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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 14-22, 2009

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Stage 6 - February 20: Solvang (ITT), 24 km/15 mi

Complete live report

Live commentary by Peter Hymas with reporting from Kirsten Robbins and Laura Weislo in Solvang

11:46 PST    Hello and welcome to the start of Stage 6, a 24km individual time trial starting and finishing in Solvang, California. Riders will start today at one minute intervals - kicking off with the first rider at noon.

11:54 PST    It's a picture perfect day for a race today in Solvang. There's hardly a breeze, the temperatures are approaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and accordingly a huge crowd has assembled to see this critical stage of the Tour of California.

11:55 PST    Kirsten Robbins, on the scene in Solvang, is reporting that the car parking lots are completely jammed and there is a line of cars parked on the side of the road form Solvang, 4 kms down the main street toward to Highway 101 entrance. If you haven't made it to Solvang yet....there might not be space for you now!

11:58 PST    There are 108 riders remaining in the Tour of California and they'll start today in reverse general classification order. The first ten riders off today are Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas), Andy Guptill (Colavita / Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light), Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas), Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Karl Menzies (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Daniel Oss (Liquigas), Adam Hansen (Team Columbia - Highroad), Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team). The riders will start one minute apart, except for the top-10 overall in general classification, who will start two minutes apart.

12:00 PST    The first rider off is Francesco Chicchi, a sprinter for Liquigas. He'll likely be just looking to make the time cut today. He's just rolled down the start ramp to kick off today's racing.

12:01 PST    Chicchi is riding his road bike with a set of clip-on aero bars afixed to his handlebars. He's also running his regular wheels, no discs here.

12:03 PST    Andy Guptill (Colavita / Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light) and Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) are out on the course. Guarnieri's bike is set up the same as Chicchi's, with only a set of clip-on bars on his road bike and no disc wheels.

12:03 PST    Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing) has just rolled down the start ramp.

12:04 PST    We will have to see Chicchi's mid-way split time at the top of Ballard Canyon. Although he is a credible bench mark in the sprints, he may not be the best bench mark to gauge an effort during the time trial...In any case, best of luck to Chicchi!

12:05 PST    Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas) and Karl Menzies (OUCH p/b Maxxis) have started their time trials.

12:06 PST    Adam Hansen Team Columbia-Highroad) will be up soon. Being that far down on the GC means nothing to a great time trialist like that. The former Australian national time trial champion will no doubt put forth a great performance. Now he is a rider to gauge you half-way split against.

12:08 PST    In fact, Bob Stapleton has confirmed that they'll be using Hansen to set splits for their riders starting later today, such as Michael Rogers, who sits second overall just 24 seconds behind race leader Levi Leipheimer.

12:10 PST    2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) is now out on the course. Sastre has been a bit under the weather during the Tour of California and is accordingly well down on general classification.

12:10 PST    I don't think the fans in Solvang expected to see Sastre sitting so far back in the overall classification. However, Sastre will be targeting the Tour de France for a second consecutive victory in July. He has plenty of time to improve and fine-tune his condition.

12:11 PST    Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing) has suffered a flat on his rear disc wheel. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he doesn't have a team vehicle following him. He's just riding along with a flat, waiting for neutral support to reach him.

12:12 PST    Chicchi has crossed through the intermediate point with a time of 11'24.

12:13 PST    Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) has left the start ramp with a very loud round of applause from the crowd in Solvang.

12:14 PST    Amateur riders competed on the 24km time trial circuit this morning, and the best time was 33'47. Let's see how our professionals' times compare with that effort today.

12:15 PST    Freddy Rodriguez (Rock Racing) has been passed by Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas). It appears Rodriguez is still on a flat rear tire.

12:16 PST    Oh no! Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) has had to stop to fix a jammed chain. His team vehicle is with him, but his bike change is going rather slowly.

12:17 PST    Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) is back racing, and teammate Rodriguez has finally received a new rear wheel from Mavic neutral support. Not a great way to start the day for Rock Racing.

12:17 PST    Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) is in the start house, looking calm and relaxed.

12:19 PST    Our Laura Weislo spoke with Garmin-Slipstream today, and they're hoping to both win the stage and take over the general classification. Svein Tuft will be setting split times for their time trial ace Dave Zabriskie.

12:20 PST    Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) has just passed Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step), who started 1 minute behind Hamilton.

12:20 PST    Marco Velo (Quick Step) is now out on the course.

