Tour of California - 2.HC
USA, February 14-22, 2009
Results & report
Stage 7 - February 21: Santa Clarita - Pasadena, 143 km/88.9 mi
Complete live report
Live commentary by Sue George with reporting from Kirsten Robbins and Laura Weislo in California
Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour of California stage seven from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, covering 143 km/88.9 mi, will begin just before noon local time. We hope you'll join us.
The opening 25 miles will be a gradual climb from Santa Clarita, through Acton, to the intersection of Angeles Forest Road.
From there, the route will continue uphill, showcasing the San Gabriel Mountains. It will reach the second highest elevation ever in the Tour of California at the Millcreek Summit (4,906 ft.) of the Angeles Forest Road.
A 15-mile descent to Angeles Crest Highway follows, and later the riders will plunge sharply to Rose Bowl in Pasadena. After more than 65 miles from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, the peloton will complete the stage with five, five-mile laps on a demanding circuit through the area surrounding the Rose Bowl.
There are lots of people out here at the start in Santa Clarita. It's a nice day to be out - 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) which is the warmest it's been so far all week. The sun is not out - it's overcast, but it's still great weather for bike racing and for spectating.
Everyone seems relaxed today. We can all feel that the race is working its way toward its close - tomorrow will be the final stage. This morning, riders have been rolling around outside more than before the start of the previous stages. It's not like the beginning of the race earlier this week, when there were no riders around and the weather was so often cold and wet.
Thank you for all your emails with comments and questions during our live coverage this week. Don't worry, even though we can't reply to everyone, we are reading them and trying to answer as many of your questions as we can without missing any of the racing action.
Our current GC leader, Levi Leipheimer (Astana) won yesterday's stage, an individual time trial in Solvang. US National Time Trial Champion David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) finished second with Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank) in third.
Behind Leipheimer in the GC is Zabriske at 36 seconds. Michael Rogers (Team Columbia-Highroad) is sitting in third at 46 seconds. Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) and Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) complete the top five, and Leipheimer's teammate Lance Armstrong is in sixth place.
Racers are all lined up as they listen to the US national anthem, which is played just prior to the start. Today, riders will begin with a 3.5-mile neutral section.
A ninth grade girl, Annie di Georgio, is singing the anthem. It's warm and still cloudy, but the clouds are not menacing and seem unlikely to produce any rain on us today.
Singing is done. Some of the riders are talking and joking around with each other. No one looks too nervous - at least not outwardly.
That doesn't mean today won't be a tough stage. The best way to describe it is up, then down, then relatively flat. Nearly all of the first 38 miles are uphill as racers will work their way up to the Millcreek summit on the Angeles Forest Highway.
The riders roll off for their neutral start.
Riders are on the McBean Parkway rolling along. The official start will happen at Santa Clarita's Central Park.
Three riders are off the back in the neutral: Rock Racing's Freddy Rodriguez and Tyler Hamilton are getting their bikes looked at and Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank) is also getting some attention from the mechanics.
The Fly V Australia team is down to just two riders left in the race: Ben Day and Curtis Gunn. One of their riders broke his wrist and had to withdraw, and the others have been battling the flu before pulling out one by one. Day was barfing yesterday, but he is still soldiering bravely on.
Our Kirsten Robbins is following the race today in a car along with Kim Baldwin, the wife of Rock Racing's Chris Baldwin.
Chris Baldwin is one of the Rock Racing riders who will be helping Francisco Mancebo get more points today. He is in the mountains classification leader's jersey and would very much like to keep it. Today and tomorrow, there will be plenty of climbing which means lots of work for Mancebo's teammates.
The field, still in the neutral section, is spread wide across the road. You might almost say they are lollygagging along.
The race has started. Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) is the first to attack.
Van Ulden is pedalling hard, and he is soon joined by Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale). The two have a very slight gap on the field.
Two more riders have bridged up to the two leaders.
They aren't really working well together. They are taking turns looking at each other and surging.
A little more shuffling and we've got Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team), Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), Jonathan Patrick Mccarty (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step) and
Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing) in the lead group.
