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Tour of California - 2.1

USA, February 19-26, 2006

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Stage 1 - February 20: Sausalito to Santa Rosa, 129.1km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski

Complete live report

10:23 PST   
Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour of California. Yesterday we saw Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) take out the prologue from four of his compatriots. Levi now wears the yellow jersey and leads by almost five seconds from Bobby Julich (CSC). He was very happy to be in this position he said yesterday as California is his home state and he even helped design the course. Today the race will finish in his home town of Santa Rosa.

The race starts just over the Golden Gate bridge from Downtown San Francisco in the cute little town of Sausalito and heads north through Marin County to Santa Rosa. It covers 131km (81.5miles) through beautiful National Park areas starting with the Muir Woods famous for its Redwoods. It then heads up to Pt Reyes and along the coast further until it turns right and heads directly north and inland to Valley Ford and on to Santa Rosa where riders will complete three laps of a technical finishing circuit of 5km each.

10:33 PST   
The course is undulating today. There is a climb right at the beginning getting out of the Bay and then another climb at about 85km. Its quite cool but the sun is out which is keeping things mild. The race starts on a pier by a restaurant and there is a large crowd gathering to see the start of the race. Its a nice vibe and the riders are spread around the place, some signing autographs.

10:59 PST   
Only a few minutes from the start now. We've just heard the National Anthem and the riders are all lined up ready to go.

11:00 PST   
And we're off. Riders roll out nice and easily to start their 130km ride.

11:01 PST   
They have a couple of neutral laps for the spectators before they hit the real race start.

11:03 PST   
Lots of spectators line the streets of what is very much a tourist town with nice little shops, gallery's and restaurants along the street. You can see the Golden Gate bridge from here. Its a very scenic little town.

11:06 PST   
The field is rolling along in neutral. Not a cloud in the sky - a perfect day considering a few days ago there was snow and hail around here.

11:09 PST   
There are a few climbs today but nothing too bad and most of the climbs are at the beginning of the race. Its quite likely that today's race will be a sprinters day. The teams will probably try to keep it together for the end.

11:13 PST   
Tomorrow's stage is the tough one. Quite steep climbing and most say the race will be decided over the next two days with the climbs and the Time Trial on Wednesday. As Levi said after the stage yesterday he was hoping to have a home advantage and keep tomorrow's climb a secret, but most the the riders have had a chance to have a look at it. He was quite excited that despite the fact that its only February, riders are taking this race quite seriously and actually checking out the stages ahead of time.

11:14 PST   
Most the the riders started today with arm warmers on and most are shedding that clothing now. Its a perfect day for a bike race.

11:15 PST   
The race proper has just started, so we are at 0km with 131 remaining.

11:21 PST   
The riders are heading under Highway 101 now and will soon start to climb up from sea level. If you've ever visited this part of the world. The Muir Woods is just gorgeous. The redwoods are spectacular and you can hike through and come out on the cliffs looking over the Pacific.
The race has now turned onto Highway 1, know around the world to be one of the more scenic drives, especially south of San Francisco.

11:22 PST   
The pace is pretty fast already.

11:27 PST   
We caught up with a few of the riders before the stage, one of whom was Mick Rogers (T-Mobile). He said that he has just had a bit of a rest period leading up to this race after starting early in Australia. The prologue yesterday wasn't his "cup of tea being so short with a climb." But he said he's still going to give it a go on Wednesday for the TT and see how he goes.

11:29 PST   
Gerolsteiner lead the way as they start climbing. They'll be trying to set a nice steady pace to keep things safe for the yellow jersey today. Levi commented that despite the fact CSC and Discovery have so many people in the top ten after yesterdays prologue, he is confident that his team is strong enough to support him through this tour.

11:35 PST   
Someone has pointed out that the leaders jersey here is called the golden jersey not the yellow jersey so I'll use that from now on to be more correct.

11:38 PST   
Cyclingnews also caught up with Tim Johnson (Health Net) this morning. "This is pretty early for me," he said, so he's not really expecting a lot out of himself. He added that he's enjoying his new team. "Its strange going from being one of the older guys on the team with Jittery Joe's last year, to being a young guy on the team again amongst all the older guys.

