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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

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Stage 2 - February 20: Santa Rosa to Sacramento, 187.2km

Complete live report

Good morning everyone. Our live coverage begins today at 10am PST as our battle-hardy peloton tackles another monstrous stage - 186.4 km from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.

09:53 PST    We're less than ten minutes away from the start of stage two - the only non-starter this morning is CSC's Dave Zabriskie who crashed not in the finale, but coming off the last descent of the day. He suffered a concussion, but is otherwise OK. There are plenty of banged up racers on the start line today - Nick Gates is the worst off, and will start the race today and see how he feels. His teammate Chris Horner also went down in the mass pile-up on the finishing circuits yesterday along with half the pack.

09:56 PST    It's yet another perfect California morning, a light breeze will give the riders a slight tailwind on the way out, and cool temperatures will keep them from getting too overheated on the very hilly stage today. The race will head uphill almost immediately again today - over a small climb that will serve as a warm-up for the intimidating Trinity Grade, a category 2 climb of more than 500 metres.

09:59 PST    We're at national anthem time, and just a few minutes from the start. Trinity Grade, our first major obstacle of the day, is at 26km into the stage. Locals remember this route from the old Coors Classic stage race back in the '80s. The climb is very steep, and the descent treacherous. The banged up riders will certainly want to take the descent with caution so they don't wind up with even more road rash.

10:02 PST    Our leaders this morning are, of course, Levi Leipheimer, who retained the yellow on a somewhat controversial decision by the officials yesterday. Tom Peterson is in the climber's jersey today - last year he won the best young rider competition.

10:09 PST    Peterson's teammate Taylor Tolleson is currently in the best young rider jersey - a great results for Slipstream. Yesterday's run-in to the sprint proved to be challenging thanks to the state of California's propensity for placing raised reflective domes called "Bott's dots" to delineate the traffic lanes. It was the dots that caused the massive pile-up - it's easy to catch a dot just wrong and lose control of your bike. Local racers have a hate-hate relationship with the Bott's dots for that very reason.

10:10 PST    And the neutral section is over and we're racing - heading out of Santa Rosa at a pretty good clip of 28mph. There are hundreds of school children lining the roads, cheering on the riders.

10:12 PST    1km/185.4km to go And there's an attack right from the gun! Omer Kem (Priority Health) and David McCann (Colavita) took off, and then Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole) bridged across.

10:15 PST    5km/181.4km to go Today's stage has some pretty challenging climbs in the first 90km, but the last 90 are pretty flat, so we could see another field sprint if the sprinters' teams get it together. Yesterday, CSC was setting up their new acquisition JJ Haedo, but he said "We were up there on the finish, but just got chopped off at 200m, we'll try to do better today."

10:18 PST    The Discovery Channel team is at the head of the pack, Tony Cruz is up there working for Leipheimer. Cruz took a year off from the team last year, and rode for the Toyota United squad, but is happy to be back on the ProTour squad this season.

10:21 PST    The decision of the officials to neutralize the final circuits and allow Leipheimer to keep the leader's jersey was a contentious one. The big loser in that decision was Priority Health's Ben Jacques-Maynes, who would have had the yellow if they had stuck with the standard 3km neutral. He's also from this area, and would have been happy to ride in front of his home town fans in the leaders' jersey. Now we have the leaders starting up the first, uncategorized climb of the day, holding a one minute gap as the peloton takes care of nature's business.

10:24 PST    8km/178.4km to go It appears like a Priority Health rider ran into a spectator - she's lying on the ground injured, while the rider is trying to get back on his bike. She seems to be all right... Meanwhile, the leaders have extended their lead to 2 minutes and change.

10:34 PST    16km/175.4km to go They are about to hit Trinity Grade (Cat 2 climb), but we expect the lead to come down because it's very steep. The peloton will probably attack.