Those six are caught by the peloton. Now Garmin is setting the pace.
We're in an interesting area with lots of rolling peaks with plenty of green vegetation on either side of the road way. It's not trees, but more sparse vegetation. It's hard to describe, but even though we haven't gone very far out of Santa Clarita, it feels like we're in the middle of nowhere, almost like we're in another country.
12:24 PST 6.5mi/82.4mi to go
We just passed a painted sign along the highway that says "Lance + Levi = Power". That sure seems to be the case so far this Tour of California.
Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing) and Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream) try an attack, but they can't get away. Another three riders counter them.
Our Laura Weislo had a chat with George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad) prior to the start this morning. Some of you may recall that Big George won this stage last year, when it was the finale for the entire Tour. He was in the break which went for it off the descent, going into the closing circuits - Rory Sutherland, Tom Zirbel and Jason McCartney were also in there. Zirbel did a last-minute solo attack, but was caught on the final lap, and Hincapie won the sprint.
The peloton crested a small climb, going about 16mph. After a short descent, they are climbing again. They're spread pretty far across the road - seems like they are not going super hard at the beginning of today's stage. But then they all know what's coming - lots more climbing up until mile 38 of the race.
In our survey of riders this morning, we got mixed opinions about whether or not the stage would finish in a bunch sprint. Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) seemed to think it would end with a breakaway, but of course, he is hoping for another sprint finish to have the possibility of adding to his stage win of earlier this week.
12:35 PST 11.6mi/77.3mi to go
Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) launches a solo attack and gets a small gap. There is one rider chasing him not too far back.
Sevilla and the other rider have been re-absorbed into the peloton. The peloton is now all together but charging hard now. It is headed directly to a fast descent with a sharp turn at the bottom. Hopefully everyone is paying attention and riding safe today.
Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream) and Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) have attacked and gotten a gap.
We're back in a more populated area now - on a busy road with lots of traffic and structures. We're seeing lots of yellow signs encouraging Lance Armstrong and pink hearts cheering on Levi Leipheimer.
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) joins Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream) and Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) off the front.
Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) joins the three leaders off the front. Their gap is about 10 seconds - so they are just dangling there - trying hard to get a bigger, more secure separation.
12:45 PST 14.4mi/74.5mi to go
The break has been caught. The peloton is mostly together, but there are 12 riders off the back. They're at about 20 seconds - we're not quite sure why they are gapped off. It could be tired legs or a group trying to come back from mechanical or other issues.
Racers will hit the first sprint of this stage in the town of Acton, at mile 26. According to our race information, they are about to go through a tunnel.
We are on our way to Acton, a small residential community in the Sierra Polona Mountains. It's about 47 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Must be a good place to spend the winter as we just passed a bunch of RV parks.
12:49 PST 15.0mi/73.9mi to go
There they go - into the tunnel. It's a short one - you can see the end of it from the beginning.
There goes a Liquigas rider giving it a go.
He's got two riders right on him. They are racing through some sparsely populated mountainous terrain right now.
There are two tunnels today. The first one, which they just went through is normally lit, but for the second, coming at mile 45.4, race organizers had to bring in lighting just for the race.
About eight riders total have a small gap on the peloton.
In general, all the riders are quite strung out. There are constant efforts. By the time we get a radio reading of numbers of the riders off the front, they are caught and a new set goes. We presently have two riders off.
The two riders off are joined by two more riders, making a total of four riders off the front. The peloton still has them in sight.
There are about 20 riders off the back of the peloton. There was some concern among management that maybe there was something bad in last night's food, but in fact, it seems the official verdict on their status is that they feel fine but are riding a little lazily today! They'll have to be careful though - so that they don't miss the time cut.
A fifth rider joins our break of four.
Ouch team director Mike Tamayo explained to Laura Weislo this morning why his rider Floyd Landis had a rough day in yesterday's time trial, finishing in 54th. Landis is sick - he's been fighting a head cold and feeling very achy in his body.
