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Tour of California News, February 18, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Cervélo passes lead-out test for Hushovd

By Kirsten Robbins in Modesto, California

Cervélo TestTeam's lead-out worked to perfection for Hushovd
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
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Jean-Paul Van Poppel, Cervélo TestTeam's head directeur sportif, was pleased with his team's performance when star sprinter Thor Hushovd won stage three in the Tour of California. According to the former Dutch sprinter, the lead-out was meant to be a test – and they all passed.

"We were not counting on a win, it was just to practice and try to bring him to a good result," Van Poppel said about his squad's first opportunity to come together and practice a lead-out for Hushovd. "The win was a very nice surprise. We knew he could do it if given a proper lead-out. The whole team worked for it."

The last three riders in the Cervélo train included Hayden Roulston, Dominique Rollin and Brett Lancaster. The trio began to line up alongside teams Quick Step and Columbia-Highroad. Strong contending sprinters included Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank), Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing), Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream).

"We knew we had to save the fast boys for the last couple of kilometres because there were six or seven sprinters here and five teams that could potentially do the last five kilometres well," Van Poppel said. "We knew it was going to be difficult to do – in the end our boys were stronger than the rest today."

Hushovd made a name for himself in the sprinting world when he won the green jersey for the best sprinter's competition in the 2005 Tour de France. He won the last stage of the Tour on the Champs d'Elysées a year later and also the Gent-Wevelgem Classic.

"Thor is a super sprinter and he's in the super-strong category," Van Poppel said. "He's not a sprinter who can do it on his own. He needs a good lead-out because he's not good in the bunch or good at looking for his own position. Our lead-out guys are all big boys who can ride for a couple of kilometres super-fast."

Officials only 'reporting' on new tech rule

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Modesto, California

These radical bars belonging to Columbia-Highroad
Photo ©: James Huang
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The newly modified UCI technical rule regarding aerodynamics of bicycles and components that looked to be severely affecting teams at the all-important Tour of California time trial on Friday appears to be on hold, with the UCI commissaires only 'reporting' their findings back to Switzerland.

As Cyclingnews first reported on Monday, the change to the rule that took effect on the first of the year mandates that the ratio of the length and width of equipment, such as aero bars, shall be no more than 3:1. This would disqualify the bars of most teams as the 'aerofoil' design of most base bars exceeds the 3:1 ratio.

However, the chief commissaire at the race told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 3 on Tuesday that the commissaires would be running Friday's time trial in the same fashion as the previous Saturday's prologue – that they would only be filing a report back to the UCI in Switzerland. UCI president Pat McQuaid arrived in California on Tuesday evening and is expected to explain details of the rule modification after the fourth stage.

Cold and rain continue in California

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Modesto, California

Brad White sports an unusual choice in gloves
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Despite the riders and fans wishing 'rain, rain, go away!' the skies over the fourth Tour of California have been mostly gloomy, with cold temperatures and lots of rain. The result has been frequent crashes and riders wearing just about every piece of clothing they were issued and some improvising beyond that! With three stages done the riders are at least used to riding in the weather, if not enjoying it.

"The first day seemed to be the coldest because we didn't know how to dress," said OUCH-Maxxis' Brad White, who spent stage three in a four rider breakaway. "After three days of it you learn how to dress up for the warm and the wet. I think it is easier to put layers on and then take stuff off later."

White's choice for gloves was a little unorthodox in the early miles of stage three, opting for the bright yellow dish washing gloves available in any local supermarket.

Aussie Mark Renshaw (Columbia-Highroad) is of the contingent having the most troubles with the weather, having come directly from the Tour Down Under in Australia, right in the middle of summer. "Coming from Australia to ride in the rain it's been a huge shock to the system! You have to make sure you eat and drink because the body is using more calories."

Stage three's winner Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) jokingly agreed with Renshaw about the California weather. "For me coming from Norway it is so different, to come to this cold place!"

