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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Amgen Tour of California. Today is stage 1, the first stage of the 2010 race, from Nevada City to Sacramento. The racers will compete over 104.3 miles (167.8km), during which the stage will be net downhill.
The riders have received the two minutes until start warning. They will roll off for a 1.6-mile neutral section before the racing officially gets underway.
Although racers will spend more time today going downhill than uphill, there is a fairly nasty hill early in the race, so we are expecting fireworks not too long after the start. Lots of people have come out to watch the start in Nevada City, a town that has a very western feel.
It is quite warm and sunny here - in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) - and everything is in bloom. The riders are about to roll out for their neutral through the streets of Nevada City. For those of you who need a bit of brushing up your geography, despite having "Nevada" in its name, Nevada City is actually in the state of California.
Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo is in a car following the race today and will be helping us bring you up-to-the-minute reports. All of the official cars in the caravan are Nissans this year. The company also sponsors Team Radioshack. It also used to sponsor the Mountain Bike World Cup in years past.
We were a little eager for things to get started, and in fact, the riders just now got the one-minute to go signal.
The riders are rolling out into the neutral section. Some of you may recognize the name Nevada City as it is the home to the Nevada City Classic, the nation's second oldest bicycle race. The race will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, on Sunday, June 20.
The peloton has reached the point where the race should have gone live, but the start has been delayed as Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has a flat. He's getting a wheel change. It was nice timing as that happened before the attacks get going.
Right out of the neutral section, there is a painful-looking hill. It would make for a tough start, but they are delaying the official start as Boonen makes his way back up after his wheel change. Some racers may be thanking him for the more gentle beginning.
The race has started! It's the first stage of what will be eight, exciting days of racing here in California. This first section of road is lined with tall cedars and plenty of fans. The riders will top out at just under 3,000 feet elevation - the highest point in today's stage.
We've spotted our first Italian flag held by spectators. They have plenty of riders to cheer for in the race this year.
The peloton is heading down a quick descent. There is a sharp left at the bottom, then more descending. It's probably too fast for an attack - they are going 38mph. Everyone is single-file and just booking it.
Jelly Belly's Kiel Reijnen has an untimely flat and needs a wheel. He's going to have a hard time catching up at this pace.
We've passed Union Hill elementary school and are also whizzing by lots of churches. We hope they don't mind the interruptions as we pass. However, we are saluted by a percussion group, complete with maraccas, shakers and a tamborine.
You never know what you'll see in California. We've just passed a llama owner, out with his three llamas. They are on leashes, so the peloton won't have to worry about dodging any llamas en route. There's no time for llama-gazing though as four riders have launched an attack.
The four riders, now with 25 seconds, are David Boily (SpiderTech by Planet Energy), Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo), Steven Cozza (Garmin-Transitions) and Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo Test Team). They attacked at the top of a hill.
We've got four riders off the front and two chasers, however, we're not sure on their IDs as we've just figured out our start list is not correct! We'll get you the correct information as soon as possible.
We've still got four riders off the front, but now we have three chasers. The area we're in is very remote, so unfortunately, we haven't been able to ID the riders yet.
Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Chad Beyer (BMC), Marc De Maar (United Healthcare) and Paul Mach (Bissell) are the four leaders. The chasers are William Dicknson (Jelly Belly), Scott Stewart (Team Type 1) and Jay Robert Thomson (Fly V). The leaders have about a 1:30 advantage over the peloton. The chasers are somewhere in between as they race through Grass Valley.
The three chasers have been caught by the peloton. That leaves four leaders, who have a gap of 1:00 over the chasing peloton. Near the front of the caravan, we just crossed a one-lane bridge that was super dangerous - hopefully, the peloton will get through this ok, with no crashes.
The leaders have grown their gap to an advantage of 2:57. The gap opened up when peloton negotiated the narrow bridge - fortunately, everyone made it through safely.
Our four leaders have grown their gap to 4:10. Garmin-Transitions has been called up to the field again. We're not sure what's up - maybe the team is giving its manager Jonathan Vaughters a workout? It has been years since he's been a Director Sportif in a car. We do know there are beekeepers nearby... he'd better keep the windows rolled up. You may remember from a past Tour de France, in 2001, that Vaughters is allergic. He had to withdraw from that edition after being stung by a bee and having an allergic reaction.