12:24 PST    We've heard from the top riders on general classification about this time trial, and race leader Levi Leipheimer is focused on Michael Rogers. "He's in second place and he is a three time world time trial champion," Leipheimer said. "He is the most dangerous rival to me. There is also Dave Zabriskie who is also a very dangerous rival. Both he and Rogers are sitting in second and third and they are definitely the most dangerous."

12:25 PST    The intermediate time of Chicchi may be a mistake. Officials are checking that time as we write and we will get back to you - our readers - in a few minutes.

12:25 PST    In the meantime, Jeffry Louder is on course. He is a fantastic time trialist from Salt lake City, Utah. Louder won the Tour of Utah last year. He has also been in two very long breakaways this week. We hope he has the energy left to pull off a great time today.

12:25 PST    The time splits have been corrected: Chicchi's time was not 11'24, it was actually 22'47. We thought that was a little fast!

12:26 PST    Bernard Sulzberger (Fly V Australia) has missed his start.

12:27 PST    Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) has left the start house and has just made the first, left turn on the course.

12:28 PST    Karl Menzies (OUCH p/b Maxxis) has posted the fastest split time of 21'03.

12:29 PST    Adam Hansen (Team Columbia - Highroad) has the second fastest split so far with a 21'07.

12:30 PST    Phillip Gaimon (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) is now out on the course.

12:31 PST    Carlos Sastre just come through the intermediate time line and has the fourth fastest time so far at 21'35.

12:32 PST    Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad), kitted in a bright green skinsuit signifying he's the points classification leader, is now out on the course.

12:33 PST    I think Cavendish can relax today after two stage wins. He can't put his legs up too much, though, in order to beat the time cut.

12:33 PST    We have a new best split time of 20'29 by Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale).

12:34 PST    Colavita-Sutter Home's Aaron Olson is in the starting house. We are sure he will want to have a good time trial being so close to his Santa Barbara home. His lovely girlfriend Kim Anderson (Columbia-Highroad) will be on his mind as she waits for him at the finish line.

12:35 PST    Trent Lowe (Garmin - Slipstream) has just begun his time trial today.

12:36 PST    Brian Vandborg (Liquigas) has just started. He was 4th in the 2006 TT world championships, but said he's cruising it today. He is having some asthma issues made worse by the rain. He is saving himself to work for Basso.

12:37 PST    Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) has crossed the finish line in 36'09.

12:37 PST    But he was caught on the line by Andy Guptill, who rode a 35'09.

12:39 PST    Fast Freddy Rodriguez has cruised in with a 35'10.

12:40 PST    Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank) has begun his time trial.

12:41 PST    Columbia-Highroad's main GC contender Michael Rogers, sitting 2nd overall, is a triple time trial world champion who will no doubt want to deliver a good performance in the Solvang TT. Rogers arrived in top condition, having won the Australian national time trial championships and breaking the previous course record by 40 seconds. According to Rogers, the Tour of California is his main early-season focus. "Winning the championships was a big step for me, to be able to do that in January," said Rogers, who was impressed with his 'winter fitness' after spending a lot of time on the indoor trainer back home in Varese, Italy. "I was second in the road race and had a good Tour Down Under. I was using it all to build up for this race. It is a very important race for Columbia-Highroad but for me as well. The last few years have been really up and down. Obviously Astana has a strong team with a lot of depth to contend with."

12:42 PST    Adam Hansen (Team Columbia - Highroad) has clocked the fastest time so far today, with a 33'16. He'll be relaying his impressions of the course back to Rogers, who will be starting at 1:55pm local time.

12:43 PST    2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre has finished with a new second best time of 34'10, just behind Adam Hansen.

12:44 PST    Big Karl Menzies from Tasmania just flew in with the new fastest time of 33'09.

12:45 PST    That did not last long. The new fastest time is now Christophe Riblon who stopped the clock in 32'22. Folks, these times are going to keep getting faster and faster...

12:46 PST    US national time trial champion Dave Zabriskie admitted that he is feeling great after the foul weather conditions during the first four stages. "I'd prefer to be a little closer to Levi because I obviously have a deficit to make up and that's not going to be easy in the time trial," Zabriskie said. "I'll try as hard as I can to go as fast as I can go in Solvang."

12:47 PST    Stef Clement (Rabobank) has posted the new best intermediate time of 19'43.

12:47 PST    US national road champion Tyler Hamilton has just finished with a time of 34'41.

12:49 PST    Hamilton said he hit a bump and his chain dropped and jammed out on the course.

