Posted by Editoress on 02/22/06
Tour of California
Reports made possible by the support of MAXXIS tires
Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California saw a new race leader, and a very popular one at that - George Hincapie (Discovery) won both the stage and took the leader's jersey with the 10 second bonus he was awarded with the stage victory. Michael Barry was instrumental in Hincapie's victory - pacing his team mate on the final climb, and helping to chase down a dangerous break containing race leader Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and Floyd Landis (Phonak).
The 153 kilometre stage is the second longest of the race, and featured what the riders were calling the hardest climb of the race. Starting in Martinez, on the south side of Oakland Bay, the riders faced a series of up and down climbs and winding roads before the final two ascents of the day and a downhill plunge into San Jose.
The second from last climb, on Calaveras Road was the longest, but it was the final climb, up Sierra Road, that split the peloton apart. Six kilometres in length, the riders ran into a wall the moment they turned onto the road. once over the top, it was a fast, twisty descent to the bottom and then 16 kilometres of flat to the finish.
The riders began slowly, until a crash in the middle of the field took down eight riders just before the first KoM of the day. Eight riders went down, with Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Irish champion David O'Loughlin (Navigators) being the most seriously affected. Both were able to rejoin the peloton.
Michael Creed (TIAA-CREF) attacked almost immediately after the crash, and was joined by Ben Jacques-Mayne (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) and Mads Kaggestad (Credit Agricole) within 10 kilometres. The trio were working smoothly together and took their lead to over six minutes with 90 kilometres left in the stage.
With 50 kilometres to go, Gerolsteiner had brought the gap down to less than four minutes and the leaders were flagging. By the base of the Sierra Road climb the gap was under two minutes, and the break was splitting apart. Jacques-Maynes was the first to drop off, then Kaggestad, and finally Creed, the instigator of the break, halfway up the climb.
The front group was down to a dozen, with all the main contenders in attendance - Hincapie, Leipheimer, Landis, Julich, Zabriskie, Simoni, Horner, etc. Hincapie was the best supported, with both Barry and Tom Danielson there.
Leipheimer, Landis and Mountain Jersey holder Bernard Kohl (T Mobile) dropped the rest of the leaders before the summit, but went over the top less than a minute in advance. Barry went to the front to reel them in, and the group was back together with 10 kilometres to go. Then, Barry, Jose Gomez (Saunier Duval) and Julich all made attempts to get away, but no one was willing to let them go, setting the stage for a sprint among the remaining 22 riders.
The course took a couple of quick right-left combinations, with the final turn 300 metres from the line. Hincapie went to front out of the corner and easily held off Chris Horner and his Davitamon-Lotto team mate Josep Jufre Pou for the stage win and the race leader's jersey. Race leader Leipheimer finished fourth, just out of the time bonuses.
- Tomorrow is the 27 kilometre time trial, which is likely to determine the final GC. Hincapie is only four seconds ahead of Leipheimer, nine ahead of Julich, 10 in front of Landis and 13 seconds ahead of Zabriskie. Hincapie pointed to Leipheimer and Landis as his favourites for the time trial. "Both Floyd and Levi are going very well right now; they look really strong. Tomorrow is a crucial day, probably the most crucial of the race. Obviously we want to win the race, so if we stay close (after the time trial), we'll keep attacking. But, this is my hardest effort since San Francisco (Grand Prix) last September. I've been training, but it's difficult to know how your body will react in a race situation."
- The official estimate for today crowd was 140,000 - 150,000... Every day we wait with bated breath for the latest number. Knowledgeable observers put it closer to 50,000 (still a good number). The final climb was packed for the last two kilometres.
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