The first sprint of the day will happen at Meadow Vista, at mile 25, so the break is almost there. The peloton will still be awhile as it is 4:50 behind. There are two sprints today. The other is in Auburn at mile 35.0
Today's peloton contains just 128 racers. That's relatively small compared to what many of these guys are used to. This can be both good and bad. On one hand, it's easier for riders to move to the front; on the other, because it's easier for everyone to get to the front, it can get a little chaotic up there.
Results from the first sprint at Meadow Vista are
1 Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank)
2 Paul Mach (Bissell)
3 Marc De Maar (United Healthcare)
Dutchman Tjallingii is 32 years old. He's been driving the pace in the break. This is his second year with the Rabobank team. Before that he rode for Silence Lotto, Skil Shimano and the Marco Polo team.
BMC's Chad Beyer doesn't look so hot on some of these climbs. He must be struggling as the riders follow a route generally parallel to Interstate 80. The 23-year-old Beyer put in a good performance earlier this year, when he won the sprint jersey at the Tour of Romandie.
The leaders are in Auburn and they see the 5km to go sign until the second and last sprint of the day. They are exceeding the 25mph speed limit by at least 10 mph.
We just passed a bunch of stone statues that appeared to be female, Indian warriors, with bows and arrows in hand. Helicopters were flying overhead, so from our angle, it looked kind of funny - like the statues were aiming to shoot at the helicopters.
One kilometer to go until the sprint - there are lots of people out in Auburn watching the race.
We talked to Jens Voight (Saxo Bank) today before the stage and so far, his stage prediction has been right on. He told us, "I'm expecting a group of four or five guys to get off and dangle. Then we'll have three laps of a finishing circuit to work it out at the end." Likely meaning a late-race catch and a final bunch sprint.
The leaders pass through sprint number 2 in Auburn. Here are the results.
1 Chad Beyer (BMC)
2 Marc De Maar (United Healthcare)
3 Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank)
In case you missed it, we had another exciting day of racing at the Giro d'Italia today. Chris Sorensen won the stage, finishing alone at the top of Terminillo. Behind him all the GC favourites marked each other and Vino remains in pink. Carlos Sastre was the big loser for the stage and is now over eight minutes down. He’ll be looking for stage wins now.
For a complete breakdown, news, images and results click here!
We're passing the Longhorn Meat Company, with a steer statue on the storefront. The riders see a sign for an 8 percent descent. They will soon cross the Foresthill Bridge over the American River. It's the tallest bridge in the state of California, 730 feet above the riverbed. It was built from 1971 to 1973 and has made an appearance in several movies.
Riders are nearing what will be the only KOM of the day at mile 45.5. It's a Cat. 3 climb at 1,363 feet (415m) on California route 49.
Although we're in the car in front of the break, we've heard that HTC-Columbia is among the teams at the front of the chasing peloton. They seem to be biding their time though as the gap is remaining relatively stable around five minutes.
We're riding in the car with Steve Hegg, who used to race as a pro on the road and track until his retirement in 2000. He's best known for his performance at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He won gold in the 4,000m individual pursuit and silver in the 4,000m team pursuit. Hegg also won the US national time trial three times (in 1990, 1995 and 1996).
Being fast seems to run in his family as his son Jack, age 7, just won his first race at the Barrio Logan crit.
The leaders are on the KOM, along with lots of fans. Unfortunately, one of them dropped a beer bottle and it rolled down the road. Hopefully, it won't break and leave any fragments that might cause punctures.
We caught up with Tom Danielson before today's stage. He and Dave Zabriskie are part of the Garmin-Transitions' two-pronged attack for the Amgen Tour of California GC.
"Everyone is predicting that the tour will come down to the time trial in Los Angeles," said Danielson. "Zabriskie may have an edge there."
Thinking shorter term, Garmin-Transitions will be aiming to set up sprinter Robbie Hunter today. To read an article on Hunter, click here.
"Today will be a nervous stage - likely to end in a sprint," predicted Danielson.
We spotted Trent Klasna on the KOM climb. When he was on the Saturn racing team, he spent a bunch of time training on this road with Chris Horner, who now rides for RadioShack. Klasna retired in 2004. He was the 2001 US National Time Trial Champion.
