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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

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Stage 1 - February 19: Sausalito - Santa Rosa, 155.7km

Complete live report

06:43 PST   

Greetings and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live coverage service, brought to you from the newly-inflated airship, the Hindenburg V-2, re-re-filled with hot air, now that we've patched a few moth holes from the long months of storage over the winter. We'll be flying high above the roads between Sausalito and Santa Rosa bringing you all the live action from stage one!

Starting at 11am PST, the riders will leave Sausalito - just across the Golden Gate bridge from yesterday's prologue - and head up the category four Mount Tam before going past the famous redwood forests of Muir Woods. The race then heads up along the Pacific Coast highway to Bodega Bay, hitting three bonus sprints along the way, and then turns inland to head for Santa Rosa, tackling the Coleman Valley climb, a category three, along the way.

10:55 PST    Good morning and welcome back to our live coverage. The riders are lined up for the start of stage one in Sausalito under sunny skies - yet another beautiful California day. There is a pretty stiff headwind coming from the Northeast, giving the riders a bit of a challenge as they head up the coast. The temperature is pleasantly cool, and riders are wearing armwarmers at the start, but don't need heavy jackets or leg warmers like they might in other regions in February. Levi Leipheimer is wearing the Amgen Tour of California yellow leader's jersey, Brian Sheedy (Priority Health) is in the KOM jersey, and young Taylor Tolleson (Slipstream) is in the grey best young rider jersey.

10:57 PST    Heading northeast from Sausalito, the riders will start climbing almost immediately, and encounter the first mountain sprint just 12 kilometres into the stage atop Mt. Tam - it's 366 metres up to the top of the category 4 climb.

11:02 PST    As the US national anthem is played, the riders get ready to head out for the 156 kilometre stage. The most aggressive rider and sprint leader's jerseys will be decided for the first time today - there are three sprint bonuses, the first at 45km, second at 72.4km and the third at 96.1km before the riders turn east and head over the second KOM at 103.7km.

11:04 PST    And the riders get an enthusiastic send off from the huge crowds that have gathered at the start. It's a holiday today - President's day - and so we're expecting more spectators than usual along the course. It's a beautiful day to watch a bike race. The first few kilometres through town will be neutral, and once the riders get further out of town, the flag will drop and it'll be ON!

11:10 PST    Levi Leipheimer is up front, sporting his leader's jersey. He's excited to be riding into his home town of Santa Rosa wearing yellow. At the finish line, preparations are still underway for the finish nearly four hours from now. Volunteers and workers were putting up miles of barricades, laying a vast network of cables for the public address, satellite, video, etc.

11:15 PST    Brian Sheedy, yesterday's KOM winner, won the jersey by clocking the fastest time between the last turn at the base of the climb and the top of Telegraph hill. But because he was slower between the start and the base of the climb than many of the riders, he's well down on the general classification.

11:23 PST    The riders are still on neutral laps - the organization has extended neutral to allow the riders to answer (ahem) the 'call of nature'... I guess the riders have had plenty of time to visit one of the many local coffee shops this morning. Bernard Kohl gets a flat tire, but the Gerolsteiner rider will have ample time to get a new wheel and get on his way.

11:35 PST    Yesterday's second place finisher, Jason Donald, could take the leader's jersey today with just a second place in one of the intermediate sprints. At yesterday's post-race press conference, Donald charmed the crowd with his completely honest and unrehearsed answers to their questions. For more about Donald, see this feature story.

11:44 PST    7km/149.4km to go The riders are halfway to the first mountain sprint at the moment. The climb is on the 'Panoramic highway' - an aptly-named road that has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It winds past the redwood forest of Muir Woods, which is named after the famous naturalist of the early 20th century, John Muir. This preserve contains some of the oldest trees in the world, the most ancient one being 1100 years old.

