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Tour of California in the frame

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Leipheimer did a great prologue

Leipheimer did a great prologue (Image credit: John Pierce)
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Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulates winner Fabian Cancellara.

Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulates winner Fabian Cancellara. (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) jubilant

Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) jubilant (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Levi Leipheimer, realising he has just taken the yellow jersey

Levi Leipheimer, realising he has just taken the yellow jersey (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Levi Leipheimer kisses his new leader's jersey

Levi Leipheimer kisses his new leader's jersey (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Rock Racing leads the main group on Highway 1.

Rock Racing leads the main group on Highway 1. (Image credit: Russ & Nancy Wright)
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The Golden Gate Bridge dwarfs the peloton.

The Golden Gate Bridge dwarfs the peloton. (Image credit: Mitch Clinton)
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Fans of Lance Armstrong await the peloton

Fans of Lance Armstrong await the peloton (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Mechanic Alejandro Torrallo works on the bike of Thir Hushovd

Mechanic Alejandro Torrallo works on the bike of Thir Hushovd (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Astana and Garmin-Slipstream meet in a pile-up

Astana and Garmin-Slipstream meet in a pile-up (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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The field encountered rain and snow in California

The field encountered rain and snow in California (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Astana strings things out again

Astana strings things out again (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Cavendish (Columbia-High Road) makes it look easy

Cavendish (Columbia-High Road) makes it look easy (Image credit: Mark Johnson)
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The peloton finally found some sun

The peloton finally found some sun (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Riders go along one of the huge irrigation ditches

Riders go along one of the huge irrigation ditches (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Green grass and rolling hills greeted the riders

Green grass and rolling hills greeted the riders (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) is not quite back to his old TT form

Lance Armstrong (Astana) is not quite back to his old TT form (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream)

David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) (Image credit: Mitch Clinton)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) looks good in yellow.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) looks good in yellow. (Image credit: Mitch Clinton)
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Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) after his first win of the season.

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) after his first win of the season. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The rolling foothills before climbing up and over into Pasadena.

The rolling foothills before climbing up and over into Pasadena. (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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It was still chilly higher up on the mountains where a little snow was left.

It was still chilly higher up on the mountains where a little snow was left. (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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The wide and narrow road...

The wide and narrow road... (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Tales from the peloton, February 24, 2009

There's no doubt that this year's Tour of California was a huge success. From the Olympic champion storming to the first leader's jersey in Sacramento to Levi Leipheimer claiming his third consecutive overall win; we've seen some of the most thrilling racing on American soil in years. And it's been a big week too, with an estimated two million fans flocking to the roadsides for America's biggest cycling race.

Of course we were in for a show right from the get-go, with a start list jam-packed with enough glitz and glamour to give the Academy Awards a run for its money. Armstrong, Leipheimer, Sastre, Landis, Basso, the Schlecks, Cavendish and Boonen made up the finest cast the race had ever seen.

There was an improved route, too. We saw the peloton face climb after climb - albeit mainly in the middle of stages - but with so many riders brushing away their winter cobwebs, it was gripping viewing as to who could last the pace. Many couldn't, but it only helped build the suspense. First Sastre and Landis dropped out of the running, while surprise-package Mancebo made use of the bad conditions and lack of radio communications to ride to an old-school style win. There were more surprises just around the corner when a fresh-faced Thomas Peterson took stage two, while Leipheimer played his cards early, but to perfection, with what turned out to be the race-winning attack.

There was room for the sprinters to showcase their talents as well. Cavendish and Boonen raced last month at the Tour Qatar, but this was different - the world was now watching as the Manxman stole the show with back-to-back wins. If there was ever any doubt as to who the fastest rider in the world is, it's surely been dispelled now.

We also had a race-deciding time trial, and while the race provided little in the way of shocks there after, everyone was still tuning in to see if Astana could handle the pressure and attacks unleashed on them, as first Rinaldo Nocentini, and then Frank Schleck won from breakaways.

As the curtain falls on the fourth edition of the race, we've put together this highlights package of images. It's been a great race and it's been even greater having you with us. Enjoy!

4th Tour of California - 2.HC, USA, February 14-22, 2009

The race in pictures