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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 17-24, 2008

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Stage 5 - February 22: Solvang - Solvang (ITT), 15 mi / 24 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Sue George, with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins

11:46 PST   
Hello and welcome to the start of Stage 5, a 24.1km individual time trial starting and finishing in Solvang, California. Riders will start today at one minute intervals - kicking off with the first rider at noon.

11:52 PST   
Today's weather is a big improvement over yesterday. It's partly cloudy but sun is shining at the moment. The temperature is in the upper 50s (degrees Fahrenheit). It rained earlier, but it has stopped. We are expecting it to be clear for the rest of the afternoon. The roads are still somewhat wet - they haven't dried off completely, and that could play a factor on the more technical parts of the course.

11:58 PST   
Bryce Mead (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) will be our first rider off today.

12:02 PST   
Mead is off. Next up is Roman Kilun (Health Net presented by Maxxis). The amateurs have already had their turn on the course today and now it's up to the pros.

12:06 PST   
BMC's Scott Nydam, our King of the Mountains jersey winner is now on the course.

12:09 PST   
Australian Richard England (Bissell Pro Cycling) has just rolled out.

12:10 PST   
Nydam is looking very aero out on the course. He's spent so much time off the front in this Tour so far, today must not feel very different to him - on his own, pushing hard. Except of course, he's on a time trial bike and full aero gear.

12:12 PST   
Amateurs are still out on the course finishing up. We have one non-starter today. It's Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast). We haven't heard if he's one of the victims of the stomach bug that's been going around.

12:15 PST   
The last ten riders to start today will go at two minute intervals. Those will be our favorite riders. As a reminder, Levi Leipheimer (Astana) is leading our GC today. He's got 13 seconds on Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and 15 seconds on Robert Gesink (Rabobank) going into the time trial.

12:17 PST   
It's getting a bit cloudier - with temperatures dropping slight. The riders are all on their time trial bikes today. Most of them have rear disks. They've also got aero helmets on.

12:18 PST   
Rock Racing's Michael Creed is using full disc wheel today while some others choosing deep dish rear wheels. Rock Racing got their TT bikes from De Rosa although they are still using some mixed gear.

12:22 PST   
Our first rider today, Meade, has crossed the split and registered a 19.20. Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) and Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) have just started.

12:22 PST   
Nicholas Sanderson (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) is on deck. He'll be feeling some sprinkles that just started.

12:23 PST   
Antonio Cruz (BMC Racing Team) is taking the start. He used to ride for Discovery Channel, but is team leader this year for BMC.

12:25 PST   
Coming up in a few riders, we'll have Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30). David Millar will be in the car along with DS Jonathan Vaughters behind Cozza. As the first Slipstream rider, Cozza has been instructed to take all the turns at top speeds. That makes him a sort of human Crash Test Dummy for the team as they scope the course.

12:27 PST   
If the sprinkles turn to rain, it could make the end of the time trial trickier. There are some tight turns near the end, including a slick crosswalk in the final bend before the finish.

12:28 PST   
Cozza is one of Slipstream's riders who is sporting a mustache. Along with him is team-mate David Zabriskie, who will be starting sixth from last today.

12:30 PST   
Vaughters told us before the stage today that the decision to grow a 'stache was not a team one, but one undertaken by his athletes individually. He joked, "Management would like to distance itself from any rumors of performance enhancing capabilities of mustaches."

12:31 PST   
Paul Martens of Team Rabobank is next to start. Today's course is primarily flat with one short, steep climb. In general, it goes uphill for the first two-thirds of the race, then downhill until the end.

12:33 PST   
We've been a little confused about the start order today since it hasn't been exactly a reversal of GC like we would expect. An Amgen press person told us the order is not necessarily a reversal of the GC and the order is up to the discretion of the judges. We wonder if they are shuffling the order to accommodate some of the teams who have riders bunched together on the GC - that will help them juggle follow cars.

12:33 PST   
We heard that Roman Kilun (Health Net presented by Maxxis), who started earlier today - had a flat out on the course.

12:37 PST   
While today's course does have a steep hill in the middle, in general, it's relatively flat enough that it should not favor the climbers over the pure time trials. That means that Leipheimer, who's know as a solid climber, too, won't gain a advantage over world time trial champion Cancellara due to the course. It should make for an exciting battle.

