipheimer leaves Gesink behind on one of the bends. Gesink has to get out of the saddle to get back on the American's wheel.
Gesink takes over, skipping across the cat-eyes (aka Bott's dots) that line the middle of the road.
The chasers are hitting 40mph over this final descent, as Leipheimer and Gesink make the turn onto flat roads.
14:26 PST 137.2km/15km to go
The gap is down under one minute, just 45" now.
Leipheimer is out of the saddle, pushing to keep his hard-earned advantage. Gesink comes to the front, giving the Astana rider a much better draft.
There are three Slipstream riders in this group - Peterson, Millar and Zabriskie, and they're driving it to get up to Leipheimer. Gerolsteiner lends a hand. The Slipstream team has both Millar and Zabriskie within seconds of yellow, but Cancellara is also here?!
Our former yellow jersey is indeed in this chase group!
Slipstream will have to catch Leipheimer and drop Cancellara to get yellow, as there are NO time bonuses on the line today.
Leipheimer started the day six seconds behind Cancellara. With the withdrawal of Farrar, it will be a tight battle for yellow today. The chase is in full flight into San Jose.
Gesink still leading as the gap is holding around 40 seconds.
Millar takes the reins on this chase, stringing the bunch out.
The time trialists are out in this chase - Larsson, Cancellara, Millar, Zabriskie, all strong riders but our pair out front are persisting.
14:36 PST 158km/-5.8km to go
The riders head over some tram tracks, nothing too tricky. They've got 13 km to go
(ignore our headers).
14:37 PST 158.5km/6.8km to go
The chasers are still working together, single file, but aren't making too much time up on our leaders, who are beginning to show the strain. Gesink has his mouth wide open, gasping for air as the Astana car pulls up alongside and yells encouragement to Levi.
Leipheimer takes over in full TT mode - arms draped on the bars, perhaps missing his Shimano cables?
14:39 PST 160km/5.3km to go
Five kms to go and still 35 seconds! This is going to be a squeaker today. Can Levi take the gold jersey? Can he get enough time on Cancellara to keep it after the Solvang TT?
Levi gets Gesink to pull through once more, and has to stop pedaling for a second. He radios back to the car...
Leipheimer takes over again - Gesink clearly fading. Down to 30 seconds now.
It's David Millar bringing down the gap at the moment. Time trialist after time trialist!
Gesink is pedaling squares, and Levi takes back over - down to 20 seconds.
They're on a long, straight road now and the chasers will be able to see the leaders ahead. Gesink gets out of the saddle to get his speed up, but is suffering. Leipheimer has to take over - his teeth gritting against the pain.
14:42 PST 164.3km/1km to go
Still 20" for the chase. One kilometer to go!
One K to go, and Gesink leads through under the Maxxis banner. Leipheimer comes straight through and it looks like they'll stay away.
Here comes Levi! The fans can see him coming down the boulevard.
Gesink leads into the final turn, Leipheimer right behind. They get out of the saddle to sprint.
Gesink gets the win! Leipheimer did not contest the sprint.
Rabobank gets its first win of the race. Stand by for third place.
The chasers were right behind, but we didn't get a time gap. Levi needed more than six seconds as there are no time bonuses in San Jose.
The lanky Dutch rider tried to win here last year, but was up against the Leipheimer vs. Voigt battle for the GC, and Chris Horner in the sprint. Today, he was victorious - perhaps Leipheimer giving him a gift for helping work up that last climb.
It's a bit chaotic at the finish here in San Jose, and we'll get you the rest of the finishing places as soon as we hear.
The mountains jersey today should pass from Jackson Stewart to his team-mate Nydam, who took the first three climbs of the day.
We're still awaiting the arrival of some dropped riders, one of which is Mario Cipollini. The Lion King has to get here within the time cut of 10% of 4 hours 44 minutes (approximately). That gives him another six minutes to finish in time.
Kevin Lacombe (KBS) apparently went thru the back window of the CSC team car after the second KOM, and he surprisingly came away without a scratch, but was sent to the hospital to be checked out.
Haussler just came in, making the time cut, so he gets to keep the points leader's jersey, but no sign of Cipo yet... tick tick tick!
The gruppetto is in, including Cipo, Fred Rodriguez, Tom Boonen - all the sprinters. They will probably get a pass from the referees, but they're close to the time limit.
Thanks for tuning in to Cyclingnews' live coverage, and tune in tomorrow for the potentially dismal day down the coast to San Luis Obispo. The forecast calls for rain, which would make for a miserable day in the saddle on the longest stage of the race. Live coverage will begin at 10AM PST.
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