11:46 PST    13km/118.1km to go
The riders have no gone over the first two climbs. Both were windy and steep and about a mile and a half each. Gerolsteiner have been setting the pace. Its gorgeous along this road. You can see the ocean and the rugged cliffline from here. Riders might be able to appreciate the views early in the race before it gets fast later in the race.

11:47 PST    15.2km/115.9km to go
They are climbing again now. There are fans all along the climbs watching the race. The field is fairly strung out as they descend and climb along the windy roads.

11:51 PST   
Another reader pointed out that its appropriate that the leaders jersey be called the golden jersey as California is the "Golden State."

11:54 PST   
Other jerseys of the tour are the red King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey. Yesterday they timed the fastest rider from the bottom to the top of the climb to award that jersey and it was bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile) who now wears that.

11:58 PST   
There was obviously no sprint in the prologue but the green sprint jersey is awarded to the second place getter in the stage so Bobby Julich is wearing that. The silver/grey young riders jersey was awarded to Zach Grabowski (Colavita/Sutter Homes). He was excited about his ride yesterday. He commented after the stage that he had a lot of tips from Mark McCormack who had ridden before he had about how to take the corners etc.

12:02 PST   
So far the pace has been steady. Its not slow as Gerolsteiner are setting a nice pace but so far there have been no attacks. We've had one crash and that was Justin England from the new Toyota United Pro Cycling Team but he's back with the bunch now.

12:04 PST   
The race passes by the sleepy little fishing village of Bodega Bay today, which was made famous years ago due to a Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds" for those film buffs out there.

12:06 PST   
Great areas for training up here. One reader just wrote in that Greg Lemond used to do a lot of his winter training up around the Santa Rosa area.

12:10 PST   
Another rider we caught up with before the start today is Chris Horner, riding for Davitamon Lotto this year. He also said that its a bit early for him at this time of year. "My form isn't here right now," he said. "I'm not expecting much for this week. I might surprise myself and have a go later in the week." He added that he is also happy with his new team and that the team camp went very well.

12:18 PST   
Coming up soon is the only sprint of the day at Point Reyes Station. So far the only splits in the field have been over the climbs where maybe 20 guys would have a slight lead over the top mainly because of the windy roads, but gerolsteiner have had their whole team setting pace up front with Levi tucked in behind them. He looks good and fresh.

12:25 PST   
One disappointed rider yesterday was Nathan O'Neill (Health Net) who looked to be setting a good time until he crashed with 150m to go in the prologue. He said after that he was trying to change down to the small ring near the end and the chain must have come off. He still finished with a good time, but it was a big disappointment for the team. Nathan is Australian National Time Trial Champion again this year for the seventh time.

12:35 PST   
Two riders are off the front right now for the first break of the day.

12:38 PST   
Hard to tell who is in the break right now. It looks like a Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada rider and a Credit Agricole rider.

12:47 PST   
Its reported that Jackson Stewart (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) won the sprint out of a two man break. Its fairly flat for a while now. Riders will go through the feed zone fairly soon and refuel. Its here that they enter Sonoma Country and head towards Valley Ford.

12:52 PST   
Gerolsteiner are not panicking about the break. Just continuing to set tempo on the front of the group. Highway 1 traves along Tomales Bay at this point and you can see across the Bay to the Tomales Bay State Park which juts out as peninsula at the northern tip.

12:55 PST   
One reader has written is to tell us about the delicacies of this area. He says that Pt. Reyes Station, Tomales, Freestone and Occidental have some great bakeries. You'll find great oysters and sandwiches in Marshall (a little hamlet 10 miles north of Pt. Reyes) and more great food in Occidental and in Graton. Some of the spectators from out of town might like to know this. Very importantly there is come good beer in Santa Rosa at the 3rd St brew pub.

12:59 PST    55km/76.1km to go
Jackson Stewart is with and Jean Marc Marino (Credit agricole) in the break and they have 1'20" on the field at this point. It will be hard for them to keep that lead over the next climb but so far they are working well together.

13:00 PST   
The lead is increasing and the latest update is three minutes.