12:50 PST    Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) is now out on the course, the 50th rider to start today out of a total of 108.

12:51 PST    Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing) said he and his teammates were just riding for splits. Oscar Sevilla is their rider for general classification.

12:52 PST    Peter Latham (Bissell) posted the fourth fastest time so far with a 33'23 while Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) has arrived with a 33'43, sixth best time.

12:54 PST    Michael Barry (Columbia-Highroad) is on his way into the finishing line. The Canadian surely deserves a most courageous rider award for the amount of time he dedicates to the front of the peloton for his team.

12:54 PST    Marco Velo just rolled in with the fifth fastest time, 33'37.

12:55 PST    Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) has just started his time trial, the best young rider at the 2008 Tour de France.

12:57 PST    Team Astana is looking for uniformed officers to help control the crowds outside their bus. We've heard from many teams this morning who are trying to keep as much as a buffer as possible between their riders who are warming up and the thousands of fans on hand to see their favorite pros compete. They want to keep the riders as calm and focused as possible.

12:57 PST    Rabobank's Stef Clement has the new fastest time of 31'23.

12:58 PST    Michael Barry crosses the line with a third best time of 33'07. Congratulations on a good ride, Barry!

12:59 PST    Getting back to Astana, they have their own security officers but it is not enough to hold back the crowds which are ten people deep around the bus. Astana's Lance Armstrong, not to mention race leader and defending champion Levi Leipheimer, are surely the star attractions today.

13:03 PST    Juan Jose Haedo is on course, almost in. He has had a total of five stage wins at the Tour of California. He came in with a 34'05.

13:04 PST    Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) just bumped Barry out of the top three with a finishing time of 33'06.

13:07 PST    The top three intermediate split riders to date: 1 Stef Clement (Rabobank) 2 Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 3 Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam)

13:07 PST    Mark Cavendish cruised in with a time of 33'08 and slides into fifth place behind his teammate Michael Barry. Not too shabby!

13:09 PST    We have a good group of time trialists out on the course now: Jason McCartney (Team Saxo Bank), Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream) and Stuart O'Grady (Team Saxo Bank). We're eagerly awaiting what they produce at the time split.

13:10 PST    Brian Vandborg (Liquigas) has just finished with a 33'15.

13:10 PST    Floyd Landis (OUCH p/b Maxxis) is out on the course.

13:11 PST    Bradley White (OUCH p/b Maxxis) has crossed the line in 33'31.

13:13 PST    We want to clarify why Lance Armstrong is starting third to last when he is fourth on GC. Teams are not allowed to start back-to-back from one another. Astana has stacked the top five places and had to be separated according to UCI rules.

13:14 PST    The Astana riders who needed to be separated were Armstrong, Chris Horner, Janez Brajkovic and Chechu Rubiera.

13:16 PST    Lance Armstrong is now warming up on a stationary trainer having been greeted with raucous applause by crowds 10-deep around the Astana bus. He signed autographs for about 30 seconds and then proceeded to begin his warm up routine.

13:17 PST    Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) has rolled down the starting ramp.

13:19 PST    Tom Zirbel (Bissell) was given leeway in the GC so that he could focus on the time trial. Zirbel used to be a pizza delivery boy in Boulder, but no more pizzas for Tom. He has an incredible amount of talent on his time trial bike placing 2nd to Dave Zabriskie by a slim margin in last year's US national time trial championship.

13:20 PST    Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) just finished with a 33'27.

13:21 PST    Rory Sutherland (OUCH p/b Maxxis) is preparing to start.

13:22 PST    Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream) has begun his time trial.

13:24 PST    Kobzarenko just came in with a fifth best time of 32'53.

13:24 PST    Tim Johnson has proven to be in good form after a strong cyclo-cross season. He cut his season short to be able to bring his A-game to the Tour of California He is currently sitting with the 4th fastest time.

13:25 PST    Rory Sutherland (OUCH p/b Maxxis) now has the second fastest time today, 32'06.

13:26 PST    Tom Boonen, the king of Belgium, just came in with a time of 33'49.

13:29 PST    Andy Schleck crossed the line with a 33'08.

13:29 PST    Jason McCartney is coming in soon. He had a great time trial performance at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina. Especially coming from a harsh, wintery weather of Iowa City, Iowa.

13:31 PST    Frank Schleck rode with his number on upside down...hoping for better luck with that unlucky number 13 on his back.