Marc De Maar (United Healthcare) and Paul Mach (Bissell) have attacked fellow break-away mates Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) and Chad Beyer (BMC) on the KOM climb. They have a gap.
Then Paul Mach (Bissell) attacked Marc De Maar (United Healthcare). However they've just passed the KOM and the four break riders are back together again. Mach and De Maar must have been very interested in those KOM points.
While the men have been racing in today's stage one, pro women have been competing in a criterium in Sacramento, where the men's stage will finish. Both races are sharing the same finish line, so fans there today have the treat of getting to watch two races.
We have KOM results:
1 Paul Mach (Bissell)
2 Marc De Maar (United Healthcare)
3 Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank)
4 Chad Beyer (BMC)
5 Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia)
The four break riders took the top spots and Bak took the final points from the peloton.
Everyone has the chance to get a bite to eat at the feed zone just after the KOM, in the town of Cool.
The results from the women's crit in Sacramento are
1 Coryn Rivera (USA) Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12
2 Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Ltu) Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light
3 Joelle Numainville (Can) Webcor
The race ended in a bunch sprint, after generally staying together throughout. There were a few breaks here and there, but nothing got more than two or three seconds.
At least two teams were doing a lead out at the end of the women's race: Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 and the Vera Bradley Foundation. It worked out better for Peanut Butter as the latter did not make the podium.
It was an interesting race, according to Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini, who is in Sacramento. "It was not an NRC race, but it is getting a lot of press."
Frattini reported that it was a crazy sprint with a long straight away. There were lots of crashes, and the feeling in the peloton was that it was kind of nervous."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a complete report coming from the women's race.
Back to the men's race... did you know that Marc De Maar (United Healthcare) and Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) used to be teammates on Rabobank? United Healthcare Team Director Jeff Sobul speculated that the two Dutch riders were probably happy to be in the break together. "I bet they are talking in Dutch so the other two don't understand them," he told us.
We're getting a great view of the Sierra Nevada mountains from the descent we're on now - not that the riders will have time to look around.
Italy wasn't the only place with some wet weather racing this weekend. The world's best downhillers and four crossers competed in wet conditions at the World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia. Today, Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton took the downhill wins. Check out Cyclingnews' coverage here.
HTC-Columbia's Tejay Van Garderen has a mechanical. His team has been doing a lot of work back in the peloton to keep things under control. No doubt the squad is aiming to set up a final sprint for its star Mark Cavendish.
The sprinters teams have been working to close the gap a little. They don't seem to be in any hurry, but there is still plenty of racing to go, and probably the teams are trying to time the catch until closer to the finish.
Cervelo has been spotted at the front of the chasing peloton several times. We talked to Henrick Haussler before the race today, and he said, "Today will be one of the only sprint stages." He gave a nod to his teammate Theo Bos as a man to watch at the end. Bos is a former track specialist who's making his mark on the road. This year, he won the Clasica de Almeria, stage 5 of the Vuelta a Murcia and stages 1 and 2 of the Vuelta a Castilla y León.
We've heard a rumor that Classics superstar Fabian Cancellara, also the reigning time trial World Champion, is ill. The Saxo Bank rider had to pull out of last year's Amgen Tour of California due to illness.
Team Type 1's Aldo Ino Ilesic is a sprinter to watch today if it comes down to a bunch sprint. He's won four sprints this year at the end of 2.2-level UCI races.
"I'm confident in this stage and looking forward to a sprint finish today. I'm aiming for one more (victory) today."
He explained his approach to racing against the bigger names in the peloton. "I have a different approach to sprinting with the ProTour guys - I don't worry about them. If you worry about them you're going to loose the race."
One sprinter we haven't mentioned so far today is Tom Boonen of Quick Step. You can't count out the Belgian sprinter at the end of any race.
The crowds along the route today are impressive - among the most we've ever seen at an American road race. It kind of reminds us of the kind of spectator support we see at races like the Philadelphia International Classic, which is coming up in a few weeks, on June 6 in Pennsylvania.
Team Jelly Belly is working for its sprinter Michael Friedman, age 27. The team's riders have been taking some turns at the front of the peloton, helping to control and slowly bring back the four-man breakaway.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) told Cyclingnews at the start today that he is taking a wait and see approach today. Quick Step didn't make it over to the US until Wednesday, not giving them much time to adjust to the jet lag and local conditions. The team's bikes got delayed along the way by a day or two, but eventually they made it.
