Rainy Santa Rosa stage splits contenders from pretenders
With just two Amgen Tour of California stages behind, the Radioshack team has already poised itself to deliver captain Levi Leipheimer to his fourth consecutive Tour victory. He and team-mates Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner, Jani Brajkovic and Jose Luis Rubiera were all in a front group of 27 that contested the stage finish in Santa Rosa.
For Armstrong, the result was the kind of positive sign that he had hoped for following a doubt-filled early season. "[Armstrong] said he felt really good today. He didn’t have to do a big effort or an attack, but he felt comfortable when the selection was made which is a good sign," said Radioshack manager Johan Bruyneel.
The race's move to May hasn't completely eliminated cold, wet weather from the race, but the Radioshack team was able to use the rain on the second stage and some local knowledge of the finish town to position itself nicely for the general classification battle ahead.
On the 177.2km stage from Davis to Leipheimer's adopted home town of Santa Rosa, the team took control of the race, despite the overall lead being in the hands of the HTC-Columbia squad of stage one winner Mark Cavendish.
With the steep category two climb of Trinity Road placed just 33km from the finish, and a white-knuckled descent on twisty, poorly paved roads, a number of teams came to grief but Radioshack emerged unscathed to place five riders in the leading group of 27.
Experience with last year's even-worse weather and local knowledge helped the team negotiate the day and stay safely at the front. "Last year was worse it was every day and it was colder," said Bruyneel. "Today there were some parts where the roads were very slippery and there were a lot of crashes. I could feel that also the car slipped a few times in the downhill. I saw a lot of guys going down.
"It was good that the guys were in the front because they didn't have to take too many risks,” he added. “Before...
The Garmin-Transitions team passed the first critical stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Monday with all its general classification contenders intact.
With David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and outside hopefuls Ryder Hesjedal and Peter Stetina also making a 27-rider split that finished well ahead of the rest of the field, the team is now second only to Radioshack in the number of riders from the team still in contention for the win.
Team director Jonathan Vaughters said the riders who made the front group were the ones who were strongest up the finishing climb, Trinity Road, in the final 35km.
"At the top the group was down to 12 guys after [Radioshack riders] Jani Brajkovic and Chechu Rubiera set a hard tempo on the climb," said Vaughters.
"Radioshack had five, we had four, [Michael] Rogers was there and a couple more - if you look at the group it was all the strongest guys on the climb. Those are the same guys who will be fighting on the climbs tomorrow."
Going up against Radioshack's Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner on the coming stages will test the team's mettle, but Vaughters hopes for either a superb performance from Zabriskie in the Los Angeles time trial this Saturday or a bit of miscalculation on Radioshack's part to get the edge.
"This is Radioshack's race - they have their strongest team here because they aren't doing the Giro d'Italia, so we're not as strong as a unit as they are," said Vaughters.
"The time trial is, however, suited to Zabriskie even more so than [last year's race] in Solvang, so if he has an incredible day or if Radioshack gets overly focused on him and makes a mistake, then we can break their hold on the race."
Vaughters' riders will have to keep watch for attacks not only from Radioshack and Ruta del Sol winner Rogers, but also Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt who he considers perhaps a bigger threat than Andy Schleck. He noted that his team will be ready...
Dropped riders trying to get back on during a wet second stage of the Amgen Tour of California saw frequent crashes throughout the stage. Fortunately there has been no reports of serious injuries resulting from the incidents, although the damage was done to the overall hopes of BMC Racing Team’s George Hincapie.
Team Radioshack director Johan Bruyneel admitted the conditions were challenging, but was glad none of his riders were involved. “There were some parts [of the road] that were very slippery. And there were a lot of crashes,” he said. “I saw a lot of guys going down, so it was good that the guys [from Radioshack] were in the front so they didn’t take too many risks.
“When I saw those crashes on the downhill, it was mostly guys who were dropped and were trying to make it back, taking more risks than they should,” he added. “But there’s only one way to go back to the front group and that’s to go faster than they do…so you have to take risks.”
Cervelo Test Team sport director Jean Paul van Poppel agreed that riders were taking too many risks on the stage. “We saw a lot of crashes on the downhill, it was super slippery,” said Van Poppel. “Some people went over the edge, one fell in front of the car - I think they took too many risks.”
Wearing the stars and stripes of the USA national champion, Hincapie was among the riders to crash on the stage. “I didn't feel good at all on the climbs," Hincapie said. "That's probably normal after crashing at 60 kp/h. Hopefully I'll feel better as the race goes on."
While it ended the day on a high note UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis also suffered a tough day during the stage. After falling the previous day Andrew Pinfold went down again, leaving him with “road rash on top of road rash”. Team-mate Matt Crane fell on the Oakville Grade descent, while Chris Baldwin also had a fall...
Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) fell four seconds shy of the capturing the golden leader's jersey when a tyre slide on the wet pavement caused him to lose position during the final sprint in stage two's 177km road race at the Amgen Tour of California.
The Australian sprinter placed 12th, out of the time bonuses offered to the top three finishers and currently sits in third place overall behind race leader Brett Lancaster (Cervélo Test Team) and stage runner up Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo).