11:50 PST    10km/146.4km to go The pack is coming up to the top of Mt. Tam, and the Discovery Channel team is controlling the front of the pack. Ben Jacques-Maynes, currently in third place overall, is a local and says he "knows the roads like the back of his hand, and could ride them blindfolded". He told Kirsten Robbins that he's really looking forward to the descents, which are pretty sketchy - full of cattle grates and gravel, and he hopes to be able to get a gap by out-descending the other riders who aren't as familiar with the area.

11:57 PST    13km/143.4km to go Quick Step's Jurgen Van de Walle has taken the KOM ahead of Slipstream's Thomas Peterson, Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto)

12:04 PST    15km/141.4km to go After the KOM, the leaders kept the effort going and managed to pull away from the pack. Currently, the group of Christopher Horner (Predictor-Lotto), Steven Cozza (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle), William Frischkorn (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner), and Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) have a gap of about 25 seconds, but are facing a pretty stiff headwind.

12:16 PST    30km/126.4km to go Hilton Clarke (Navigators) is currently just seven seconds behind leader Levi Leipheimer. He told Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins this morning that he didn't think the climbs were too damaging, and he's hoping for a field sprint. He's banking on the Discovery Channel team to keep the pack together. If that happens, he's feeling pretty fast, and will go for the finale as well as the intermediate sprints, but will be up against Greg Henderson and JJ Haedo.

12:18 PST    31km/125.4km to go The group came back together after the descent, which from all reports sounded like it was pretty dodgy. Several riders flatted on the rough road that had plenty of gravel, and once the pack reached flatter roads, they all decided to take a 'natural break'. So they're rolling along at slow speeds, allowing the riders who had to get fresh wheels a chance to catch back on.

12:30 PST    35km/121.4km to go And after several kilometres of rolling along at slow speeds, we have an attack! Alejandro Acton (Colavita Sutter Home) rocketed from the pack, quickly gaining nearly 30 seconds. Emile Abraham (Priority Health Cycling Team) tried to bridge across, but couldn't quite make it and was picked up by the pack.

12:35 PST    40km/116.4km to go Alejandro Acton (Colavita Sutter Home) is holding a 25 second advantage on the peloton, just 5km to the bonus sprint. The Argentinian will pick up a three second bonus if he holds his lead past the sprint point.

12:45 PST    Several retired pro's are here at the Tour of California, and one of them is Vasily Davidenko, who retired from racing for the Navigators to take on an assistant manager's role. He is finding that work quite a bit more stressful than racing. "It's 100 times more pressure than racing - I have to worry about plane tickets, hotels, mechanics and the riders." Most people didn't even know he retired - he decided that, with all the strong, young riders coming up through the ranks, that it was getting to hard to win races, and wanted to retire on a high note.

12:49 PST    50km/106.4km to go Just before the intermediate sprint at kilometre 45, Alejandro Acton was brought back by the hard-charging pack. The Discovery Channel team has got the pack on a very short leash, and took both first and second in the intermediate sprint, with new acquisition Allan Davis coming across first ahead of big George Hincapie. Karl Menzies (Health Net) was third.

12:57 PST    54km/102.4km to go The Discovery Channel team is in full control of the race at the moment, with Leipheimer sitting sixth wheel as the race now opens to feeding from the cars. As the riders send domestiques back to the caravan for bottles, we get our first glimpse of the local wildlife... it consists of several fans dressed in full, anatomically correct cow costumes - udderly amazing!

13:01 PST    Another former pro that's here in California is three time tour winner Greg Lemond. He's rolling out a new model of bike for his company, and had his 1989 time trial bike on display at the race HQ. Cyclingnews' tech editor James Huang will be test riding the new model this week. We hear the frame is a featherweight 850 grams.

13:13 PST    62km/94.4km to go Discovery is still riding at the front, but they have their work cut out for them. Along with the spectacular views of the ocean comes a pretty stiff headwind - more than 30km/h at the moment, and this will help the team keep attacks at bay.

13:21 PST    68km/88.4km to go As the race heads toward the second bonus sprint in Tomales, the wind will be on the riders' left - this could be a good point for attacks, so maybe this will loosen the Discovery Channel's grip and spice things up a bit. The sprint comes at kilometre 72.4.

