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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 17-24, 2008

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Stage 6 - February 23: Santa Barbara - Santa Clarita, 105 mi / 169 km

Complete live report

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

Join us for more live coverage of the Tour of California on stage six from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita over 105.4 mi / 169.6 km. Tune in as Levi Leipheimer tries to defend his yellow jersey the day after winning the individual time trial. Stage six coverage starts February 23 at 11:00 local US Pacific Standard time (PST); 14:00 USA Eastern Standard time (EST); 20:00 Central European time (CET); 06:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time (February 24).

10:48 PST   
Good morning and welcome to complete live coverage of Stage 6 of the Tour of California. The weather here in the Santa Barbara start city is cooler than in previous years - in the 50s (degrees Fahrenheit) today. It is absolutely gorgeous - really sunny & blue skies and it's a little windy, but we're guessing after some of the other stages this week, the riders will probably happily take some wind over rain. The stage will start in about 15 minutes.

10:54 PST   
We have six minutes to go until the start, which will be neutral fro the first 3.1 miles (5 km).

10:56 PST   
Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis has been out talking to the public near the start. He's drawing a crowd as everyone seems to want to meet him. Lots of fans and spectators are out on this Saturday afternoon.

10:58 PST   
Levi Leipheimer (Astana), who won yesterday's time trial stage, will be out to defend his yellow jersey today. Three minutes until the start...

10:58 PST   
Today's stage has a lot of climbs and they aren't like Mt. Hamilton or Sierra Grade which were 20 to 40 minute climbs. Today has short climbs, but they are very steep. They are 15-20 minutes long which can really shatter the group. From a rider's point of view, there is a good opportunity for both breakaways and the race to split and become a race of attrition. It's not impossible though for it to come down to a field sprint.

11:00 PST   
Tom Boonen and Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) did not sign in although we're guessing they are are still planning to start. The racers are off now for the neutral.

11:01 PST   
The start is on the waterfront in Santa Barbara. There are huge palm trees lining the road out of the town, which seems to be rather well off. The wind is gusting up a bit and there's a headwind heading out.

11:04 PST   
Today's stage is the same as the other years. This is the one where George Hincapie crashed and broke his wrist last year. He probably has less than fond memories as that crash ruined his Spring Classics season.

11:06 PST   
We're heading out past Montecito Country Club. At the intersection of California Rt 192 and Sycamore Canyon Road, the race will officially start. The first KOM will come just 16.3 miles (26.3 km) in. It will be followed by another one at 19.1 miles (30.7 km), so we can probably expect some early action.

11:09 PST   
0 km or the race official start is at the top of this climb in another kilometer. People by the side of the road are holding a giant Swiss flag.

11:10 PST   
Perhaps they are cheering on Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC)?

11:11 PST   
The stage has begun!

11:13 PST   
Astana is at the front - no doubt looking out for Leipheimer. Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is the first to attack.

11:16 PST   
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is being chased by Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis) and Aaron Barry Tuckerman (Jelly Belly).

11:17 PST   
Now they are caught. Rock Racing counters. They are flat out at the start today - going 35mph (56 kph). Ben Day ((Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) doesn't make it very far - he abandons.

11:18 PST   
The three riders have a slight gap. The sickness that has been going around the peloton has really been taking a toll. It's a 24 hour fever with diarrhea. The guys who can get through it for one stage and sit in while not doing any work are usually ok for the next day, but all the teams have been losing riders.

11:20 PST   
Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly), Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Scott), and
Danny Pate (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) are off the front with Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team), Dimitri Champion (Bouygues Telecom) and Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis) chasing.

11:21 PST   
Speaking of Health Net, Mike Tamayo, the team's director, said his whole team is sick. He had two riders ill in time trial yesterday (Philip Zajicek and Roman Kilun), and one of them also had a flat tire, so they were both eliminated after not making the time cut. Health Net has Tim Johnson, John Murphy, Rory Sutherland and Frank Pipp - just four riders left in the race.

11:26 PST    9.6km/160km to go
There are seven riders together now in a break off the front with 30 seconds.