13:03 PST 21.2mi/67.7mi to go
The peloton has caught the break, but the attacks are continuing at a frantic rate. We're going through a high desert-type area with lots of rock formations. The rock formations are red and smooth. We can also see snow on the high mountains in the distance.
13:05 PST 23.0mi/65.9mi to go
5km to go until the sprint line in Acton.
Acton was founded by gold miners in 1887. For a time, not only gold, but also Copper and Titanium ores were also mined in the area.
13:10 PST 23.5mi/65.4mi to go
The Angeles Forest Highway, on which the racers are now, was completed in 1941. It goes over the San Gabriel Mountains. The attacks are continuing fast and furious - there's no slacking in this group!
However, off the back, our group of about 20 is well behind and the technical race directors are already becoming concerned about how they will provide enough security to protect that group's rolling enclosure during the race if it falls too far behind.
When the peloton does bunch up, it looks quite small. It's got us wondering if there are more than 20 riders in that group off the back.
13:13 PST 25.4mi/63.5mi to go
That laughing group, the group off the back, is at 3.40 behind the main peloton. Meanwhile at the front, the action is still plenty hot, with 1km to go until the sprint in Acton.
Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia - Highroad) has abandoned.
One rider is slightly off the front, going for the sprint points.
We'll see if he can hold off the others enough to get the top points.
Three men counter attack after the sprint and get a slight gap off the front.
13:18 PST 26.0mi/62.9mi to go
Official results for the first sprint at Acton are
1 Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam)
2 Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream)
3 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)
It's interesting to see that Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad), a GC rider, was going for the sprint. Perhaps there were also time bonuses on the line? Rogers is third in the overall, but he is only ten seconds behind second - placed David Zabriskie.
There were in fact time bonuses - 3, 2 and 1 seconds on the line - similarly to what we saw in other stages earlier this week.
Ouch Team Director Mike Tamayo told us that last year that the weather played into the hands of the breakaway, but this year he thinks it will likely be the opposite. He said the final circuit is really fast, but since his team doesn't have a pure sprinter or any top riders to protect in the GC, his riders will be trying to get into any break that does form.
13:25 PST 30.4mi/58.5mi to go
The constant attacking has yielded a group off the front. The group consists of Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank), Thomas Danielson (Garmin - Slipstream), Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream), Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Brian Vandborg (Liquigas), Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale), Dominique Rollin (Cervélo TestTeam), Cameron Evans (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) and Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing). Another rider is trying to bridge.
So much for that group. The break has just been caught. Three riders immediately counterattack.
Race leader Levi Leipheimer told us at the press conference yesterday after his time trial stage win that he's a little worried about defending his jersey. He said that because of the bad weather in the beginning of the week, there are larger time gaps now. Leipheimer is pretty sure that all the teams will attack him like crazy today and tomorrow, so he thinks the race is far from over.
So far, he seems to have been right - there has been no shortage of attacks today.
13:33 PST 33.7mi/55.2mi to go
We've got a new lead group. This time it's Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale) and Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team). At the moment, there is no response from the peloton.
Before the start today, Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) backed up what Leipheimer has predicted. He told Kirsten Robbins that he and his team have nothing to lose at this point. Team Saxo Bank placed three riders in the top 10 of yesterday's time trial, and Voigt said he and his mates plan to continue attacking the yellow jersey today and tomorrow.
"I'm absolutely sure that if I were in the yellow jersey, everyone would attack me, too," he laughed.
These climbs are pretty open - although groups keep escaping, none of them have managed to make it out of sight of the chasing peloton. If no group can get a substantial gap by the top of the KOM, it's quite likely that predictions of a sprint finish will come true.
13:40 PST 34.7mi/54.2mi to go
The KOM, Millcreek Summit, is a category three. 5km to go until the line. It will come at 4,906 feet (1,495 meters). It's quite likely that the riders will be passing by snow banks again at the top.
There are more and more people as we approach the top. There are lots of spectators and plenty of chalk writing on the roads.
Three more riders have joined the lead group: Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) and Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing).
That gives us a group of nine with a total advantage of 20 seconds: Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale), Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam), Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing).
Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad) are setting the pace at the front group. It looks like a pretty tough group. It seems as if their pace is taking a toll - we may be losing a rider or two off the back of the break.
The break has a gap of 1.05. Schleck is still setting the pace - we'll let you know which riders we dropped from it. Behind them, the peloton is rather bunched up. Still going along, but not in a full-on chase.
13:51 PST 37.1mi/51.8mi to go
One km to go until the KOM. The roads are wet in a splotchy way. The wetness is coming from the melting snow on either side of the road.
There are plenty of people watching and there are almost as many people running next to the peloton as are in the break. One of them is carrying an American Flag. Let's hope they don't interfere with the riders.
The riders cross through the KOM.
13:53 PST 37.7mi/51.2mi to go
Time to stuff the newspapers under their jerseys as they get ready for a nearly 10-mile descent.
Astana is at the head of the peloton, controlling the pace.
The crazy fans are now running next to the peloton as it approaches the KOM line.
I wonder what the riders are thinking about all these folks running next to them.
The peloton is riding up the yellow line with only two or three feet on either side of it. Spectators are everywhere along the top here.
1 Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing)
2 Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam)
3 George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad)
4 Pieter Weening (Rabobank)
5 Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
Everyone's descending at high speeds now - on a wide open road with some sweeping turns. There is some gravel.
A bike has flown off one of the roof racks. Fortunately it didn't hit any riders or other cars.
One rider has gone down - a Cervelo test team rider we think. We're not sure if he was involved with the flying bike incident.
Three of our break rider fell off on the climb. Over the summit, they were sitting about 20 seconds off the rest of the break riders. We'll see if they can catch back up on this descent.
Astana is driving the peloton as it chases. Looks like the break is all back together again.
Tom Boonen told our Laura Weislo before the start today, "It won't be easy for all the sprinters to make it with the group over the climb, but it all depends on the other riders. If some guys on GC want to do something, that could make it hard, but Quick Step will probably be the only team going for a field sprint today." Boonen added that in past editions of the race, Quick Step had to take responsibility for controlling the race, but that it's gotten easier for the Quick Step team as other teams like Columbia and Cervelo are also playing a major role in the races, especially in chasing down breaks in order to set up the teams' sprinters like Cavendish and Hushovd.
We haven't spotted Boonen yet, but the peloton is fairly large, so it's likely he made it over the KOM with it.
Columbia-Highroad's sprinter, Mark Cavendish, who has already won two stages this Tour, told our Laura Weislo before the start today that he didn't think the gradient on the climb was so steep. "I think I can get over it for the sprint." If it does come together, he has a good shot at the sprint - last year he won the field sprint in Pasadena behind the break.
14:14 PST 49mi/39.9mi to go
Our break has grown slightly. We now have Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam), George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale), Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream) and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale). The gap is now 3.10.
This is a really good break - it has a lot of potential to stay away. After all, we have last year's winner of this stage George Hincapie. Most of the major teams, excepting Astana, who is back protecting Levi Leipheimer, are represented.
From the finish line, Laura Weislo tells us that conditions in Pasadena are 72 degrees Fahrenheit and warm. There are high, light clouds and mist.
Lance Armstrong is getting a wheel change.
Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing) is also off the back getting help with a flat.
Two teammates have dropped back to help Armstrong chase back onto the group. It'll be tough to catch back up with the peloton speeding along.
Baldwin has gotten his front flat fixed and he's working to try to regain the break.
Just to clarify - Armstrong and Baldwin can't work together to catch back up because Baldwin got his flat while he was in the break, and Armstrong was in the peloton when he got his.
Earlier we mentioned that a Cervelo rider had gone down. In fact, that wasn't true. The bike that flew off the roof was a Cervelo and in the confusion, officials were looking for a crashed rider to go with the downed bike, but there wasn't one since it had come off a car.
Since Astana was at the front of the peloton, they waited up for Armstrong and company to regain contact. They are safely back in the peloton.