10:42 PST    21km/165.4km to go The leaders are hitting the steep slopes of Trinity Grade now, with Christopher Laurent leading, and the Discovery Channel setting pace behind. The slopes are so intimidating that they temporarily blocked our internet connection - but we're back at full speed once again!

10:45 PST    23km/163.4km to go Laurent is getting a gap on his companions, and Kem and McCann can't hold his wheel. The Credit Agricole rider looks quite a bit more comfortable than the other two, and he sees their pain and keeps going off ahead without them. The local cyclists are lining the roads to watch the pro's go up the very climb that they challenge themselves on, and they'll be in awe of the seemingly effortless way that Laurent is tackling this hill.

10:48 PST    24km/162.4km to go The Discovery Channel-led peloton will be banking on the last 90 kilometres of this stage being flat to slightly downhill - the sprinters teams should help them reel in any breakaways. At the moment, they're allowing Christopher Laurent to extend his lead, which is now up to more than five minutes.

10:52 PST    25km/161.4km to go Omer Kem is trying to keep Laurent in his sights as the climb levels out a bit - it's not as steep, and as they near the top, the crowds are getting much bigger. Further down the slopes, McCann is keeping a steady tempo, perhaps hoping to make back some time on the technical descent.

10:59 PST    30km/156.4km to go The leaders are over the top of Trinity Grade and onto the descent. It's a highly technical affair - full of twists and turns, and with the cool temperatures, the roads will be still covered in dew. Laurent is holding his lead at the moment, with Kem and McCann behind.

11:05 PST    32km/154.4km to go Back in the peloton, Will Frischkorn led out KOM leader Tom Peterson for the mountain points - there's a real duel between Peterson and Van de Walle for that jersey. In the crash earlier between the Priority Health rider Ed King and the spectator, it appears that both are ok. The spectator made the common mistake of stepping out into the road to take a photo and clipped the rider.

11:08 PST    35km/151.4km to go Laurent is still off on his own at the bottom onf the descent, and the roads are still twisty but the pavement is dry - hopefully the peloton will all make it down safely. There's a small rise which Laurent is powering up at the moment, and then he'll start back downhill into Napa Valley.

11:10 PST    35km/151.4km to go Laurent is waiting for the two chasers, and when they get to the second half of the descent, the roads are much more wide open and straight, so they will hit higher speeds. The peloton has made it through the worst part of the descent without incident.

11:14 PST    The results of the first KOM are as follows: Laurent, Kem, McCann, Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) then Thomas Peterson (Team Slipstream) - so it looks like the race for the mountains jersey is possibly tied at the moment. Peterson and Van de Walle were separated by one point after stage one.

11:17 PST    The leaders are hitting more than 40mph on the descent (64kph) and Laurent is still on the front, looking a bit more at ease with the high speeds than Kem and McCann.

11:18 PST    41km/145.4km to go We have a crash in the back of the peloton on the second part of the descent...

11:21 PST    43km/143.4km to go No word on the downed rider yet. The leaders are now on the flat roads in Napa Valley, passing some lovely vineyards and farms. No cows here in wine country, although we did see some sheep at the top of the second KOM yesterday.

11:23 PST    45km/141.4km to go The rider who crashed was Leonardo Scarselli (Quick Step) - he's not going to be re-joining the race today, unfortunately he will instead be heading to the hospital. Let's hope it's nothing serious.

11:25 PST    46km/140.4km to go The leaders are still in the valley, still passing by vineyards... the peloton is being controlled by the Discovery Channel team, and we see our first bit of local fauna - a few cows don't even bother to look up from their grazing as Christopher Laurent, Omer Kem and Dave McCann speed past.

11:29 PST    Other riders involved in that crash were Edward King (Priority Health Cycling Team) (his second for today!), Scott Zwizanski (Priority Health Cycling Team), Chad Beyer (USA National team), and Emile Abraham (Priority Health Cycling Team) - but Leonardo Scarselli (Quick Step) was the only one to abandon.