13:24 PST    For the local crowd, the headwind is 20mph in the old money - and this is really slowing things down today. The race is currently 15 minutes behind the slowest schedule of a 24mph/38kph average speed.

13:34 PST    73km/83.4km to go The riders went into the second bonus sprint together, and once again, Discovery's Allan Davis has taken the maximum points. This time it was Hilton Clarke (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) in second and the aggressive Argentinian Alejandro Acton (Colavita Sutter Home) in third.

13:38 PST    75km/81.4km to go The riders headed through the feedzone and are now off the coast and heading inland. The terrain is slightly rolling here, and right out of the feedzone there was an attack. Robert Gesink (Rabobank), William Frischkorn (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle), Justin England (Toyota United Pro), and Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home) are off the front with a decent sized gap.

13:42 PST    77km/79.4km to go And now world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) takes off in pursuit of the leaders with Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) on his wheel! The rolling inland stretch lasts for 15km or so, and will give the riders an opportunity to get this break moving along.

13:48 PST    80km/76.4km to go The breakaway didn't last too long with Bettini up there - nobody wants to just give the stage away like that! But the cross winds that are buffeting the riders have split the pack. There's about a 25 second gap between the two ends, but the front group is now turning left directly into the headwind, and that should allow the back group to catch back up.

13:52 PST    82km/74.4km to go The road is getting a little more hilly as we speed back out to the coast to the third intermediate sprint of the day in Bodega Bay. This comes at kilometre 96, and if it's like the last sprint, we will see big crowds lining the roads. There are tons of cyclists in this part of California, and the area sports some of the best riding in the USA. Scenic vistas, light traffic, excellent Mexican food and great wine - it's got it all!

13:57 PST    86km/70.4km to go The peloton is taking its time now, cruising along at 17mph - a speed most of the recreational cyclists in the area could handle! But this will not last long, since the sprint comes up in 10km, and following that we'll head straight uphill to the next mountain sprint on Coleman Valley Road. This category three climb looks pretty steep, and will sting the legs a bit with more than 1000ft (300m) of elevation gain in about 2.5 miles.

14:00 PST    89km/67.4km to go And the slow speed did not last long, thanks to an attack by Peter Hatton (Colavita Sutter Home). A few riders tried to go across, but didn't quite get enough separation and hauled the whole pack up to Hatton. But they did succeed in stringing the pack out single file - we're really moving now!

14:02 PST    A shout out to cycling fans in Malta and Norway - it's great to hear from our readers out there, so thanks for writing in.

14:05 PST    90km/66.4km to go A group of 12 split off the front for a brief time, but never got more than five seconds or so. Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home) launched a counter-attack, and is currently out front solo. This probably won't last, since we're about 6km from the bonus sprint, and with time gaps pretty close, Discovery won't let Frattini get too far, even if he is 30 seconds down on GC.

14:11 PST    91km/65.4km to go Frattini is still hammering away out front, and the peloton has yet to react. They're bunched up across the road, and if they don't start chasing through, Frattini might get both the bonus sprint and the KOM bonus. He's not a bad climber. Frattini is from Varese, Italy, and started his pro career with Alessio - he rode the 2003 Vuelta Espana.

14:15 PST    94km/62.4km to go Frattini looks behind, and still has a good gap on the pack, and will take those bonus seconds with easy. He gets out of the saddle to power up a small rise - intent on trying his best to hold the gap as the race heads inland to Santa Rosa.

14:23 PST    97km/59.4km to go Frattini is still holding a gap, it's coming down a touch to 35 seconds, and he's still got a really strong headwind. We've got the second and third place finishers of the third intermediate sprint - Alejandro Acton (Colavita Sutter Home) took second ahead of Brian Vandborg (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team). Vandborg put in a spectacular performance at last year's world championship time trial. He and Jason Donald can compare notes on what it felt like to be in the hot seat all day long - Vandborg sat in first until Zabriskie, Cancellara and Vinokourov finished their rides at the end of the day.