Crashes continue under treacherous weather in California

By Kirsten Robbins in Modesto, California

Crashes have plagued the opening stages
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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An ambulance took Bissell's Omar Kem, Cervélo-TestTeam's Ted King and Team Type 1's Ian MacGregor to the Modesto hospital after the riders crashed early in stage three of the Tour of California. They were taken to the Doctor's Medicine Centre of Modesto.

The accidents happened separately. King crashed within the neutral start, re-hashing an old arm injury from last season. The next accident involved Kem who crashed at the crest of the first KOM on Sierra Road, located 16 kilometres into the 167-kilometre road race.

Doctors from the trauma unit at the Doctor Medical Centre confirmed that Kem sustained a broken pelvis on the left side. According to Beth Skau, Bissell's press officer, no surgery is required. "Kem is in a lot of pain but still in good spirits. He has been released from the hospital."

This marks the second loss for the Bissell team. Andy Jacques-Maynes crashed into a parked car midway through the previous stage from Sausalito to Santa Cruz. He suffered a concussion.

MacGregor was not able to make it through a tight corner descending Sierra Road. He came off the road and went into a truck parked in a driveway. According to Sean Weide, Team Type 1 press officer, doctors stitched up his chin.

Only one ambulance was initially available for the peloton, so collecting all the crashed riders was a slow. All were brought to the Doctors Medical Centre of Modesto

Race leader Levi Leipheimer crossed wheels with his teammate Lance Armstrong midway through the stage, causing both riders to go down. According to Leipheimer, he had his head down during a section of strong wind and rain. "It was my fault," said Leipheimer. "I looked down in a windy section and next thing you knew I touched his [Armstrong's] wheel and we were down. Usually you can put your foot down and hold it up but not today - I went down on my ass." Neither rider was injured.

Fraser joins Team Type 1 in California with three broken ribs

By Kirsten Robbins in Modesto, California

Team Type 1 in action on stage three
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Vasilli Davidenko, Team Type 1's head directeur sportif, lost his assistant Gord Fraser to a bike crash just before the start of the 2009 Tour of California. According to Davidenko, Fraser is scheduled to arrive to the event before the start of stage 5's road race from Visalia to Paso Robles.

"Gord had a bad crash last week," Davidenko told Cyclingnews. Fraser broke three ribs as a result of a crash during training. "He will be back in two days helping me. I'm not sure yet if he will be able to sit in the car for too long. But he will be coming to help out. He needs to be here. This is a big event and we need his help. It will be great to have him back here because he has a lot of experience."

Russia's Davidenko and Canada's Fraser have joined forces for the first time after a long and successful history as rival sprinters in North America. Davidenko raced for the former Navigators professional cycling team. He retired from competition in 2007 after a 26-year career in professional bike racing. Fraser raced for both Mercury and Health Net before he retired in 2007.

Fraser and Davidenko bumped elbows on many occasions during their North American careers. "Vasilli and I were always on good terms, even though we were always sprinting against each other," said Fraser during the Team Type 1 training camp held in Solvang two weeks ago. "I think there was a good generation of sprinters in our time but Vasilli and I certainly had our fair share of wins. I've always been very respectful of him. We've been able to share stories from the past competitions and have a few laughs about it now.

"Vasilli has impressed me with his directing skill so I think we both bring a high racing IQ to the direction of this team and hopefully that will bring us some good racing results this year," added Fraser.

Vasilli admitted that the weather has negatively affected many of the riders in the peloton and has changed the tactics of the race. "The weather has been really rough on everyone," said Vasilli who noted that most of his riders come from warm climate. "This week they're racing with three rain jackets on and all winter clothes. I have not seen anything like that in US racing so far. It's not just wet, it's also very cold. I think everything after this race will seem much easier."

According to Davidenko the team will continue to focus on stage wins and podiums and spreading awareness of Type 1 diabetes during the remaining five stages. "We are stage hunters now," he continued. " It is also important that we've had so much attention coming for our two Type 1 diabetic riders racing, Phil Southerland and Fabio Calabria. It is great that people are showing so much interest in them racing out there."

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