11:34 PST    50km/136.4km to go Discovery Channel is still heading the peloton, with a bit of help from Slipstream and CSC. They're cruising along at 23mph (37kph), and the gap to the leaders is still holding around five minutes. In a few kilometres, the leaders will turn onto the another uncategorized climb - this one on highway 128 will climb the steep Sage Canyon from Napa's Silverado Trail. Then it's up and down, mostly up Hwy 128 heading due east to Lake Berryessa in the hilly hinterlands east of the Napa Valley. This is the exact route used in the Coors Classic twenty years ago.

11:44 PST    Discovery Channel is still leading the peloton, but are now starting to pour on the pressure - it looks like Tom Danielson is stringing out the bunch as the race heads toward our second categorized climb, at cat 4 hill that comes after two uncategorized climbs at km 84.7.

11:48 PST    58km/128.4km to go Scott Zwizanski (Priority Health Cycling Team) has abandoned the race - he got caught up in that crash that sent Scarselli to the hospital. Scarselli was fully alert and conscious when he was transported to the hospital, so it's probably just a broken collarbone, the most common cycling crash injury (aside from road rash). Tony Cruz is setting tempo for the peloton, while Kem, Laurent and McCann share the work in the breakaway. The gap is holding steady at the moment, around 4.50.

11:51 PST    60km/126.4km to go The Discovery Channel team is getting their money's worth out of their new rider Brian Vandborg. Vandborg was 4th at the world time trial championships last fall, and is providing a strong engine for the team as they control the race for leader Levi Leipheimer.

11:53 PST    In the break, Dave McCann is cramming some food into his mouth - it's a mean feat to try and swallow food when riding at this level of effort, but these riders will be burning about 700 calories per hour and need to replenish those calories regularly throughout the race.

11:55 PST    62km/124.4km to go Already, we've been corrected - they'll be burning more than 700 - maybe as much as 1000 calories per hour. That's a lot of doughnuts. Probably four Krispy Kreme's per hour at the moment for our leaders.

12:01 PST    67km/119.4km to go The leaders went up the uncategorized climb fairly easily - they're cruising along, but the gap is now starting to come down thanks to the efforts of Disco's Cruz, McCartney and Vandborg.

12:04 PST    70km/116.4km to go Omer Kem has had a rear flat tire - not what you want to have happen when you've got an entire ProTour team chasing you down at full gas! He's about 30 seconds behind Laurent and McCann, giving everything he's got to get back to the front.

12:11 PST    74km/112.4km to go Kem has made it back to the lead group, thanks to a little help from his team car. He'll probably get a fine for that, but it's worth it for his team to keep him up there. The gap is coming down, below four minutes at the moment thanks to Discovery - but they're heading into the feedzone soon, so we might see the gap open back up as the riders have their lunch. Just following the feed zone is the second KOM of the day, a cat 4 climb that's over with fairly quickly. Once over the top, and down the quick descent, the roads flatten out and it will be difficult for just three riders to stay away.

12:14 PST    The finish in Sacramento should be a bit more straightforward than yesterday's circuit in Santa Rosa. The riders have to negotiate only six turns on the three finishing laps instead of eleven, and the streets are all wide open on the loop that encircles the California State capitol.

12:17 PST    77km/109.4km to go As predicted, the feedzone has slowed the peloton down, and Paolo Bettini tucks his lunch into the front of his jersey - making him look like he's eaten a few too many doughnuts (or donuts if you prefer) .. maybe a boston creme, or perhaps a chocolate covered cake...

12:22 PST    The stage today finishes in the state capitol, and one would assume that the "governator" Aaaahhhnold Schwartzenager will make an appearance as he did last year. It's bright and sunny at the finish - still just a light breeze, unlike yesterday's brutal 20mph headwinds. The peloton is getting back to work now that they've had a chance to eat their lunch. They need to digest quickly since the next kom sprint is only a few km away.