11:27 PST   
Bryce Mead (Jelly Belly) abandons, and Bobby Julich (Team CSC) gets a flat.

11:27 PST   
There's a crash!

11:28 PST   
Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) crashes and he abandons. They are taking him to the hospital.

11:30 PST    12.2km/157.4km to go
Our lead group of seven has 20 seconds. The break includes: Christopher Horner (Astana), Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank), Gerald Ciolek (High Road),
Frank Pipp (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Angel Gomez Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott),
Jason Mccartney (Team CSC), Danny Pate (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30),
Michael Lange (Jelly Belly)

11:31 PST   
We're near the Carpinteria city limits and Angel Gomez Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott) attacks the break but is caught back by the break. The break is going 25 mph (40kph) and looking around a bit.

11:31 PST   
Bobby Julich (Team CSC) is back in the peloton after his flat.

11:32 PST   
Dan Bowman is another rider who had a flat, but is back in the pack. Having a flat early on is really tough - the race is going fast and it's hard to catch back up - especially weaving your way through the caravan to regain the rear of the peloton.

11:36 PST   
Everyone is back together - the break is caught, but counterattacks are happening.

11:38 PST   
The pack is spread out across the road and Astana is back at the front. If you look at the GC, the race is not won yet by Levi Leipheimer. Other teams can still move up. For example, Slipstream has riders in second and third with David Millar 0.49 and Christian Vande Velde at 1.08. They will be looking for a solid performance today - perhaps getting into breaks to get some of the time bonuses up for grabs today.

11:42 PST   
Today, the riders will contest four KOMs and two sprints. The sprints come with 3, 2 and 1 second time bonuses each and 10, 6 and 4 seconds will be awarded at the finish. Given the close margins in the GC, if either of the top three Slipstream riders could get in a break, they could make up some important seconds on Leipheimer.

11:44 PST    21.7km/147.9km to go
The riders are all together. The first KOM is coming up soon. It's a category four climb and it tops out at 943 feet (287m).

11:46 PST   
Andrea Tonti (Quick Step), Dimitri Champion (Bouygues Telecom), Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) have attacked and are off the front with a slight gap.

11:47 PST   
The field is chasing hard - the gap is at about 20 seconds. There are four riders trying to bridge up to our three in the break.

11:48 PST   
The break is caught and counterattacks resume. Riders are still trying to get off the front for the upcoming KOM, but so far no breaks are sticking.

11:50 PST   
The riders are working hard. It's not strung out single file, but the peloton is long and only a few riders wide at any point. The pressure is on, and some must really be feeling it after racing all week. A small group of riders has a minor gap.

11:51 PST   
There are probably a dozen riders now in a small group off the front. Others from the main peloton are trying to bridge up to what could become a crucial separation if they get enough of a gap.

11:54 PST   
Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step) attacked the group of about 16 and is off the front on is own. Vandewalle is dangerous on the KOM - he's sitting in third in the KOM.

11:54 PST   
The small group that was off the front is reabsorbed by the peloton and Vandewalle is now off the front on his own going for KOM points.

11:55 PST   
Caleb Manion (Toyota - United) has abandoned.

11:57 PST   
We have three more abandoning riders: Vincent Jerome (Bouygues Telecom), Antonio Cruz (BMC Racing Team), Richard England (Bissell). Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step) continues to sit off the front by himself.

11:59 PST   
Vandewalle is caught and they are all together. Our first KOM results are
1 Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step)
2 Alexandre Moos (BMC Racing Team)
3 Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team)
4 Robert Gesink (Rabobank)

12:00 PST   
Slipstream's Steven Cozza attacks.

12:01 PST   
Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) bridged up to Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) and they have 10 seconds. There are big crowds ahead on the next KOM and you can see some snow up there.

12:01 PST   
They pull it up to 20 seconds, but now the gap has dropped back to 12 seconds. KOM #2 is another category 4 topping out at 1,110 feet (338m).

12:02 PST   
There are 200m to go to the KOM and a group of five are chasing.

12:04 PST   
They are over the KOM - we'll get you results for this second one as soon as we can. Our blimp is having a little trouble seeing what's going on with all these mountains and twisty roads.