14:28 PST 53.7mi/35.2mi to go
Baldwin is still working his way back through the caravan to try to catch back up to the rest of the break. The break is now on the main descent that heads down to the finishing circuit in Pasadena.
The finishing circuits are five miles long. Riders will do five laps. There are no major climbs, but it's not flat either. The circuit goes around the Rose Bowl stadium, a national historic landmark. Every New Year's day, the Rose bowl holds a college football game and a parade. All floats in the parade are covered with colorful flowers, stems, leave and other bits of nature.
Looks like Mancebo has gone done.
He is sitting ont he ground, not getting back up. In fact, he's laying down.
This is a big blow as Francisco Mancebo is the leader in the mountains classification.
It doesn't look like he will be getting back into the race. He is surrounded by medical staff, being tended to on the road.
In case you were wondering, Chris Baldwin was successful in regaining the break.
If Mancebo can't go on to finish today, Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank) will take over as leader of the mountains classification.
14:39 PST 61.5mi/27.4mi to go
Vande Velde gets a flat and a super fast wheel change.
Last year, it was rainy and windy, and the descent was really scary. This year, riders barely had to touch their brakes. It was wide dry and open.
Vande Velde is obviously sitting on his car and getting a little tow.
Vande Velde is going around cars left and right as he moves up through the caravan. It's quite impressive to watch as he's negotiating these cars at high speed.
There's another crash! A bunch of riders everywhere. It's in the peloton.
Vande Velde is back up with the break.
The crashed riders are getting assistance. There may have been as many as a half dozen involved in total - it was rather chaotic. Two riders just got up and are rolling again.
A Colavita rider is still standing by the side of the road - it looks like he might not get back in. Someone else is holding his bike for him while he is simply standing there, hands on hips.
Three Astana riders are driving the peloton, which is at 4.25 behind the break.
14:47 PST 62mi/26.9mi to go
The break is not far from the finishing circuit. They have a pretty good margin, which they may be able to hold until the end. The first time across the finish line on the circuit, riders will be going for sprint points. They'll also see five laps to go.
14:47 PST 66.0mi/22.9mi to go
The break away has just entered the circuit and is going for the sprint.
They're through the sprint - five to go.
Pasadena is in the midst of a citrus producing area. We passed a broken down double trailered truck filled with lemons en route to the finish this morning.
Francisco Mancebo, is officially a DNF. He is en route to the hospital for treatment. So that means Jason McCartney will take over as mountains leader after today.
The leaders are still working together. They are rotating through - each taking a turn at the front. Some of them on are on their drops, some are on the hoods. There are some decent-sized climbs on this circuit as we are seeing some riders standing up out of their saddles on them.
There are no less than five Astana riders at the front of the peloton, which is all strung out and flying through the streets of Pasadena.
Some of the break riders are getting some advice and possibly even some more food from their team cars. It'll be interesting to see how long they continue to work together.
The break is doing a classic double echelon. The wind must be coming from the left at this point on the course as they are advancing up the right, back on the left.
The break is working well together, but the gap has dropped. It's down to 3.25, thanks to a hard-driving peloton.
One of the crashes earlier in the stage caused a split in the peloton. There is a group of about 20 riders that was separated off the back as a result. They are on the finishing circuit, but they are a lap down, out of contention. That group includes Thom Peterson (Garmin), who won a stage. It also includes Tom Zirbel, who played a role in the finishing action last year during this stage.
The break's gap is at 3.45. They will see three to go when they come through the finish line on the next pass.
There's an attack within the break and it's splitting up.
George Hincapie has just been awarded the most courageous rider of the stage for his role in organizing the break today.
The attack within the break and subsequent re-group has left us with five leaders, who are working together.
Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) was the one who initiated the attack within the break. Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) followed him and the others who made the cut are George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad), Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam). That means Christian Vande Velde did not make the cut.
15:10 PST 76mi/12.9mi to go
So as a reminder, we have five leaders from the original break leading the remaining five riders. The two break groups are separated by about 15 seconds, while the Astana-led peloton is at 3.15.
Astana is leading the peloton, but they don't look very worried. However, Astana is not getting any help from the other teams because those teams are represented in the break.
Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) attacks! Schleck follows, with Hincapie right on his wheel.
Vande Velde just almost killed himself with the effort required to bring the rest of the break back up to the front part of the break, so they are all back together again, but attacking each other.
15:18 PST 79.9mi/9mi to go
The break riders are coming through and getting two laps to go. Hincapie is having to quite a bit of work because everyone knows he is one of the favorites in this group. Everyone is making him chase.
Frank Schleck attacks. Everyone else looks at each other - who will chase? It's Big George again.
Schleck had launched himself like a rocket. He's off the front by himself, wearing number 13.
Frank Schleck is fully committed and going for it. Has he attacked too early or will he be able to hold it?
The gap to the peloton is at 3.20. They don't look too interested in chasing the break back. That's probably because Astana is driving it and they feel pretty comfortable about Leipheimer having enough of a margin on all the break riders to keep his GC lead.
Schleck takes a look back over his shoulder to evaluate what's happening behind him.
Two riders are trying to bridge up to Schleck. It's Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) and George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad).
The whole break is back together again.
Pieter Weening (Rabobank) attacks. But he doesn't get away. Everyone keeps looking to Hincapie to do the work, but he's not biting.
Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) attacks now. This time Hincapie chases.
It's a 10 person cat and mouse game.
One of the two AG2R riders attacks. Zberg follows.
They're all back together again.
15:27 PST 84.4mi/4.5mi to go
Probably the only chance for the break to split up for good is on the climb where Schleck attacked and got away for his brief solo. Schleck leads them through the finish with one lap to go.
One of the AG2R rider attacks and pulls three riders with him.
The break is back together. Looks like it was Hincapie who brought it back together.
Addy Engels (Quick Step) attacks the break.
Now it's Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream) who's attacking, but no one will let him stay away.
There are five or six riders at the front of the peloton from Astana. Garmin and Columbia-Highroad are right behind Astana. They are forming up for a sprint just in case.
Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Pieter Weening (Rabobank) attack and get off the front of the break.
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) bridges up to those two, making a three-person group in the lead.
15:33 PST 87.1mi/1.8mi to go
Addy Engels (Quick Step) is leading the chase. Hincapie was right behind him, but he pulls out of second, so he doesn't have to take a pull.
Of these three, Roulston is probably the favorite, but the guys behind this trio are really pushing hard. Hincapie is trying to stay out of the chase and stay fresh in case it comes down to a sprint.
Our three front riders - Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), and Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) - are working well together. They are taking short pulls.
Behind them, the remaining seven are taking turns trying to jump across the gap.
15:36 PST 88.3mi/0.59mi to go
Weening attacks with one km to go.
The three leaders are back together - looking at each other. They'd better be careful or they will get caught.
Weening does a test sprint to see who will follow.
400m to go to the line. They are all starting the sprint.
Nocentini goes for it.
He takes it to the line.
Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) wins.
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) was second and Pieter Weening (Rabobank) was third.
The two AG2R riders are hanging out together on the pavement. They'd better get out of the way for the peloton to come through. They are less than one kilometer away.
There are still some points on the line for the peloton, so it's worth their sprinting.
Thor Hushovd takes the peloton's sprint - that'll give him a few more points for the sprint classification.
The remaining seven riders of the break did finish in between the lead trio and the peloton - we just couldn't catch in what order.
Looks like it was Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) and Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale) in fourth and fifth.
Levi Leipheimer has held onto his leader's jersey.
That wraps up our live coverage for stage seven. Thanks for following our coverage today. Please join us tomorrow for the eighth and final stage of the Tour of California. Coverage will begin at noon local time.
Stage 8 will run from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido over 96.8 miles.
Racers will face four climbs and two sprints in what will be the most difficult-ever final stage of the Tour of California.
Racers will tackle the Palomar Mountain climb (5,123 ft.). At 11.7 miles, with a seven percent average grade, 4,200 feet of climbing and 21 switchbacks, Palomar Mountain will provide a challenging conclusion; however, organizers expect a hard sprint to the finish.
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