"I think we would have been able to win the stage today," Menzies told Cyclingnews. "But, if I wasn't in that breakaway today, I wouldn't have been in that front group. I was able to climb the climbs at my own pace and the last climb I gave everything I just had to try to get to the top of it.
"I knew when I got to the top I'd be fine. The group came across and I was looking forward to the sprint because we had Marc [De Maar] and Rory [Sutherland] there... Shit happens. Rory still had a good sprint, he was fourth. It was definitely an opportunity lost but we put it out there and raced hard."
Menzies rode into an early breakaway of five riders that included Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Andrew Randell (SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and Jay Thomson (Fly V Australia).
The five riders maintained a steady five-minute margin ahead of the peloton, lead predominantly by the RadioShack team. Menzies picked up a total of six seconds at the two intermediate sprint zones offered on route making him the virtual leader on the road.
"It's definitely good for our confidence today," Menzies continued. "Rory and Marc were riding really well and Max Jenkins wasn't far off there on the climb. I felt good in the group. It was a good confidence booster because we've been in the breakaways and animating the race so far."
After riding more than 160km off the front, a group of 20 riders...
RadioShack rider pleased to be back in the peloton
Team RadioShack’s Daryl Impey has said he has felt no ill-effects after his return to racing at the Tour of Picardie following a serious crash at the Tour of Catalonia in late March. Speaking to Cyclingnews from his Spanish base in Girona, the 25-year-old South African described himself as, "impressed with the condition I had" in the three-day French stage race.
"It didn’t go too badly at all. I didn’t have any expectations really as it was my first race in a couple of months and I just had some training back home under my belt. But I went there intending to do a good job for the team and I think I managed that. I did my part, chasing down breaks and setting the pace in the bunch.
"I was actually impressed with the condition I had. There were some good signs for the upcoming races. It was good to get my racing legs back and also to see all the boys again, to get that racing vibe."
Impey crashed on the third stage in Catalonia while part of a break of 13 riders. Writing about the incident on his website, he recalled: "We were coming down a really sketchy descent and we had a sharp left at the bottom of this downhill which had gravel on it. I was sixth wheel and I followed the guys in front, but for some reason my rear wheel slid on the gravel and I then lost control, sliding into a barrier and over the bridge into a river six metres below. I hit my head really hard and my Giro helmet saved my life, that’s for sure. I banged my knee pretty badly on the concrete pillar."
He received several stitches in his knee but told Cyclingnews that it’s feeling okay now. "I’ve got no niggles or pain, there’s just a little bump on it, so I was pretty lucky considering how bad things could have been. The team have been great, not putting on any pressure on me at all, telling me to take as much time as I need."
The South African’s next target will be the Tour of Luxembourg....
Last season Cervélo TestTeam got their season off and running at the Amgen Tour of California through Thor Hushovd. With the Norwegian missing through injury it was a chance to shine for other members of the team and on stage two Brett Lancaster came up trumps, winning the sprint from a select group and claiming the overall lead in the process. Here, team DS Jean-Paul van Poppel assesses the team's performance and looks ahead to stage three.
Jean-Paul van Poppel evaluates Cervélo's stage two performance in California
Cyclingnews' Amgen Tour of California video is brought to you by Specialized
HTC-Columbia's Allan Peiper describes the action from stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, where Mark Cavendish won an exciting sprint finish.
Saxo Bank owner still confident about team's future
Bjarne Riis has denied that he already has a contract with SunGard to sponsor Team Saxo Bank for the coming year, but did not deny the possibility of the American-based company taking over.
“I've heard rumours that SunGard is our new main sponsor. But the fact is that we have not signed anything,” he told sporten.dk. “I can only say what I have always said, namely that I am confident in the team's future.”
Riis and team CEO Trey Greenwood are in the US for the Tour of California. Riis's comments contrast with those of Greenwood, who recently told sporten.dk that the rumours were “totally false” and that it would be, ”totally untrue that we would be close to closing negotiations with SunGard.”
Saxo Bank announced the beginning of the year that it would end its sponsorship as of the end of 2010. SunGard signed on as a minor sponsor this season.
Alberto Contador will once again not ride the Spanish national road championships as he prepares to defend his 2009 Tour de France title.
Coming a week before the start of the Tour in Amsterdam, Contador cited the course scheduled for the 226.4km road race (June 27) as the reason for his decision not to compete, although he indicated that he is likely to defend his 2009 Spanish time trial title on June 24.
“The road race is ruled out since the route is flat and usually run on quite dangerous roads,” the Astana rider said on the Spanish Eurosport broadcast of the Giro d'Italia on Monday. “Most likely I will race the time trial.”
Last year, he claimed the Spanish national time trial title. It was the first national championship victory in his eight-year career.
The 27-year-old's last race was Liège-Bastogne-Liège the end of April. After a racing break, he has resumed training and is now preparing for the Tour de France, which he hopes to win for the third time. His next race with be the Dauphiné Libéré, June 6-13. Contador said he will go that race “relaxed”, with his main focus on the Tour three weeks later.