12:38 PST   
Our first finisher, Bryce Mead, is in. We'll get a time for you soon. He was not caught by anyone out on the course.

12:39 PST   
On a time trial course, any climb that exceeds five to ten minutes and is more than about 6% or so would begin to favor those with high power to weight ratios. Most of a time trial performance depend on power to frontal area ratio, which is why the riders spend so much time in wind tunnels.

12:40 PST   
Mead registered a 37.09, but he's already been overtaken by the Scott Nydam in 34.58.

12:41 PST   
Michael Creed came across in 36.47.

12:43 PST   
Kilun's come in. His flat didn't help his time any - he was about five minutes behind Nydam. Nick Waite, who lives and trains in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is sitting in second place right now - one minute and 35 seconds behind Nydam.

12:44 PST   
We are seeing some of the riders stand up for short bursts on the course. It could be a way to get back on top of their gears while on the climb. The riders who are out there are probably happy to see the roads drying off, but they are still facing crosswinds today.

12:46 PST   
Richard England (Bissell) had a tough day yesterday. In the awful wet and cold conditions, he did not have any gloves.

12:48 PST   
Kirsten Robbins is on course with Team High Road's Bradley Wiggins. Last year we followed Mick Rogers. They are very different riders in their styles. Wiggins is more of a prologue rider and Rogers is more of a TT rider. Wiggins was second on Sunday in the prolouge. Wiggins said Cancellera beat him Sunday because he was better at accelerating out of the corners.

12:49 PST   
Wiggins is settling into his aerobars. A special shout out goes Brian Holm, Team High Road's director who's in the car with us. We've got about 1km to go for Henk Vogels.

12:50 PST   
Wiggins is looking very smooth and the sun is shining on him. He's pushing a pretty good cadence - we're on a pretty flat section. Holm is encouraging Wiggins over the radio. Sergey Ivanov (Astana) has a new fast time with 34:38.2.

12:52 PST   
Wiggins has four Olympic track medals including in the individual and team pursuit. He won the 2007 world championships in the individual pursuit. He's passing 20km mark. He'll be focusing on the world and Olympics again this year.

12:53 PST   
Team High Road has just one other logo on its jersey, a charity called Right to play. It's an organization that teaches children proper ethics and behavior through sport. It is represented in 23 countries and has reached 400,000 children. 8,000 coaches are currently involved.

12:55 PST   
Wiggins, George Hincapie and Mick Rogers are the role models on the High Road team. Wiggins is known as a British rider, but he was actually born in Gent, Belgium and later moved to London with his dad, also a pro cyclist who was recently killed in Australia.

12:56 PST   
Riders have been commenting how tired they were after yesterday's epic stage and the day before. Some think the outcome of the time trial might be different than it would have been had it been sunny.

12:57 PST   
Wiggins is catching a rider - we're not sure whom. It seems unlike it would be Danny Pate (Slipstream), who started in front of him because he's a former U23 World Time trial champ and no slouch in the TT.

12:58 PST   
We have a new best time: Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) in 32.54.

12:59 PST   
Danny Pate told us before today's stage that he has the stomach bug that's going around. He said he had it on the Sierra Road day and the night after it, he couldn't keep anything down food-wise, so he did yesterday's stage four on just 1,000 calories. Pate's doing everything he can to survive today and not get caught by time cut.

13:01 PST   
Wiggins looks to be getting blown around a little bit by the wind. He's encountering a flooded section of the course. There are signs to direct riders around it.

Danny Pate is actually going to follow Tom Peterson today. He'll be playing an ad hoc director. The Slipstream don't have enough directors for their four guys out there starting so close together. Fortunately, Pate will be done in plenty of time to help out. He said he's really excited about being in the director role to help Peterson.

13:02 PST   
Wiggins just caught a rider and in fact, it is Danny Pate. Pate's been training really hard, but that stomach bug must indeed be slowing him down.

13:02 PST   
Raivis Belohvosciks of Saunier Duval has the new best time of 32.52.

13:03 PST   
Pate appeared to have a good cadence as we passed him. Wiggins is up by about 10-15m and Pate is trying to hang tough, but they will hit the climb soon. There are good crowds out today cheering everyone on.