14:27 PST    99km/57.4km to go Frattini and the peloton are now on the climb - the roads are very narrow and twisty, and grades head upwards of 10% or more. Ivan Basso has come to the front and is starting to twist the screws a bit - Leipheimer is up there, too. With this kind of firepower at the head of the pack, can Frattini hold on?

14:30 PST    102km/54.4km to go Frattini gets swallowed up by the pack, and now Jason McCartney takes the lead on the steep, narrow climb. The pressure up front is causing pain for a lot of the riders in the back - the field is strung out all up and down the road, with gaps opening up left and right.

14:33 PST    104km/52.4km to go The order over the top of the KOM was as follows:

1 Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) 
2 Thomas Peterson (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
3 Theo Eltink (Rabobank) 
4 Adam Hansen (T-mobile)
5 Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team)

14:37 PST    105km/51.4km to go Adam Hansen, one of the Aussies here in California, riding for the T-mobile team, comes from a mountain biking background. He's won the grueling Crocodile Trophy, a multi-day endurance ride through some of the most desolate areas of Australia's outback.

14:39 PST    It appears that Emile Abraham (Priority Health Cycling Team) has crashed somewhere along the descent. He's got a bit of road rash - the descent was very tight and technical, so it's not surprising that someone went down.

14:41 PST    107km/49.4km to go The lead group of five kept their effort going over the top of the climb, and are now thirty seconds ahead of the bunch. Discovery has Basso up there, so they might pass the jersey along to the Giro d'Italia winner.

14:44 PST    112km/44.4km to go Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor-Lotto) tries to go across to the leaders, but doesn't quite make it. Emile Abraham now has a rear puncture and is back with the broom wagon. The Toyota United Pro team nursed Ivan Dominguez up the climb, and they'll be trying to keep him well up there in case the race comes down to a bunch sprint.

14:49 PST    114km/42.4km to go The lead break is still working well together, and the gap is opening up. There's been a crash in the peloton - there's a huge crowd in Occidental awaiting the group. No word yet on who went down.

14:51 PST    115km/41.4km to go Scott Nydam (BMC) was one of the riders in the crash, but he's back on his bike and chasing in the caravan. Up in front, the leaders are still going strong, and best placed among them is Aussie Adam Hansen (T-mobile). Cyclingnews interviewed Hansen recently, and if you'd like to read more about him click here.

14:59 PST    Correction - Ivan Basso is not in the breakaway! Sorry about that!

15:02 PST    120km/36.4km to go The pack is on the descent now, and it's very twisty - the riders are speeding down the hill at 35-40mph, but the leaders are still maintaining a 1.15 lead.

15:07 PST    122km/34.4km to go Now that the leaders are on flat ground, the gap is starting to come down. Looks like we'll end up in a field sprint today... they're rolling in on some nice, smooth, wide-open roads with a cross to cross-tailwind. This will favor the peloton, and we should see the gap continue to decrease.

15:07 PST    Thomas Peterson (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) has taken over the lead in the KOM competition, giving Jonathan Vaughters' team another great result.

15:11 PST    130km/26.4km to go The gap is really starting to come down fast now, thanks to Discovery Channel and T-mobile. Ticking down - 25 seconds with 25 km to go.

15:12 PST    As the race heads into the outskirts of Santa Rosa, there are plenty of "Go Levi" signs along the road and painted on the pavement.

15:14 PST    When the race gets into Santa Rosa, they'll do three finishing circuits in downtown Santa Rosa - Greg Henderson told Mark Zalewski that last year, only Leipheimer and Haedo knew about a little hill on the run-in to the circuits, and that it caught them off guard... but now they know, so things might be a bit different.

15:17 PST    135km/21.4km to go Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) and Thomas Peterson (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) are still up front trying to stay away, but Hansen and Eltink have sat up and gone back to the chasing peloton. The riders will be coming into town for the finishing circuits in about 5km.

15:20 PST    136km/20.4km to go And the break is completely absorbed, and the race is back together. They're heading down 3rd street toward Santa Rosa with Discovery Channel controlling the front. They'll head into 3 circuits, which are full of turns - 11 in total.