12:27 PST    79km/107.4km to go The leaders are on the climb now, heading up to the second KOM, and their gap has stretched out to more than four minutes. The Disco-led peloton is lining out the bunch as they hit the lower slopes.

12:33 PST    85km/101.4km to go The leaders have crested the KOM now with Laurent taking the max points ahead of McCann and Kem. Back in the pack, Slipstream went on the attack in order to protect Tom Peterson's mountains jersey, with Will Frischkorn taking the last of the points.

12:39 PST    94km/92.4km to go With less than 20km to the first sprint bonus of the day, the sprinters' teams have not yet come to the fore - Discovery Channel has a duel role today, protecting both Leipheimer's leader's jersey and Allan Davis' points jersey. The three leaders are still taking equal turns up front - working well together, but the gap is starting to come down.

12:42 PST    It's now time for "guess the catch" here on Cyclingnews - send in your predictions to say when the leaders will get caught, if at all. The bonus sprints are at km 105.8 and 130.1. Email your predictions to commentator@cyclingnews.com - winner gets permission to buy themselves a doughnut, or beignet, or croissant - your favorite fatty indulgence.

12:44 PST    Joe Arnone from Montana writes in regarding the calories burned by the riders - protecting our readers from overindulging with this fact: "Science says 240 - 280 carbohydrate calories per hour is the maximum your liver can return to your energy system....no matter your size. Just because a person can consume more than that without suffering some sort of distress....doesn't mean everyone should try that."

12:49 PST    99km/87.4km to go The gap is still holding at 3.40 - but the race is heading into more wide-open roads. Discovery Channel is still lining out the peloton, bouyed on by Go Levi! signs. Lucas Euser also has some fans along the way - holding up signs in support of the Slipstream rider.

12:52 PST    Kenji of Salem Oregon writes in from Omer Kem's home town, predicting that the break will be caught with about 16km to go. We have 12km to go from Michael of Minnesota, and Anthony predicts 1km to go but will only treat himself to a coke? C'mon folks! Let's indulge in something good here.

12:53 PST    Seamus from Ireland predicts 35km - and is proud of his laddie McCann for flying the Irish flag up front.

12:55 PST    104km/82.4km to go 1km to go to the first intermediate sprint of the day, and all the bonus time will be taken by our breakaway, who are making a valiant effort to hold their gap. They've got a light tailwind which should help them a bit.

12:58 PST    106km/80.4km to go Laurent easily takes the sprint ahead of Kem and McCann - perhaps being inspired by the fact that it's Paczki Day. For those of you who are not Polish-Americans, this is a glorious day when donut consumption is mandatory. Thanks to Mark in Detroit for reminding the Polish-American staff of Cyclingnews (Mark Zalewski!).

13:04 PST    110km/76.4km to go Dan Schmatz write in that Jackson Stewart can eat a bag of Clif blocks in 3.5 seconds - now that's professional on the bike eating! We now have predictions of 6km to go, from Paul in Boulder, and Robert from Seattle (home of Tom Peterson, our current KOM leader) is guessing 40km to go. The peloton looks like they're letting the break cook out front, keeping them just close enough to make the catch at the last minute.

13:08 PST    Today is 'Fat Tuesday' - the day before Lent, traditionally a period of fasting, which explains why we have mandatory donut consumption. For the Pennsylvania Dutch, it's Fastnacht Day where donuts are sliced in half lengthwise and smothered with honey or syrup.

13:15 PST    114km/72.4km to go Dave McCann, we're reminded, is the Irish national road race champion. And Omer Kem's coach wrote in to say that he has been specifically training for a long breakaway. Christophe (no 'r, sorry) Laurent has loads of experience, and all of this combined has contributed to this breakaway's success today. But yet, not one reader has written in predicting that this breakaway will succeed. The gap is still holding at 3.40, and Discovery is getting no help from the sprinters' teams yet.