12:05 PST    40km/129.6km to go
Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30),
Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis), and Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) are all off the front now together - a break of 5. [In fact, Candelario was not in the break, the rider was David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott) - ed.]

12:06 PST   
Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) and our KOM leader Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) are chasing.

12:06 PST   
Christopher Horner (Astana) appears to have a flat and is getting mechanical assistance.

12:08 PST   
Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) has caught up to the lead group of five making it a lead group of six.

12:09 PST   
Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) and Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) are chasing. at 1.30.

12:10 PST   
We've now got our results for the second KOM.
1 Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole)
2 Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
3 Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team)
4 Karsten Kroon (Team CSC)

12:17 PST   
The latest situation, to summarize, is that we have six men off the front, with two men chasing. The field is further back still and appears to not be chasing with any seriousness. After a quick look at the GC, there is no one that is too much of a threat to Levi Leipheimer, so his team is letting them go for now. Astana is at the front of the pack, sending the message of being in control.

12:20 PST   
Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) will be motivated to catch up to the leaders as it will position him better to catch some more KOM points and perhaps defend his lead. Today is a big day for Nydam to defend his lead. The BMC rider had shaved his head a few days ago in solidarity with his dad's cancer treatment, but he admitted that the other day, in some atrocious weather, he really noticed a lot of body heat leaving out of his head.

12:21 PST    41km/128.6km to go
Nydam told Mark Zalewksi before the race that he was able to save enough energy yesterday in the time trial, so he didn't have to dig too deep and is ready for whatever happens today. Probably his biggest KOM challenger is now Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick Step), who picked up some points in the early KOMs today.

12:22 PST   
Quick Step is having a good day so far. In typical Belgian weather (think wind and rain) Stijn Devolder won the individual time trial of Volta ao Algarve earlier today from Castro Marin to Tavira. The Belgian champion, with his first win with Quick Step colors, showed his technical abilities on the 29 kilometers TT. Sylvain Chavanel (Team Cofidis) and Hector Guerra (Liberty Seguros) were second and third after him.

12:24 PST   
Leaders have 5km to sprint - our first one for today coming up in Ojai. Our two chasers have separated. Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) is 20 seconds behind his former companion.

12:29 PST   
Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) is one of the riders we at first thought was in the break today. His team director Jonas Carney told Kirsten Robbins this morning that his team has been decimated by the illness going around. He only has five guys left in the race, and two of them are sick today, leaving him just three healthy riders. He pointed to Candelario, who has been climbing and sprinting well throughout the Tour so far as one rider who could go off the front, and in fact, has. He got top 10 in one stage so far. Carney is hoping that Candelario will be able to get over the climb with whatever bunch there is.

12:30 PST   
Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) is getting caught by the peloton now, but Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) is still out there on his own - chasing the break.

12:32 PST    50.2km/119.4km to go
The leaders did not contest the sprint since none of them are contenders in the sprint points competition. They instead are funneling all their energy toward maintaining their break - looking at the long haul for today. They rolled it through the sprint line and the results were
1 David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott)
2 Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
3 Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)

12:34 PST   
One kilometer to go to the sprint for the peloton. The riders are passing a rug sale alongside the road - unfortunately, there is no time to shop.

12:35 PST   
Both of our chasers, Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team) and Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing), have been caught by the peloton, so we are down to just six riders off the front, followed by the main peloton.

12:38 PST    50km/119.6km to go
It seems to be getting colder out here - we're watching the riders put on some more layers. The field is seeing the 5km to go sign for the next and third KOM coming up. This one is on California Route 150. It's a category 3, topping out at 1,255 feet (383 m).

12:39 PST   
The break has increased its lead to 5.30. The roads of today's stage are part of a local club's long ride- which turns off just before Ojai and goes around Lake Casitas and back via Ventura.

12:41 PST   
Lance Armstrong used to come out this way several times during the winter to train on these roads. Sometimes, he'd join in the local club ride. We've gone 1km to go to the KOM, which is followed by still more climbing. The peloton is passing orange tree groves.

12:42 PST    56.5km/113.1km to go
Top two in the KOM are Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) and Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis).