13:05 PST   
Wiggins has the fastest split of 16'42 - he was fastest by 23 seconds over Belohvosciks as of the split. Meanwhile, our day's crash test dummy Cozza made it safely through the course. He finished in 33'10.

13:06 PST   
Wiggins is out of the saddle and crests the climb, getting 10km to go. Pate is still with him. Both are in their aerobars.

13:07 PST   
Antonio Cruz (BMC Racing Team) didn't have such a good time. He reportedly took a wrong turn during his time out on the course. He wasn't expected to be a contender today, but no doubt he'll be disappointed by the mistake.

13:09 PST   
They are through the descent and on winding roads on the way back to Solvang. Wiggins is clearly on a mission. He is really stomping on the pedals. Pate is still with him and looking pretty smooth now. Maybe he just had a slow start and is feeling better now? Or maybe seeing Wiggins got him motivated? Wiggins appears to be giving it more power out of corners and over risers - they're about 5m apart since riders are not allowed to draft each other. They're on their way to a fast finish through the countryside.

13:11 PST   
Wiggins is approaching his second man - it appears to be an Astana rider who is struggling. This course is known for being really fast. The finish is different than last year. It's on the same road, but it starts and stops in a different place. Wiggins is up to about 500m on Pate.

13:12 PST   
Wiggins has caught and passed his two minute man, Aaron Kemps (Astana). This event is well suited for Wiggins and he's clearly on a mission.

13:13 PST   
Mark Cavendish (High Road) comes across the line - though he sits up well before it. The sprinter is just happy to go.

13:14 PST   
Wiggins gets 4km to go - that's a number he's used to working with - the same distance as the men's individual pursuit event. There is one small riser before he goes down the rest of the way to the finish. He doesn't look like he's struggling at all. He looks good.

13:15 PST   
Some of the other teams besides High Road are allied with charities. Slipstream has "Causing the Slipstream" which fosters future cyclists and their team launch proceeds benefited the Davis Phinney foundation. Saunier Duval plants trees with its "100 years for a million trees" in an effort to fight desertification in Mali in Africa. And Health Net supports the "Lifestyle festival".

13:17 PST   
Wiggin's director is not worried about him in the finish, with its technical corners. Wiggins is really flying to the finish, but he is a good bike handler. Now he's getting instructions to catch the motorbike in front of him. He just looks like he keeps getting stronger.

13:18 PST   
500 m to go for Wiggins. We have to veer off now - we're not able to go through the finish, too.

13:19 PST   
Wiggins finishes in an impressive 32'16.18 - new fast time!

13:22 PST   
Our diarist Rory Sutherland (Health Net presented by Maxxis) is out on course - he's got his minuteman in sight, Heath Blackgrove (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team). Meanwhile Tom Boonen (Team Quick Step) coasts across the finish line.

13:24 PST   
Boonen and Paolo Bettini dropped back to help their best GC guy who flatted in yesterday's stage. How's that for an escort!

13:25 PST   
Sutherland has caught Blackgrove out on the course.

13:27 PST   
George Hincapie (High Road) is out on the course. His director Holm told us he was really pleased with Wiggin's ride. He noted how impressed he was with the prologue specialist's performance.

13:28 PST   
Freddie Rodriguez (Rock Racing) comes in just outside top ten - a great effort for the sprinter. Danny Pate finished in 34'03 by the way.

13:31 PST   
Wiggins is still holding strong with the best time - we'll see how long that holds up as the favorite take to their starts. Vladimir Gusev (Astana) is sitting in second with 32'22 - he passed two riders en route. Saunier Duval's Iker Camaņo Ortuzar is out on the course now.

13:32 PST   
Yesterday's stage winner Dominique Rollin (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) just finished up.

13:32 PST   
We have a new best time: Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling). He was five seconds faster than Wiggins with a 32'11.

13:36 PST   
Zirbel, a second year pro, used to be a distance runner who raced 5kms and 10kms. He was a national caliber division III runner and he said that's where he gets his stamina for time trialling. When he first started racing just three or four years ago, he'd go to cat 3/4 races and break away off the front. When he first started in the pro field, he'd go off the front with riders like Nydam and no one knew who he was. They've probably figured it out now.