Cavendish is wearing the number 13. He's a superstitious character and has one of the numbers upside down on his back. Right now he’s near the back of the field chatting to former HTC-Columbia teammate George Hincapie, who now races for BMC.
While we've been following the action here in California, some of America's best cross country mountain bikers have been duking it out at the Chalk Creek Stampede, the second round of the US Triple Crown. According to Dave McElwaine, in Nathrop, Colorado, Georgia Gould (Luna) and Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (Subaru / Gary Fisher) had amazing weekends, winning all three events (super D, short track and cross country). All the coverage from yesterday and today will be here.
Cervelo is at the back of the bunch looking after Heinrich Haussler. He’s not raced since much earlier in the spring and this is his first race back since a long-standing knee injury. As mentioned earlier, the team is hoping for some sprint success from Theo Bos. Check out a recent news article on Bos.
When we talked to Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) before the start of today's stage, he was psyched to be back in Nevada City. He said that he had raced the Nevada City Classic here last year with teammates Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner. He added that he was very excited when he found out he would return with the Tour of California. 12 years ago, Leipheimer won the Nevada City Classic. "My career is a lot different now, but I was glad to see the city hadn't changed," he said.
The teams of the favorite sprinters are holding the gap fairly steady, at or just above three minutes' duration. They are biding their time, hoping to bring the break back with enough time to set up their men, but not enough time for there to be too much chaos and a chance for another break to go and stick. It seems like many of the teams are taking turns doing the work - probably helped by the fact that there is no GC race leader yet and therefore, no team to defend a leader's jersey.
In case you've just joined us, we have Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Chad Beyer (BMC), Marc De Maar (United Healthcare) and Paul Mach (Bissell) off the front. They've been there for most of the race - as the only break of the day. The four men are taking their turns, rotating through and then swinging off to move to the rear.
Some cross winds are hitting the peloton. Team RadioShack's Yaroslav Popovych straight away tells Lance Armstrong to get on his wheel and drags the American rider closer to the front. If anyone should know about crosswinds, it's Armstrong after he made the front side of an important split in the peloton on a windy day during the last year's Tour de France.
Speaking of RadioShack, Chris Horner is coming off a win at Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco and a solid eighth place at Liège - Bastogne - Liège. He's come back to the US and his sole goal this week is to work for Levi Leipheimer and get him the race win. He told us that if he happens to be in a late-race move, he'll have to quickly change his plan to go for a stage win, but that he's not his goal.
Jelly Belly's Jonathan Chordoff has abandoned the race after falling off the pace awhile ago and not being able to catch back up.
Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia) is on the front now. He moved from Saxo Bank at the end of last year and has made a seamless transition this season. He had a strong spring campaign, and he'll be an important rider for teammate Mark Cavendish in the sprints.
The racers are in Sacramento County, en route to Sacramento, where the stage will finish. When racers roll into the State Capitol, they will complete three finishing circuits of two miles each. The line, where the women started and finished their crit a few hours ago, is at L and 11th street.
It's 71 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy at the finish. The peloton doesn't seem too rushed to get there. Riders are rolling along, quickly, but are still fairly spread out across the road, which is running through open, grassy terrain.
The gap has shrunk to about 2:00. It's coming down slowly, but steadily - there is still plenty of time for the peloton to make the catch and set up its sprinters.
Prior to the start of today's stage, we saw Lucas Euser on a massage table outside Spider Tech. Euser shattered his patella in a crash last year and was getting taped up. He had blue tape around his knee and black tape going up his thigh. The person applying the tape was pulling up his shorts and effectively baring his butt to the crowd. We wonder what kind of tan lines he will end up with. They may go well with the web of scars all over his knees.
20 miles to go and the gap is down to 1:20. They'll hit the finishing circuit with 6.5 miles to go.
The peloton isn't working too hard as some of the favorites, like Tom Boonen, is having a chat with other riders. As they close in on the leaders, it will be interesting to see if any of the four leaders tries to attack the others and go it alone. In any case, the fireworks will be starting soon.
The finishing circuit circles a big block around the Capitol Park in Sacramento. It's not a very exciting circuit, but it is fast and flat. There are tons of people already here, waiting for the ridersto arrive.
