Posted by Editoress on 02/16/09
Our coverage ot the Amgen Tour of California made possible with the support of Shimano
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) took back 'his' Yellow Jersey on Stage 2 at the Amgen Tour of California today, with a massive solo effort at the end of a second day of wind and rain. Leipheimer was second on the 187 kilometre stage to Garmin-Slipstream's Tom Peterson, who latched onto the defending champion's wheel as he blew through the remnants of an early breakaway group on the final climb.
When the riders began in heavy rain for a second straight day in Sausalito, it was no wonder that little effort was made by Mancebo's team to chase back a break of ten riders that slipped off the front in ones and twos in the early kilometres. After a neutral start that took the peloton over the iconic Golden Gate bridge, the riders wound through the Presidio Park before heading to the Pacific Coast Highway.
Made up of eight teams, the break contained Canadian Cam Evans (Ouch p/b Maxxis), Jason McCartney (Team Saxo Bank), Steven Cozza and Thomas Peterson (both Garmin - Slipstream), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Stef Clement and Grischa Niermann (both Rabobank), Markus Zberg (BMC), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1).
Rock Racing, closely followed by Astana, monitored the gap carefully, never allowing it to grow beyond five minutes. However, the strong gusting headwind along the coast, and cold driving rain when the riders turned inland to go over each of the two ranked climbs, sapped the strength and will of the leader group.
The second climb - Bonny Doon - was where the leaders crumbled, and where Leipheimer launched his move. Barredo had attacked, with only Peterson and McCartney able to respond (and then drop him). However, Astana looked around, saw that Rock Racing was spent, and that Mancebo was struggling after his huge effort the day before.
"I could see that it had taken a lot out of him - we're only human - and I was feeling really good, so I said to [Yaroslav] Popovych 'Light it up Popo'. He did it, and strung everything out. When there was just the two of us there, I opened it up. There was nothing left in the tank by the end."
Leipheimer scooped up the break on his way through, with none but McCartney and Peterson able to match his pace over the top of the climb. It was mostly downhill or flat into the finish in Santa Cruz, but the one little 'popper' of a hill the trio hit was too much for McCartney, who drifted back to the chase group. Peterson just gritted his teeth and hung on, while Leipheimer powered into the town. In the final 150 metres, the young Garmin rider wasn't even challenged by Leipheimer as he came by to take the stage win.
A chase group of 18, including Armstrong and Cam Evans rolled in 21 seconds later, while the shattered Mancebo finished with the next group, nearly two minutes down. Dom Rollin (Cervelo) was the next Canadian finisher, in 46th place at just over four minutes, and is the top-ranked Canadian on GC in 41st place - 8:21 off the pace.
- There were a couple of significant crashes, both due to the wind and rain. Armstrong was taken down at the back of the peloton while he fiddled with his shoe by a photo moto - ironically, it was the photographer for his own Foundation. Astana said Armstrong was fine, and didn't blame the driver, saying the conditions were very bad. However, shortly afterwards, organizers told the photo bikes to back off from Armstrong and give him space.
The second crash was just as Armstrong was rejoining the field, and involved a significantly larger number of riders, with Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) slamming into a parked car. He was taken to hospital, but the report is that he will be fine.
- Tomorrow's stage, 168 kilometres from San Jose to Modesto, begins with, what has in past years been, a decisive final climb up Sierra Road, to 588 metres (1930 feet). They then drop all the way back down before hitting Patterson Pass at over 450 metres, 80 kilometres into the stage. Once again, the riders go straight back down, with a flat run into Modesto for the second half of the stage. This will likely be the first chance for the sprinters to show their stuff.
- The forecast is, once again, cold with heavy rain. There is a slight chance it will start to clear up the next day, but no one is getting their hopes up.