13:37 PST   
Zirbel did the Iron Horse the year before he turned pro on a heavy bike with gym shirts, a T-shirt and a windbreak tied around his waist. He broke away with Nydam, who tried unsuccessfully to drop him and he ended up winning. Zirbel admitted he's still a bit green - especially in crits, but he's learning fast.

13:37 PST   
Aaron Olson has finished up. He's in ninth now with 33'12.

13:40 PST   
Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) is one rider out there on the course. Before today's effort, he commented that yesterday was not the same stage as it was the previous two years. He made it through by trying to sit on as many wheels as he could and not expend energy. He told us that somehow he managed to avoid the stomach bug all week and is hoping that will help him out today. He joked with us that he's been trying extra hard not to hold hands with the riders who have gotten sicked.

13:42 PST   
Sutherland has finished up in 32.54, putting him in fifth place for now.

13:43 PST   
David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) just rolled off the ramp - looking serious and focused.

13:45 PST   
Christopher Horner (Astana) is Zabriske's two minute man today. Zabriskie told us today that his mustache came from a full beard and that he would like everyone to look at the decreased facial hair he has, as opposed to continuing to focus on the remaining 20% (the mustache). Just think how much faster he'll go without the full beard!

13:46 PST   
Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) finished up with a 34:09.25.

13:47 PST   
David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30) is in the starthouse.

13:49 PST   
Next up is Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who's in the start house. He's third in the GC going into this time trial. He won a stage earlier this week after being in a break with Levi Leipheimer.

13:49 PST   
Gesink is only 21 years-old, with a promising career in front of him.

13:51 PST   
Janez Brajkovic (Astana) has the new best time with 32'05. He's bumped down Zirbel and Wiggins one spot each.

13:52 PST   
Leipheimer, who will start last today in the yellow jersey is trying to stay warm.

13:53 PST   
Leipheimer is starting! He's an accomplished time trialist, but will he be able to hold off world champion Cancellara?

13:54 PST   
Benjamin Jacques-Maynes has the seventh fastest split. His fans have been writing in to us.

13:55 PST   
Leipheimer is out of the saddle going uphill.

13:57 PST   
Leipheimer is looking good. He won the time trial last year here in Solvang. We'll see if he can do it again. Millar, now fourth in the GC, is out there pushing a big gear.

13:58 PST   
Cancellara is looking smooth! If anyone knows how to time trial, it's this Swiss Team CSC rider.

13:59 PST   
Janez Brajkovic (Astana), our current leader, was fifth at the intermediate split and he sure made up a lot to overtake the hot seat.

14:00 PST   
It's interesting to see the different expressions on the riders' faces. Cancellara is grimacing while Leipheimer is stone faced. Cancellara will need to make up more than 13 seconds if he wants to regain the yellow leader's jersey.

14:01 PST   
Seventh - placed GC rider Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) had the second fastest time at the split - just four seconds behind Wiggins, who still holds the fastest split time.

14:04 PST   
Gustav Larsson (Team CSC) has the new fastest split - a blazing 16'40. Zabriskie is fifth fastest through the split.

14:04 PST   
Now Millar has the new best split time. Leipheimer is out there on open country roads and the temperature is dropping. We'll get his split soon.

14:05 PST   
Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) takes over the third place hot seat. He's 7 seconds behind Brajkovic and two behind Zirbel.

14:06 PST   
Millar's split was 16'32 for those of you who like the numbers. Leipheimer is descending while Cancellara sits on the front of his saddle, in full time trial mode.

14:08 PST   
The speedy British National Champion Millar gets 10 km to go. He'll be flying mostly downhill to the finish, including some technical bits.

14:08 PST   
Rock Racing's Victor Hugo Pena comes across the finish. Before today, he was in 10th on the GC. We'll see how his place holds up.

14:09 PST   
Leipheimer is now on the nose of his saddle, too, and is about at the split point.

14:10 PST   
Leipheimer has a new best split time! 16'20. The Astana rider is on a mission. Cancellara comes through the check in 16'58, sixth fastest and quite a bit slower than Leipheimer.