13:17 PST    115km/71.4km to go We're heading with wind on a long long false flat downhill at the moment, and despite the 30mph (48kph) pace of the peloton, the gap is still at 3.15. It's come down 15" as the wind is coming from somewhat from the riders' right.

13:24 PST    124km/62.4km to go We're about 6km from the second intermediate sprint now, and the gap is hovering just above three minutes for our leaders. The Discovery Channel team is happy to let this break absorb the bonus sprints to protect Allan Davis' jersey. The break has been away since the first kilometre - and if our reader's predictions hold true, they will be off the front for a total of 175-180 kilometres today.

13:25 PST    Chuck (from the UK?) writes in to say that for Anglicans it is Shrove Tuesday. A featured event of shrove Tuesday throughout Great Britain is “pancake races,” a running race contested between women in dresses and aprons who flip pancakes in a skillet while they run.

13:31 PST    129km/57.4km to go The riders have a crosswind now, and this is starting to really hurt our breakaway. The leaders are heading into Davis to a huge reception from the crowds - the sprint is just up the road, and now Laurent takes off in pursuit of the time bonus.

13:33 PST    131km/55.4km to go Laurent easily takes the sprint, again ahead of McCann (who is Irish road race champ, not time trial as stated earlier!) and Kem. The field is now at the 1km marker, so they are bringing the break back quickly.

13:36 PST    134km/52.4km to go T-mobile has come to the front now to help Discovery bring the escapees back - and sensing his time up front is doomed, Omer Kem sits up and lets the other two go off ahead. He's sitting 20 seconds behind the leaders, waiting for the bunch to swallow him up.

13:40 PST    135km/51.4km to go If Omer Kem knew his mom wrote in saying "he is magic and I have believed from the moment he turned Pro he was going to do great things" maybe he'd find the energy to get back up to the leaders. He's 25 seconds back at the moment.

13:42 PST    140km/46.4km to go The riders are now on completely flat roads, heading to the north now. The field has slowed down - they're curb to curb as Discovery decides not to drive the pace anymore. The wind has died down as the race rolls past a solar panel farm.

13:50 PST    144km/42.4km to go The peloton has decided to take a bit of a breather at the moment and are still lined across the road. Meanwhile, predictions for the catch are fluctuating wildly from 200m to go to 20km to go. Ben Jacques-Maynes gets to see his name painted on the road here. He's gained quite a few fans with his outstanding prologue result.

13:52 PST    Quite a few of our readers would reward a correct catch guess with the Paczki, which is pronounced 'poonch-kee', which coincidentally is the sound one's belly makes after eating too many of the tasty treats.

13:55 PST    149km/37.4km to go Slipstream has now joined CSC and Liquigas in aiding the Discovery Channel chase. CSC has a few options for a field sprint - from the experienced Aussie Stuart O'Grady to JJ Haedo who won the stage into Santa Rosa in last year's edition of this race. T-mobile's options include the young German Gerald Ciolek who beat Erik Zabel in a few bunch sprints last season...

13:59 PST    151km/35.4km to go Omer Kem has suffered another rear puncture - and it might have been the reason he couldn't stay up with the leaders. After 150km off the front, it's hard to tell the difference between flat legs and a flat tire! The flat tire is the end of his time off the front, and he's now back in the bunch.

14:07 PST    154km/32.4km to go The gap is coming down now as the race heads along the Sacramento river into West Sacramento. Now Danny Pate (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) has attacked! He quickly gets to within 10 seconds of the leaders, who are now 40 seconds ahead of the pack.

14:10 PST    158km/28.4km to go Pate quickly bridges to the leaders...

14:12 PST    Danny Pate is doing all the work now, since his legs are much fresher than those of McCann and Laurent - he's managed to add ten seconds to the gap, and he's looking really fresh. Pate has a knack for these late race attacks! McCann is able to finally do a turn, but Laurent is still sitting on.

14:14 PST    Pate has really given new life to this breakaway, and the lead has gone back out to 45 seconds. He's so strong that he's left McCann and Laurent behind!

