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Live coverage

Tour of California 2010: Stage 3


Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Amgen Tour of California's stage 3, which takes racers 113.3 miles (152.3km) from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

We'll be beginning our live coverage shortly.  Today's stage 3 will get underway at 11:15 am.  The riders are starting on the Great Highway in San Francisco.  Skies are overcast, but it's not raining and in fact, there are patches of bright blue sky looking out to the west over the Pacific Ocean.  Temperatures are in the 60s.

In case you didn't have a chance to join us yesterday, Australian Brett Lancaster (Cervelo Test Team) won stage 2, ahead of Slovakian Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) and Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank Cycling Team).  Complete stage 2 coverage is here. We start the day with Lancaster as the GC leader.  Sagan is second at 4 seconds and Karl Menzies (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) is third at the same time.

Defending race champion Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack) is well positioned going into what could be a decisive stage today.  He's only 10 seconds back on the GC, in 11th place overall.  His teammates Lance Armstrong, Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil and Janez Brajkovic are also 10 seconds down and ready to help Leipheimer toward another overall race win in California.

Riders are full staged and listening to the national anthem that precedes the start.

Racers will have 2.2 miles (3.5km) of neutral to kick off today's stage.

Once racer who seemed eager to get going this morning was Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank).  He was 50m ahead of staging, and Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo asked him if he was going to go on a super early break today.  "I don't think Levi (Leipheimer) would trust me because I was with him on Trinity yesterday," replied Jens, who promised that he wasn't worth anything today.  However, Voigt did say his team had some other riders who lost a lot of time yesterday and could get away in moves today.  One such rider is former mountain biker Jacob Fuglsang.

The riders are off.  There are not many people at the start today - it is a weekday and a decent distance from downtown, where many might have slipped from their offices to catch a glimpse of the race.  We spot some surfers - get about 10 seconds worth of a ride in - doesn't look like a very good day for surfing.

As the racers roll out past the San Francisco zoo, the officials are doing the standard radio checks.  They've just checked in with Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack.  Jonathan Vaughters and Johan Bruyneel answered each call respectively. 

Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), Philip Deignan (Cervelo Test Team) and Bernhard Eisel (Team HTC-Columbia) seem to have some early issues. Hopefully, they will get them sorted out quickly.

We're riding in the car again today with Olympic medallist Steve Hegg, a retired pro track and road racer, and on his behalf, we're sending out a hello to Turtle at La Harbra Bike Shop.  "Hello, Turtle!"

The peloton is at the official start, at 0km/miles, but the race is not officially live yet as they await a few of the riders with issues to rejoin.  The road is lined by Eucalyptus trees, supposedly planted by Australians in the 1850s.

Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Transitions), the winner of a very similar stage last year, is getting some mechanical attention.  We're waiting on him before officials formally start the stage.  As we climb a hill, we can see the Golden Gate Bridge off behind us.

We're passing the Olympic country club golf course. There's a nice view of the ocean from the tee, but you probably couldn't get your ball back if you hooked it.

Now it's time for Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing Team) to have a mechanical issue.  And Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Transitions) is changing bikes again. At this rate, we'll never get this stage started!

111miles remaining from 182miles

We're two miles in past what should have been the start and we're finally ready to start.  The officials are actually stopped the entire field here in Daly City.  Riders are grabbing jackets and taking what may be a mass nature break before they really get going.

Officials are ordering all the drivers back into their vehicles.  It's time to get this racing going!

The riders seem happy, the drivers seem happy - all at the same time, and at last, we are live with the racing.  Attacks are starting right away.

Some will be motivated to go early, and two sprints within the first 20 miles will also help kick start things.  Sprint #1 will happen in Pacifica at mile 10.7 and another follows shortly thereafter at mile 19.4 in Half Moon Bay.

There is a quick climb and the a fast and dangerous descent to get racers' adrenlin flowing early.  Yesterday's lead group of 27 riders had a 1:17 gap on another group of riders.  Behind them, time gaps quickly climbed as riders finished in various groups.  What that means is that there a lot of riders far out of GC contention - it's those riders we'll have to watch as many may instead try for a day of glory off the front and maybe even a stage win, thinking that if they are far enough down, they might be allowed to stay away.

108miles remaining from 182miles

Riders are flying down Highway 1 at 50mph.  There are lots of fans watching from the overpasses.  This descent wasn't so bad after all, and the peloton gets through with no incidents as a rider from Quick Step decides to attack.

Starting today's stage, we have several riders in jerseys:  Brett Lancaster (Cervelo Test Team) is the overall leader.  He also leads the points classification, but we'll find Mark Cavendish (Team HTC-Columbia) taking good care of the points jersey while Lancaster wears the GC leader's jersey. Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) is our mountains classification leader, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) is the best young rider.

105miles remaining from 182miles

The racers see 5km to go until the first sprint.  Bernhard Eisel (Team HTC-Columbia) has a 10-second advantage at the front.

Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) is setting the pace at the head of the peloton.

104miles remaining from 182miles

Eisel sat up and let himself get caught. The peloton is all back together and spread out across the road.  1km to go until the sprint.  There are a lot of fans at the Denny's in Pacific, awaiting the sprint.

Approaching the sprint, the riders are strung out single-file.