12:43 PST   
They will continue to climb for another few miles before a big, long, fast descent, maybe eight miles or so.

12:47 PST   
Rory Sutherland is one of the riders in the break. He's been keeping us posted every day on the happenings of the Tour of California with his diary. Check out his entries.

12:49 PST   
We have a correction to make - our transmissions were a bit garbled in the mountains. Its not Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) in the break, but David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott).

12:52 PST    59.5km/110.1km to go
Astana is still in control on the front of the main peloton. The time gap is now up to 6.00.

12:54 PST   
We may see the time gap continue to go up as the peloton is taking a nature break and also taking some time to refuel. They're between one third and half-way through today's stage, so they will need plenty more calories to get through the rest of the stage.

12:56 PST   
Our six break riders are rotating through steadily - they are sharing the load and frequently taking turns at the front. A few of them are taking drinks as they rotate through the rear of the break.

13:01 PST    68km/101.6km to go
We've crossed the Santa Paula creek and are going by Thomas Aquinas College. We saw some kids out standing on the bed of a pickup truck - jumping up and down and cheering on the break.

13:02 PST   
Next up is another sprint, our second and final one of today. It comes in Santa Paula and again offers time bonuses to the top three riders across the line.

13:05 PST   
The lead group has stretched the lead to 6.15 - gaining another 15 seconds in the last few miles. The riders are taking turns in a tuck position in the front of the break as they see the 5km to go to the sprint sign.

13:08 PST   
We finally have results from the third KOM. They are
1 Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole)
2 Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
3 Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom)
4 Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
5 Karsten Kroon (Team CSC)

13:09 PST    75.9km/93.7km to go
The gap has grown to 6.30 and the leaders see 1km to go to the sprint. We wonder if they'll contest this one.

13:11 PST   
David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott) is setting the pace. They are riding through it - no sprint - as they work smoothly together to extend their lead.

13:12 PST   
There won't be any time bonuses left for the main peloton when they come through the sprint. Only the top three places scored extra seconds. We pass another Swiss flag being held on the side of the road. Two fire trucks are holding a giant American flag over the road - the riders pass under.

13:13 PST   
It's feed zone time for our leaders.

13:14 PST   
The peloton is just coasting along. They're making their ride look effortless at the moment. Official results for the sprint we just passed are
1 Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
2 Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom)
3 Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole)

13:18 PST   
The peloton now rolls through the feed zone. Next, the riders will approach the final KOM of the day, the famous Balcom Canyon climb. It's a category four, topping out at 1,027 feet (313m). They still have plenty more climbing after this KOM, but none of it will count toward the official KOM classification. The time gap has grown to 7.10.

13:21 PST   
We passed a set of train tracks, with a train waiting. Apparently, officials held it up for the race to pass by - like they did last year.

13:23 PST   
The Balcom Canyon climb is pretty epic. The past few years, the crowds have been huge along it. It's all rock - no trees and as its name implies, it feels like climbing up through a canyon - with steep rock walls. There is this kilometer long section over which the crowds can see the whole way up and over the gap. The leaders are getting 5km to go to the KOM line.

13:25 PST   
Kim Kirchen (High Road) abandons. The advantage of the leaders drops a bit, by about ten seconds, to 7.00. They still have a long way to go to sustain their lead.

13:26 PST   
Given the current gap, Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis) is actually the virtual leader on the road. We think he must be feeling pretty good today since he stuck out his tongue at Mark Zalewski earlier in the day around the first sprint.

13:28 PST   
We'll have to take that back - I guess we can't do math and watch racing at the same time! Sutherland was 18.24 back in the GC after yesterday's TT, so he can't be leading the race with a 7 minute gap.

13:29 PST   
Most of the break riders are standing out the saddling and climbing smoothly. Astana is still on the front of the peloton, controlling the pace.

13:30 PST   
The break riders pass a man waving a giant American flag - careful not catch that flag in the spokes!

13:31 PST   
Someone must have told the crowds at Balcom Canyon to dress up. We're passing what appears to be the pope and the grim reaper - running alongside the race.

13:33 PST   
The road is lined with crowds along both sides - tons of people have come out.