13:32 PST    Jason McCartney is now approaching the line, sprinting out of the saddle. New best time for McCartney, with a 31'21!

13:34 PST    Thomas Danielson (Garmin - Slipstream) is in the start ramp. He looks very determined and focused as he begins his day on the roads of Solvang.

13:37 PST    Svein Tuft just came in with a time of 32'03. Tuft joined Garmin-Slipstream after some impressive performances in the Olympic Games, Tour of Missouri, as well as his silver medal in last year's world time trial championships.

13:37 PST    We've received word that Ivan Basso (Liquigas) has missed his start!

13:41 PST    Robert Gesink, the Tour of California's best young rider, is in the starting house. He also won best young rider honors in last year's Tour of California and has only a slim 12 second lead over Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step). Gesink bested Seeldraeyers in the time trial last year by nearly one minute, but he'll certainly have his work cut out for himself today.

13:41 PST    We have a new best intermediate time of 19'33 by Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank).

13:42 PST    The top ten GC contenders are lined up waiting to start their time trial.

13:43 PST    José Luis Rubiera (Astana) is in the start house.

13:43 PST    Floyd Landis (OUCH p/b Maxxis) is approaching the finish line, more than 2 minutes off the pace of McCartney.

13:44 PST    Viatcheslav Ekimov will be driving the Astana car behind Leipheimer, while Johan Bruyneel will be following Lance Armstrong.

13:45 PST    Landis finished in a time of 33'23, good enough for 24th place.

13:46 PST    Ian Mckissick (BMC Racing Team) has finished in 6th place, clocking a 32'06.

13:47 PST    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) is now out on the course. His current GC position is 9th overall, 38 seconds behind Leipheimer.

13:48 PST    Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) should be finishing soon, and it appears he's having a good day. His teammates call him Thor because of his height. At 6'5" he pushes a lot of watts.

13:49 PST    We have a new best time set by Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling)! He finished the 24km course in 31'19!

13:51 PST    Two seconds faster than Saxo Bank's Jason McCartney, Tom Zirbel has clearly arrived to professional bike racing amongst the world's fastest.

13:53 PST    Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank) has just knocked Zirbel out of the "hot seat", clocking a 30'57, the first rider to get inside the 31 minute barrier!

13:54 PST    Christian Vande Velde, 4th in last year's Tour de France, just came in with a time of 31'49, fifth fastest time.

13:55 PST    Here comes George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad) down the finishing straight.

13:55 PST    Ben Jacques-Maynes just bumped Vande Velde out of fifth place with a time of 31'35.

13:56 PST    The top-three riders on general classification are awaiting their starts, Dave Zabriskie, Michael Rogers, and race-leader Levi Leipheimer.

13:58 PST    Dave Zabriskie, the only American to have won a stage in every Grand Tour, is in the starting gate. He's decked out in a stars 'n' stripes skinsuit since he's the current American time trial champion.

13:59 PST    It's the moment we have all been waiting for...Lance Armstrong is in the starting gate!

14:01 PST    Our Laura Weislo just spoke with Tom Zirbel, who's excited and hoping to be on the podium today. Zirbel said the wind was opposite of the last two years and there was a headwind coming in. This meant he had to measure his efforts more carefully.

14:02 PST    Lance Armstrong is out on the course! There's a huge crowd assembled in Solvang over the opening kilometers, lined up perhaps 5-deep, to greet the riders with a wall of sound.

14:03 PST    The next riders expected to finish well are Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) and Paco Mancebo (Rock Racing).

14:03 PST    If Levi has one rider to worry about, it might be his own teammate Armstrong. There is only one way Armstrong races and that is all-out!

14:05 PST    Three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers is now out on the course. He started the day 24 seconds behind Levi Leipheimer, and he seems to have the fitness to challenge for Leipheimer's general classification lead.

14:06 PST    Mancebo wore the Tour of California golden jersey after his impressive victory in stage one. He is now focused on holding the mountains classification lead. He just came in with a time of 32'02.

14:06 PST    Levi Leipheimer is in the starting gate. He has crushed this time trial for two consecutive years.

14:07 PST    This is the moment of truth for Levi Leipheimer. He has trained really hard for this and he is very focused on winning his third Solvang time trial and his third overall Tour of California.

14:10 PST    Jens Voigt just roared across the finish line in 31'10, slotting him into 2nd place.