15:23 PST    140km/16.4km to go T-mobile is leading, and Health Net and Quick Step are moving their trains up to the front. Paolo Bettini is up there, as is Karl Menzies. Now T-mobile and Quick Step are driving the pack.

15:24 PST    Karsten Kroon is returning to the pack after crashing - the roads are split with a median, making things a bit sketchy. Michael Barry is leading the pack for T-mobile.

15:25 PST    142km/14.4km to go And now the race is on the finishing circuits, and huge crowds are lining the streets of downtown Santa Rosa. Jakob Piil is setting tempo for T-mobile now, stringing the field out single file at 27mph.

15:27 PST    All of T-mobile is on the front, setting up the finish for sprinter Greg Henderson, or maybe young Gerald Ciolek? Quick Step is up there, too, along with CSC who is starting to move O'Grady up.

15:29 PST    The pace is extremely high now - 34mph (54kph) - Quick Step has taken over the pace making on the front, and still CSC is up there, too - all making for a very fast and exciting finale.

15:30 PST    It's Jurgen Van de Walle setting tempo for Quick Step as the pack comes under the 1km banner and gets ready to head out for the penultimate circuit.

15:31 PST    147km/9.4km to go And the high pace is making some of the riders come off the back.... And there's been a crash! Riders are down on the left hand side at the finish... we'll try to get some info on who it is.

15:33 PST    It's a major crash - half the field is on the ground at the finishing straight, and this is well outside the protected final kilometer. Riders will lose time, but Levi Leipheimer is up and riding. No word on if he was involved in that crash...

15:34 PST    149km/7.4km to go About 50 riders are in the front group, with the rest scrambling to get back on their bikes - get spare bikes, wheels - anything to get back into the race. Levi Leipheimer did get caught up in the wreck, but is up and chasing.

15:34 PST    T-mobile and CSC continue to pour on the pressure at the front, while the Discovery Channel team has all gone back for Leipheimer and are trying to bring him into contact.

15:35 PST    150km/6.4km to go QuickStep and T-mobile are getting help from Health Net as they head back toward the finish line... one more circuit to go!

15:37 PST    152km/4.4km to go One lap to go on Stage One of the Tour of California and the Quick Step team is charging into the final circuit - will world champion Paolo Bettini score his first victory on American soil today?

15:39 PST    T-mobile will be hoping to get Adam Hansen up there for some bonus time, while Health Net could get Rory Sutherland into the leader's jersey with a time bonus. Leipheimer is about 40 seconds down, and will likely lose his lead today due to that crash.

15:39 PST    Oh, but word has come that Sutherland has been caught in the crash, as has Chris Horner from Predictor-Lotto!

15:40 PST    And George Hincapie is hanging off the back...

15:41 PST    155km/1.4km to go Leipheimer is back in the pack with 1km to go!!! Great work by Discovery!

15:42 PST    Jens Voigt keeps the pace high, and into the last turn!

15:42 PST    And here comes Graeme Brown with Greg Henderson on his wheel...

15:43 PST    And maybe Allan Davis

15:43 PST    And Graeme Brown gets the stage!

15:45 PST    156.4km/0km to go Leipheimer made it back into a second group, but there was a gap to the leaders. We have to wait for the judges decision to give a decision on what the gap will be.

15:53 PST    What a finale! The highly technical finishing circuits proved to be an unexpected decisive moment in the Tour of California with several race favorites potentially losing time. We'll let you know as soon as we hear what the judges will decide. With the time bonuses for the top three, Allan Davis might just take the lead - he was 19 seconds down on Leipheimer at the start of the stage.

16:07 PST    Thanks to everyone who wrote in - from Guyana to Malta and Norway, Australia and all across America. We're still waiting for an official decision on the general classification, and word on any injured riders. Check back for the results and report here. And come back again at 10am PST tomorrow as our battle-hardy peloton tackles another monstrous stage - 186.4 km from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.

Provisional Results

1 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank    4.17.20
2 Greg Henderson (NZl) T-mobile         
3 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel

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