14:17 PST    162km/24.4km to go Pate is still alone in the lead - no word on the fate of Laurent and McCann. They just couldn't hold the wheel of Danny Pate. Pate has a vast depth of inner fury that he can channel into these late race breakaways. He's not always successful, but he pours his heart and soul into the effort.

14:20 PST    Two years ago Danny Pate was in a somewhat similar situation at the US Pro championships, when initiated the winning break over the top of Manayunk wall. He lost out to Chris Wherry in the finale, but he's surely capable of holding off a charging peloton.

14:26 PST    165km/21.4km to go The riders will head into town from West Sacramento, heading over the Tower bridge from Jefferson Boulevard, and then into the downtown finishing circuit at km 173.8. They'll complete three laps of 3km each and finish right next to the state capitol building.

14:28 PST    169km/17.4km to go Discovery Channel is stringing out the pack, with Tony Cruz taking charge. Leipheimer is sitting pretty in 6th wheel, with Big George Hincapie protecting him. Up front, Pate is in full time trial mode, hands draped over the bars, just hammering as hard as he can.

14:31 PST    170km/16.4km to go Floyd Landis is at the finish line today, attracting a lot of attention from the race at the moment. Danny Pate is starting to get a little tired, maybe 10 seconds ahead of the Discovery led peloton - looks like his break is doomed. CSC is trying to move Haedo and O'Grady up now.

14:35 PST    175km/11.4km to go Pate is caught, and now it's Disco and T-mobile on the front... T-mobile takes over the front with a Health Net rider tucked in behind.

14:36 PST    Quick Step takes over the lead, with T-mobile, Navigators and Discovery behind them.

14:40 PST    179km/7.4km to go The finishing circuits are nice and wide, and smooth. QUick step is still leading with Discovery Channel...

14:41 PST    Allan Davis is second wheel at the moment as the riders head into the second closing circuit - he's got a few more Discovery channel riders sweeping behind him

14:43 PST    Allan Davis goes to the front! He leads the pack through the turn and then sits up to tuck in behind the team - while T-mobile comes on the right and takes the lead. Michael Barry is on the front stringing out the pack for Ciolek?

14:43 PST    Now Rabobank is moving Brownie up... T-mobile has Hendy and Ciolek to work for...

14:44 PST    And the Navigators are at the front leading now, but it's not nearly as strung out as usual.

14:45 PST    182km/4.4km to go Coming into the bell lap, T-mobile is on the front, but Davis is moving into 5th wheel

14:46 PST    184km/2.4km to go Quick step leading...

14:47 PST    183km/3.4km to go One lap to go and CSC has their line with Haedo sitting pretty behind his teammates. One to go!

14:49 PST    Quick step takes over the lead as the pack bunches up again - nobody has control over this sprint!

14:49 PST    Voigt is leading and Bettini is up there!

14:51 PST    186km/0.4km to go And the pack is lined across the road out of the final turn, charging to the line with plenty of room...

14:51 PST    186.4km/0km to go And it's CSC's JJ Haedo who takes the sprint!

14:52 PST    JJ Haedo gives his new team a fabulous win in the streets of downtown Sacramento - the winner of two stages of last year's Tour of California adds another to his list.

14:55 PST    Haedo got the armchair ride from powerhouses Jens Voigt and Bobby Julich - and while he was sitting a few wheels back, he was able to take advantage of the wide open road to get through the pack and win by a wheel.

15:02 PST    Haedo delivered his win ahead of some pretty big names - Luca Paolini, Thor Hushovd... he's got to be happy to be able to show his speed to his new ProTour team.

Provisional Results

1 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team CSC                           
2 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas                              
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                       
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team     
5 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) T-mobile                             
6 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                              
7 Greg Henderson (NZl) T-mobile                            
8 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Toyota United Pro                   
9 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team    
10 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step                          
Most aggressive
 Christophe Laurent (Fra) Credit Agricole                  


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