13:03 PST   
The field is still just cruising along with Gerolsteiner still sitting on the front. They have to keep the time split under control but they have no reason to rush to bring this back. Its actually good for them to leave a break out there like this and gradually bring it back towards the business end of the race.

13:03 PST   
Levi has moved up closer to the front and his guys have picked up the pace a little now.

13:04 PST   
Both riders in the break have their team cars up with them as they are allowed to do when the break is over a minute.

13:07 PST   
The crowd at the finish line in Santa Rosa is huge. No doubt a lot of Levi fans in this part of the world as it is his home town. It will be quite an honour for him to ride into town wearing the leaders jersey.

13:13 PST   
This break away at least a good thing for Jackson Stewart who picked up the sprint points and will likely wear the sprint jersey tomorrow. IF the break stays away, Jean Marc Marino will wear the leaders jersey being ahead of Stewart after the prologue. This is unlikely however as the sprinters will want to take advantage of this being a sprinters stage.

13:22 PST   
It looks like Jackson Stewart has been having a hard time trying to hold onto the wheel of Jean Marc Marino but he is still there at this point.

13:23 PST   
We've just had an email from friends and family of Jason McCartney who wants to send out a congratulations to Jason on his new baby Ginger Marie McCartney born on December 8, 2005.

13:24 PST   

13:24 PST   
The time gap is now 3'22".

13:28 PST    75.5km/55.6km to go
Riders have been through the feed zone now and are on a plateau. The two breakaway riders still over over three minutes. Gerolsteiner have been on the front the whole way, but now the Credit Agricole guys are on the front for a bit. Jackson looks to be doing well and not struggling on the wheel. Both riders have been pulling through pretty evenly.

13:29 PST   
The terrain has been undulating all day and the climbs have been pretty steep and windy. They have about another five km until the next climb.

13:31 PST    82km/49.1km to go
They are now in the town of Valley Ford.

13:33 PST   
According to reports from behind the field there have been quite a few punctures today so a lot of action for the team cars and neutral spares.

13:37 PST   
The riders are now turning into the Bodega Highway which is a pretty major highway. There are large groups of spectators along the road at various points. They'll get to the bottom of the climb soon. The climb is pretty wide open and not really steep initially.

13:39 PST   
Credit Agricole were just at the front for a small amount of time when the bunch slowed down a little. Now Gerolsteiner is back on the front with all their men. It will be important for them to set a nice tempo up this climb to try bring the time back a little.

13:45 PST   
They are on the climb now. The field is spread across the road so not going too fast just yet.

13:46 PST    91km/40.1km to go
The climb starts to get steep half way up.

13:48 PST   
Its not a real long climb but it will hurt the breakaway riders after being off the front all this time. If they can get over this climb in the lead they have about 15km of flat road before they hit the finishing circuits.

13:48 PST   
Phonak are helping a little in the chase. The gap is starting to come down now and sits at 2'50". Some gaps are forming in the field.

13:50 PST   
Vladmir Gusev and Jason McCartney are slightly off the front of the peloton now. The climb is steep here and splitting things up a bit.

13:54 PST   
The gap is still dropping gradually and is currently at 2'20". Marino and Jackson are still working well together.

13:58 PST   
Marino is only 22 years old. He won four races in France last year. Jackson is only three years older and also had an good victory last yeat at his home town race, Cat's Hill Classic.

13:59 PST    100km/31.1km to go
The field has regathered on the descent but the gap to the two breakaway riders still stands although is somewhat smaller. It is now at 1'20".

14:00 PST   
The descent was pretty fast with the bunch going down at about 70km/h (45m/h). The road has flattened out now as they head for the finishing circuits.

14:01 PST   
Gusev (Discovery) is up the front with the Gerolsteiner guys. It will be a fast stretch into town and the sprinters get set up for the finishing circuits.

14:03 PST   
There will be three laps of 5km each around the cool town of Santa Rosa. The circuit is technical and has 12 corners each lap. They'll be making left hand turns.

14:05 PST    106km/25.1km to go
25km to go now and as they go towards town the Levi is welcomed by his home crowd holding signs that say "welcome home Levi".