There are about 800m from the final corner to the finish, which is a long, final straight.
There are six RadioShack riders all together, with defending race champion Levi Leipheimer, safely tucked in the midst of them. Leipheimer will have no interest in today's stage, but he'll want to stay out of trouble, avoiding any crashes or mechanicals if at all possible.
We haven't heard anything from Andy Schleck so far today, however, the Saxo Bank rider is more interested in the GC than the stage. Saxo Bank will try to set up its sprinter, JJ Haedo instead for the end of stage 1. Haedo has won stages every year at the Amgen Tour of California. In fact, Haedo is also one of three riders who have won stages in all three American major stage races - Tours of Georgia, California and Missouri.
The peloton has closed the gap to less than one minute. The leaders have just 45 seconds and are within sight of the peloton. It is only a matter of time until they are swallowed up.
The peloton is still spread fairly wide across the road as it continues to close the gap. They've got it to 40 seconds.
The peloton splits and flows around a man waving an orange flag. He is standing on a piece of road furniture just in front of what looks like a railroad crossing . Fortunately, everyone got past it with no issues.
One rider makes an effort at the front of the peloton, but he is quickly brought back. There is a medley of colorful jerseys at the front - no one team seems to dominating in the run in toward the finishing circuit.
Looks like the top four riders have been caught and everyone is back together.
Riders are marking each other at the front. Everyone's wondering who is going to try their luck first with the inevitable attacks. They are racing along wide, tree-lined, shady streets.
The teams are starting to get organized by calling their sprint lead-out trains to action.
The front of the peloton is all strung out in one long line. HTC-Columbia is at the front with Tejay Van Garderen setting the pace.
The riders are on the finishing circuit. They cross under the finish banner and will see 3 laps to go. The roar of the crowd is loud as the racers speed past.
Now there are three HTC-Columbia riders in a row at the front. They are working to keep the pace fast.
There are crowds all along the finishing circuit. It's packed!
There are some interesting obstacles on the roads of the finishing circuit. We see some cars and other vehicles. They are cordoned off with yellow caution tape and orange cones and are at various places along the straights.
Two laps to go. Columbia is still up there, but now we also see the Liquigas-Doimo train. They'll try to set up Francesco Chicchi.
Kelly Benefits has put one or two riders at the front, too - mixed in with the HTC-Columbia train.
The peloton bunches a bit going into a corner. The competition for Mark Cavendish's wheel is fierce. Then it strings out again around the bend.
HTC-Columbia now has six men in a row at the front. They're keeping it fast and furious - as the other teams try to jockey for position near the front.
One lap to go!
Cancellara is now in second place, right behind Jens Voigt. Where did all the HTC-Columbia riders go?
Saxo Bank has three men at the front, but wait, here comes the HTC-Columbia train around on the right side.
There is a crash at the back.
The crash, split the field. HTC-Columbia is back at the front and in control.
Looks like Robbie Hunter and Jonathan Cantwell are also in the fray at the front with HTC's riders.
HTC-Columbia, Liquigas, Saxo Bank and Garmin-Transitions all have their riders up front. The crash split the bunch so there are maybe just 50 or so riders in the front group.
There is another crash!
Cavendish gets the leadout and his last man swings off.
Mark Cavendish takes the stage 1 win!
Tom Boonen is on the ground after one of the crashes. He stands up gingerly.
In the final dash, Haaedo tried to come around Cavendish, but he can't manage it and ended up second.
Boonen, with major road rash and ripped clothing on his right thigh and shoulder is being pushed along by a Quick Step teammate toward the finish. His crash happened within the final 3km, so he won't lose any time for the stage.
Alexander Kristoff (BMC) finished in third ahead of Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) in fourth and Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V).
The top 10 for the stage and the GC are
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia
2Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank
3Alexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC
4Robbie Hunter (RSA) Garmin-Transitions
5Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Fly V
6Marcus Burghart (Ger) BMC
7Guillaume Boivin (Can) SpiderTech by Planet Energy
8Andreas Stauff (Bel) Quick Step
9Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quick Step
10Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
That wraps up our live coverage for stage 1 of the Tour of California. Thanks for joining us. We hope you'll be back tomorrow for stage 2 which will cover 110 miles from Davis to Santa Rosa. The action will start at 11:00 am local (Pacific) time.