14:11 PST   
Christian Vande Velde has the new best time of 31'31. Cancellera gets 10km to go.

14:13 PST   
Leipheimer is climbing. Now he sees the 10km to go indicator.

14:13 PST   
Our top three right now are Christian Vande Velde, Janez Brajkovic (Astana) and Tom Zirbel (Bissell), but we may well see them displaced by the final riders.

14:14 PST   
Zabriskie gets 1km to go.

14:15 PST   
Zabriskie, who said his mustache was inspired by Civil War generals, gets 500m to go. He's pounding it now!

14:15 PST   
And he finishes in the second best spot with five more riders to come in.

14:17 PST   
Zabriske's time was 32'01. Vande Velde still has the lead with Brajkovic in third.

14:18 PST   
Gustav Larsson does a nifty bike throw at the end to put himself in the second best time spot.

14:18 PST   
Millar is driving hard with 500m to go.

14:19 PST   
Millar's final driving effort pays off and he logs an impressive new best time of 31:15.45.

14:19 PST   
We're still waiting on Gesink, Cancellara and Leipheimer to finish.

14:20 PST   
Leipheimer is descending - he's on the nose of his saddle again - giving it his best shot.

14:20 PST   
Leipheimer is probably travelling 40 mph. He sees 3km to go. He knows what it takes to get a win her and will be going for it. A win would help him secure his yellow jersey.

14:21 PST   
The young Gesink gets 1km to go. The top three are almost done - coming fast now.

14:22 PST   
Millar's got 16 seconds on Vande Velde. We'll see if Leipheimer or Cancellara can overtake him.

14:22 PST   
Cancellara gets 500m to go.

14:23 PST   
Leipheimer sees 1km to go.

14:24 PST   
Cancellara finishes it up. His ride is good enough for fourth place.

14:24 PST   
Leipheimer takes the win!

14:24 PST   
Leipheimer's time is 30:46.80. So he'll not only keep the yellow jersey, but extend his lead on Cancellara.

14:25 PST   
Gesink puts in a solid ride for a climber - finishing in 20th position.

14:25 PST   
To sum up, our top three for today are
1 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 30.47
2 David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) 0.29
3 Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) 0.45

14:28 PST   
These results should shake up the GC a bit - we'll get you word on that as soon as we can.

14:33 PST   
It looks like David Millar will take over second place on the GC with his strong second-placed ride today. Cancellara will drop down the GC with his fifth place today which means we also have a new third place in the GC, Christian Vande Velde.

14:34 PST   
To summarize, our new GC after stage five is
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
2 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30.

Of course, these results are unofficial, so we encourage you to stay tuned for our full stage five coverage.

14:38 PST   
That wraps up our live coverage for today. Please join us again tomorrow for Stage 6 starting at 11:00 am local time (PST) Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. The 169.6km journey will take riders over four tough King of the Mountains climbs. The stage includes the famous Balcom Canyon climb, which is expected to draw a big crowd again this year. They'll finish up on three circuits in Santa Clarita before the mad dash to the finish line.

Provisional results

1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                       30.47
2 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30             0.29
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30    0.45
4 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC                                       0.57
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                                    1.05
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30          1.15
7 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                        1.19
8 Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling                                1.24
9 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling                   1.25
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) High Road                                        1.28
11 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) High Road                                    1.29
12 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Astana                                        1.35
13 Jurgen Vandewalle (Bel) Quick Step                                 1.39
14 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                                    1.42
15 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval-Scott                       1.43
Intermediate split (mile 7.6)
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                       16.21
2 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30             0.12
3 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC                                       0.20
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) High Road                                     0.22
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30    0.26
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Astana                                         0.29
7 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30          0.35
8 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                                    0.37
9 Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling                                0.39
10 Jurgen Vandewalle (Bel) Quick Step                                 0.39
11 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Saunier Duval-Scott                      0.44
12 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                       0.45
13 Kim Kirchen (Lux) High Road                                        0.47
14 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                                    0.49
15 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling                  0.50
16 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank                                       0.53
17 Steven Cozza (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30            0.53
18 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval-Scott                       0.56
19 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Health Net presented by Maxxis               0.57
20 Benjamin Day (Aus) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team                0.58

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