13:35 PST    90km/79.6km to go
The break is descending after cresting Balcom Canyon.

13:39 PST   
The field is still climbing up - spread pretty wide across the road - they're passing the pope. One of the riders borrowed the grim reaper scythe and rode with it for a few meters.

13:40 PST    92.5km/77.1km to go
Our day's final KOM results (#4) are
1 David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott)
2 Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
3 Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom)
4 Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole).

13:41 PST   
The main peloton crests over Balcom Canyon and begins their descent. They've got 50 miles remaining in the race, much of which will be uphill.

13:43 PST   
When the riders reach Santa Clarita, our finishing city for stage 6, they will have to negotiate three finishing circuits. Between now and the finish, there are no more KOMs or sprints.

13:45 PST   
Some of the riders have come off the back of the pack over the climb. Among them is Mario Cipollini. Two of his Rock Racing team-mates have dropped back to help him catch back up - they are negotiating their way through the caravan.

13:48 PST   
Thanks to the controversy before the Tour of California began, Rock Racing could not start three of its riders, so it's been doing the whole race with just five members. However, that may not be such a disadvantage now since so many teams have lost many riders to illness.

13:49 PST   
The sun we mentioned at the start is completely gone and the skies are gray and heavy - including at the finish. Rain is in the forecast - we'll have to see if the riders can make it to the end of the stage before the precipitation gets going again. Looks like Tom Boonen has a wheel problem.

13:49 PST   
But now the Quick Step rider is back in the field.

13:51 PST   
One rider we haven't heard much from today is Dominique Rollin (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team), the rider who is leading the sprint competition. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is the rider at the top of the Best Young rider classification today. Gesink was in a two man break earlier this week with Leipheimer, and he won a stage.

13:53 PST    102.3km/67.3km to go
Team High Road has decided to take an interest in helping the peloton chase so it's no longer all Astana at the front. The pack is pretty well strung out in a line. With the new commitment, the gap is down to 6.15.

13:56 PST   
Cipollini is hanging onto his team car - looks like the mechanic is servicing his brakes. We have reports that Scott Tietzel (Jelly Belly) is abandoning.

13:57 PST   
Two Rabobank riders join in the chase effort - the gap is down to about 6.00. High Road and Astana riders are still up there putting in their turns.

13:59 PST   
The break riders are all on their hoods - riding steadily, but nothing like the guys in the pack, who are all in the drops looking and riding intensely. They appear to be on a mission now to reel in the break. The sprinters' teams will be motivated to make the catch so they can go for the stage win.

14:01 PST   
Scott Zwizanski (Bissell) just stopped and gave Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) his bike. Team Bissell is helping them back up as the peloton keeps driving - the gap is down to 5.45.

14:03 PST   
The break is on a high speed descent with sweeping turns. They are using the entire road to their advantage.

14:05 PST   
Karsten Kroon (Team CSC) is leading the break. Looks like Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) is starting to struggle a bit. He's been gapped off just a bit and is back there rubbing his leg and hip - he may be dealing with some cramps.

14:07 PST    111km/58.6km to go
Astana, Rabobank and High Road riders are at the front of the peloton still driving. The gap has dropped to 5.30.

14:09 PST   
Tomorrow's final stage will be different than in previous years. It is not a circuit race for the first time, but will instead be a a point to point race with a tough mountain in the middle.

14:12 PST    115.8km/53.8km to go
Everyone in the break is still taking their turn rotating through, even Cozza who looked to be hurting. Gap is down to 5.15, with the peloton strung out in their chase effort.

14:15 PST   
The riders have a little more than 20 miles until they reach the circuits in Santa Clarita. David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott) is the highest placed rider in the break. We'll see if he and the others in the break can hold off the charging pack. It's quite a bit of uphill for much of the way to Santa Clarita.

14:18 PST   
The break riders are executing an almost perfect echelon although we can see their heads are drooping somewhat from the effort. As the pack continues to reel them in, their chances of holding on until the finish are diminishing.