14:10 PST    Here is the provisional leader board for today: 1 Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank) 30.57 2 Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) 31.10 3 Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) 31.19 4 Jason McCartney (Team Saxo Bank) 31.21 5 Stef Clement (Rabobank) 31.23

14:11 PST    Dave Zabriskie is tucked into his extremely aerodynamic position and looks very smooth so far.

14:12 PST    We've received word that Ivan Basso never started today, having suffered a knee injury.

14:13 PST    Oscar Sevilla just arrived with a time of 33'38. He will be focused on the last two climbing stages as an opportunity to move up on the general classification.

14:14 PST    Robert Gesink came in with a time of 31'55 and retains his best young rider jersey.

14:15 PST    Levi Leipheimer just made a right hand turn, maintaining a steady cadence.

14:16 PST    José Luis Rubiera (Astana) finished today in 32'50, good enough for 32nd place.

14:18 PST    Dave Zabriskie has posted the fasted split time of the day, with a 19'19! He's absolutely flying out on the road.

14:19 PST    Armstong has been on course for 18 minutes now.

14:20 PST    This really is going to be a close time trial and a very exciting day for the fans watching! Armstrong just made a right turn and came very close to ending up in the ditch. He's now out of the saddle and making quite an effort!

14:22 PST    Armstong goes through the intermediate time split at 19'40

14:24 PST    Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) has crossed the line in 31'31.

14:25 PST    Rogers' intermediate time is 19'43, fifth best time.

14:25 PST    Speaking with Garmin-Slipstream's Allen Lim, he expects the winning time to be approximately 30'15 to 30'25.

14:26 PST    Levi's running time is 18'42. He is not yet at the interim split yet.

14:27 PST    Leipheimer has clocked the fastest interim time! He rolled through in 19'16, three seconds faster than Zabriskie!

14:28 PST    Chris Horner is finished with a time of 32:19, good enough for 20th place.

14:28 PST    So we have Leipheimer extending his lead over his general classification rivals. Just how much time will he put into them today?

14:29 PST    New best time for Zabriskie, at 30'48!

14:31 PST    Armstrong should be finishing soon. He's on a climb, riding out of the saddle.

14:32 PST    Based on the time so far and the riders left, Zabriskie can't fall down further than 3rd today on general classification.

14:32 PST    Armstrong is approaching the finish line...

14:33 PST    ...and has crossed the line in 12th place, with a time of 31'56.

14:34 PST    We're now waiting the arrival of Michael Rogers and Levi Leipheimer, the only riders still out on the course. This could be the deciding moment for general classification.

14:35 PST    Rogers just turned left onto the finishing straight...

14:35 PST    ...and Rogers stopped the clock in 31'02 for third place.

14:37 PST    Levi is still on track to beat Zabriskie, but it will be extremely close.

14:38 PST    Leipheimer is hearing thunderous applause from the crowd in Solvang. He's stopped the clock in 30'39! Leipheimer has won the Solvang time trial for the third consecutive year, and has maintained his lead on general classification.

14:42 PST    The unofficial top five in the time trial are: 1 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 30.39 2 David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) 30.48 3 Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank) 30.57 4 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad) 31.02 5 Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) 31.10

14:49 PST    We'll get some brief general classification results to you shortly.

15:03 PST    Here are the provisional general classification results for stage 6: 1 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 2 David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) 0.36 3 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad) 0.46 4 Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) 1.10 5 Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) 1.29

15:08 PST    That wraps up our live coverage for today. Please join us again tomorrow for Stage 7 starting at 12:00 pm local time (PST) Santa Clarita to Pasadena. The 143km journey begins with a gradual climb from Santa Clarita, through Acton, to the intersection of Angeles Forest Road. The route continues uphill, showcasing the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains, to the second highest elevation ever reached by the Amgen Tour of California on the towering Millcreek Summit (4,906 ft.). Descending with a 15-mile run to Angeles Crest Highway, the route begins a fast plunge to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. After more than 65 miles from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, with the mountains and the Rose Bowl serving as the backdrop, the peloton will complete the stage with five, five-mile laps on a very demanding circuit through the area surrounding the Rose Bowl. This course will provide a challenging, action-packed day leading up to the finale on Sunday.

Stage 6 Provisional results

1 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)                           30.39
2 David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream)              30.48
3 Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank)                    30.57
4 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)          31.02
5 Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank)                        31.10
 
General classification after stage 6
1 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)                                
2 David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream)               0.36
3 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)           0.46
4 Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank)                         1.10
5 Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad)          1.29

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