14:07 PST   
Other signs say "Levi for Gov."

The break has been caught. It was a good day out for Jackson and Marino and Marino will take home the "most aggressive rider" jersey.

14:07 PST   
The race in entering Santa Rosa now.

14:08 PST   
Lots and lots of people here to welcome the race. It is a public holiday in the US. Presidents Day.

14:09 PST    108km/23.1km to go
The circuits start in another 6km. The pace is quite fast now.

14:15 PST   
Of course when I said all the turns were left handers that wasn't quite correct. With 12 turns per lap they have left and right turns on the way, but the circuit is anticlockwise and the final turn to the finish line will be a left one.

14:16 PST   
Discovery is on the front now as they hit the circuit for the first time.

14:17 PST    117km/14.1km to go
We have three laps remaining in the race. The field is strung out in front of a huge crowd.

14:19 PST   
Americans are good at this type of riding as they do so many criteriums in this country. The teams are fighting for control on the front. Gerolsteiner is up there, as is Phonak.

14:19 PST   
Three Gerolsteiner riders hit the front. Its single file.

14:20 PST   
They have really picked up the speed. Levi is on the front. His main concern will be to stay safe through the circuits and the best place to do that is on the front.

14:21 PST   
Health Net have a wheel change at the back. They have some good sprinters so will want to be getting their act together in the next two laps.

14:21 PST   
A Health Net rider hits the front, probably to try and slow it down a bit to let his teammate get back on. But its single file again now.

14:23 PST   
Gerolsteiner back on the front. There's a very straight / flat aproach to the finish with 500m to go. The road dips down under the highway and slingshots the pack the 200m to go line. The peloton will explode into sunshine from the shadows, the road funnels down slightly from 3 to 2 lanes for the final sprint.

14:23 PST    121km/10.1km to go
Hitting the finish line now for two laps to go.

14:24 PST   
Mike Sayers (Health Net) on front amongst Phonak riders. It was Gord Fraser who flatted.

14:25 PST   
Gerolsteiner are back on the front. A lot of shuffling of position as usual here. Teams are trying to get their sprinters lined up for the finish and Gerolsteiner are trying to keep Levi safe.

14:25 PST   
The first lap took 6'22". Phonak are very present at the front working for Hunter.

14:26 PST   
It has slowed down a little now and the field is spread across the road around the back of the course.

14:26 PST   
But not for long. Its single file around the turns now. Phonak leading the way.

14:27 PST   
The turns are technical and with so many of them positioning is very important.

14:28 PST   
Gerolsteiner pull through to the front again and Davitamon Lotto move up closer to the front.

14:29 PST   
Davitamon Lotto now have four riders on the front working for Freddy Rodriguez.

14:29 PST    126km/5.1km to go
One lap to go now. The crowd is going wild!

14:30 PST   
Nathan O'Neill (Health Net) hits the front. Health Net are pushing their way up.

14:30 PST   
But Lotto hold control. Six of them at the front now.

14:30 PST   
Its single file only a few kilomters to go!

14:33 PST   
Lots of moving around in the field. Davitamon Lotto have the lead out figured out. Robert Hunter is near the front for Phonak.

14:33 PST    130km/1.1km to go
One kilometer to go!

14:34 PST   
Its very fast, strung out around the corners and very loud here!

14:34 PST   
Lotto are still leading

14:34 PST   
Lotto are still leading. Kodak are up there.

14:35 PST   
They are nearing the final corner, for the left hand turn.

14:36 PST   
haedo has good position too. He looks good.

14:37 PST   
Juan José Haedo (Toyota-United Pro) has managed to come around to take the win!!!

14:37 PST   
The very first win for this new team.

14:38 PST   
A very talented sprinter with a lot of potential.

14:39 PST   
A T-Mobile rider took second and CSC third. Hard to tell who it was.

14:45 PST   
It was Oaf Pollack (T-Mobile) and Stuart O'Grady (CSC) taking second and third place.

Thanks for reading today. We'll be back tomorrow at 11am for stage two from Martinez to San Jose.


1 Juan José Haedo (Toyota-United Pro) 
2 Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile)
3 Stuart O'Grady (CSC)

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