14:21 PST   
High Road, Quick Step and Rabobank are all motivated to chase - they have no riders in the break and will want to set up their sprinters so they have a shot at the stage winner. Leipheimer is safely tucked in the main group with his Astana team-mates - he's a little harder to recognize with his white, red and blue long sleeve jacket covering up his yellow leader's jersey.

14:22 PST   
Leipheimer had dropped back to the team car briefly to chat with DS Ekimov. Now he's working his way back up through the pack to his safety spot near the front of the peloton.

14:26 PST    124km/45.6km to go
The riders are passing orange groves - we see a bunch of oranges on the ground - hmmm, it's been a long day in the car following the race, maybe we should stop and grab some for a snack?

14:28 PST   
The gap is down to 4.30. We want to know what you think...will the break hold the lead and if so who is your favorite pick? What about if it comes down to a field sprint? Send mail to commentator@cyclingnews.com.

14:29 PST   
Karsten Kroon (Team CSC) gapped his break mates slightly - he seems a little stronger than some of the others. The six do not look as smooth as before although they are still together.

14:30 PST   
When the riders reach Santa Clarita, they'll face a tough circuit finish with some ups and downs. There is a hard right hand turn just 300m or so before the finish, which is somewhat uphill. They'll see three to go after they enter the circuit.

14:33 PST   
Last year, this stage featured a short section of gravel roads, but that wasn't a problem this year. That section of road has since been paved over.

14:35 PST    139km/30.6km to go
Leipheimer has his game face on in the peloton. He looks to be pedalling smoothly - nicely tucked in behind his team-mates. The gap is below four minutes - now at 3.50.

14:36 PST   
There is a crash.

14:37 PST   
Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Scott) went down but is back rolling again.

14:38 PST   
Rabobank, Quick Step and High Road are at the head of the main pack which is all strung out. We're at 3.10 - gap is dropping steadily.

14:40 PST   
We think an Astana rider may have crashed. We're trying to get confirmation.

14:41 PST   
We have confirmation - it's Vladimir Gusev (Astana) as the rider who crashed.

14:42 PST   
Poor Gusev - after working so hard to protect Leipheimer - may be seeing the end of his Tour. An ambulance has been summoned. The peloton is racing on at 30 mph (48.2 kph).

14:47 PST   
We've crossed into Los Angeles County and the gap is still shrinking.

14:52 PST    141.6km/28km to go
Peloton is still moving - in double file and rotating through. The sun is out now - we can see the shadows of the riders. It must have warmed up some because some riders have stripped jackets.

14:52 PST   
We're below the three minute mark - the gap is down to 2:55.

14:54 PST   
Each of the three circuits in Santa Clarita is 3.5 miles long (5.6 km).

14:56 PST    144.6km/25km to go
25 km to go. We can see Magic Mountain as we pass under I-5. The time gap has shrunk to 2:45. The motorcycle official is holding up the board to lead the break riders know their status.

14:59 PST   
We're in Santa Clarita now, so we'll be heading onto the circuit in a few more miles. The terrain has us going over a few roller coasters.

14:59 PST   
Yannick Talabardon (Credit Agricole) has a rear flat - what bad timing!

15:02 PST   
Yannick Talabardon is trying to work his way back up. The break's advantage keeps dropping - now it's at 2.15.

15:05 PST    149.6km/20km to go
We see Paolo Bettini sitting in the pack effortlessly moving around. The lead six are still working together, but they've been out there a long time and must be feeling the fatigue.

15:07 PST    149.6km/20km to go
The sprinters are moving up through the field. We've got our eye on Mario Cipollini with Freddie Rodriguez and Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini. George Hincapie is near the front with his High Road squad.

15:07 PST   
The leaders are entering the final circuit now and are still rotating. The gap is at about 2 minutes.

15:08 PST   
Rabobank and Quick Step are at the front of the pack - driving hard to bring back the break. High Road's still up there too. Wind will certainly be a factor today.

15:09 PST   
The peloton is now on the circuit. They'll see three to go now - what the leaders saw less than 2 minutes ago.

15:10 PST   
Three Quick Step riders are at the front of the peloton - setting up for Boonen and Bettini.

15:10 PST   
Cozza is at the back of the break - he took a big pull and we can't tell if he's resting up or just really hurting at the back of it.

15:11 PST   
Based on earlier, we're guessing he's hurting. The break riders are talking - they're probably not happy about this. So Cozza is back in rotation - pulling his turn again.

15:12 PST   
Gap is down to 1.40. George Hincapie is at the front of the peloton.

15:12 PST   
He's followed by two other High Road Riders and a Quick Step rider.

15:13 PST   
Alexandre Pichot is pushing hard and Cozza is clearly hurting. Gap is 1.30.

15:14 PST   
Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis) and David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott) look pretty good.

15:14 PST   
High Road is stringing out the main pack, but Leipheimer still looks comfy within the field.

15:15 PST   
Cipollini is on Leipheimer's wheel. Gap is down to 1.00.

15:15 PST   
The break sees two finishing circuits to go.

15:16 PST   
Crash - four Rock racing riders down!!

15:17 PST   
Cipollini and Rodriguez are down. Cipollini gets a bike swap.

15:17 PST   
We're at 55 seconds for a gap. Rodriguez went to get back on his bike and his wheel collapsed under him.

15:18 PST   
The break is getting really disorganized but now they're trying to get back to work.

15:19 PST   
Freddie Rodriguez is back on a bike and rolling now.

15:19 PST   
In fact, all of our crashed riders are up riding again. Rabobank is driving the peloton.

15:20 PST   
Mark Cavendish (High Road) is in the caravan - we think he crashed, too.

15:21 PST   
Bettini is right up there in the pack. The gap is down to just 25 seconds. Bettini has two other Quick Step riders with him.

15:21 PST   
Make that four Quick Step riders with Bettini.

15:22 PST   
One lap to go ... the break is separating with just 15 seconds. Sutherland takes a flyer off the front of the break followed by Pichot.

15:23 PST   
They reel him in and Cozza counters.

15:23 PST   
Cozza is driving the front but the gap is coming down fast. Peloton is in sight with Quick Step driving hard. The break riders are looking back.

15:23 PST   
Boonen is on the front with his four team-mates.

15:24 PST   
Cozza gives it another attack - he just won't give up - what a trooper.

15:25 PST   
David Canada Gracia (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) are left off the front the rest are caught. David Millar attacks.

15:25 PST   
Miller bridges up in TT mode - there are three off the front now with about 5 seconds on the pack.

15:27 PST   
They've got 3km to go. Astana is reacting to the leaders -they don't want to give up any time to Millar in the GC, esp. with 10 seconds on the line for the winner.

15:27 PST   
Quick step is helping Astana chase. Millar is looking for help, but his two break mates seem too fried to do much after all day off the front.

15:28 PST   
The three are working together again now.

15:28 PST   
10, 6 and 4 seconds are on the line. Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) sits up. 1 km to go.

15:29 PST   
The other two are caught and Quick Step is on the front.

15:29 PST   
Bettini is in fourth. High Road is up there, too.

15:29 PST   
Rollin goes for it!

15:30 PST   
But High Road's Cavendish comes around and takes it on the right side.

15:31 PST   
Juan Jose Haedo was in there as was Ciolek.

15:32 PST   
Provisional top three:
1 Mark Cavendish (High Road)
2 Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Saunier Duval-Scott)
3 Juan Jose Haedo (Team CSC)

15:32 PST   
Cavendish is elated with his win. Leipheimer will hold on to his GC lead.

15:36 PST   
High Road will be delighted with their stage win as their highest rider in the GC has been George Hincapie (High Road).

15:39 PST   
Well, that wraps up our live coverage for stage 6. Stay tuned for our full coverage of the stage here on Cyclingnews. Thanks for joining us and we hope you'll be back for tomorrow's final stage 7. We'll start live coverage at 12:00 noon PST / 15:00 EST.

A final note after the fact: Mark Cavendish was given a time penalty for hanging onto a team car while trying to regain the peloton after his crash on the finishing circuits. Therefore, Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Saunier Duval-Scott) takes the win ahead of Juan Jose Haedo (Team CSC) and world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) in third.

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