102miles remaining from 182miles

Mark Cavendish (Team HTC-Columbia) takes the sprint.  He must be chasing points for the points jersey.  Results for sprint #1 are:

1 Mark Cavendish (Team HTC-Columbia)
2 Bernhard Eisel (Team HTC-Columbia)
3 Paul Martens (Rabobank Cycling Team)

Yesterday there was a lot of crashing at the end of the stage, sometimes involving multiple riders from a team. For example, five of the Bissell guys went down during the course of the stage yesterday, but they're all ok.  After the finish, directors were saying that people were chasing hard on the descent to make up time lost on the climbs. They were taking a lot of risks.  Hopefully drier conditions today will mean fewer crashes.

100miles remaining from 182miles

Christopher Baldwin (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) and Christopher Jones (Team Type 1) try their luck at an attack, but they are quickly reeled in by HTC-Columbia, who will be targeting more sprint points for Cavendish at sprint #2.  With his win in sprint #1, Cavendish is the leader of the points competition, moving up from second place.

We're right along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  A reminder of that - in case the view doesn't make it obvious enough, is a tsunami evacuation route sign we are passing.

After the sprint, the action should really heat up among the non-sprinters.  The first of four KOMs of the day, up Tunitas Creek Road, is coming up.  The climb will start about 10 miles after the sprint and top out just before mile 40 at an elevation of 1,562 feet.  It's likely that a break will try to establish itself leading up to the climb.

96miles remaining from 182miles

We're past Moss Beach and the peloton is speeding along at 35mph. 5km to go until the next sprint - the last one of the day.

94miles remaining from 182miles

Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) attacks and is caught with 1km to go until the sprint.  There is plenty of action, but HTC-Columbia is moving toward the front - lined up to set up the sprint for Mark Cavendish.

The peloton sweeps from side to side as a Jelly Belly rider attacks with 200m to the sprint line.

93miles remaining from 182miles

Wow that was interesting. Karl Menzies (Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis) came around for the top sprint points ahead of Alexander Kristoff (BMC Racing Team), who finished third in stage 1.  Mark Cavendish (Team HTC-Columbia) managed a third.

We pass a sign for Venice Beach.  So far, today there haven't been many spectators out.  It being a Tuesday afternoon probably isn't helping, but perhaps they are all awaiting us on the four climbs of today.  Three of them will come in a row, starting with Tunitas Creek at mile 39.9, then CA Route 84 at mile 50.0, then Pescadero Road at Mile 59.4   The final climb won't come until mile 98.3 - it's the Bonny Doon climb you may remember as a key point in last year's Tour of California.

91miles remaining from 182miles

Jay Robert Thomson (Fly V Australia) gets a bike change.  It's pretty flat here as the pavement smooths out a bit as we exit Half Moon Bay area.  Two elementary schools have their kids out in force - they are outside screaming in excitement as racers whiz by.

89miles remaining from 182miles

We're a bit more inland right now. There are more grassy, rolling hills, and to the left it looks a bit like Scotland.  There is plenty of action in the peloton as racers try to separate themselves, but there is no decisive break yet.  They are racing at a speedy 40mph!  Looks like the riders got all the dawdling out of their systems in the extended neutral zone at the start.

Yikes, a car tried to pull out in the opposite direction to us - just in front of our car.  That could have been bad news for the peloton behind us. Our master driver Steve Hegg veered toward her to stop her.  Then the cops came and she got the message!

We need to correct something in our report yesterday. BMC's Mike Sayers informed us this morning that George Hincapie did not crash yesterday during stage 2.  He didn't make the front group because he was extremely sore and beat up after he hit his head hard during a stage 1 crash. The cold weather didn't help Hincapie any either.  Sayers said that BMC's focus will be on stage wins.  While they have Steve Moribito well positioned for the GC contest as he made the front group yesterday, the team overall is targeting stage victories.

87miles remaining from 182miles

The domestic teams are very interested in getting a break going. We've seen Kelly Benefits and Bissell at the front - all pushing the pace. BMC is up there, too.

85miles remaining from 182miles

Mike Friedman just chased back after flat - what an effort.  Looks like Cervelo Test Team is hanging out at the front, too.  Their rider Brett Lancaster is the GC leader though it doesn't appear that his team is actually trying to control the action.  They're probably trying to keep him well positioned and out of trouble at the front.

When they are racing at 35mph, as they currently are, it's tough for anyone to get off the front.

As we approach the main part of the climb to KOM #1 today, it will be interesting to find out to what extent Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) will be able to keep his mountains jersey.  He said in an interview that he will aim to keep it, but there will be tough competition for it.  Read a news article about Rabou here.

83miles remaining from 182miles

One Kelly Benefit Strategies rider has been dropped.  Given what is coming ahead, it is unlikely he will be able to catch back on.  Once riders fall off the pace on this stage, it will be tough for them to keep going quickly up three KOMs coming in succession.

We're heading up the first part of the first KOM climb now - starting to go up into the clouds.  We've got word from some folks ahead that the descent off the first KOM is still damp after yesterday's rains - which will make it treacherous for those who try to regain any time lost on the first big ascent.

We have a break away on this first KOM climb.  So far, we've only been able to identify two riders: Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy).  We'll get more info on who else and how far as soon as we can - communication on this twisty mountain road seems limited.

Erik of California emailed us with a question. "It appears that ex-racers such as Steve Hegg often gravitate towards the caravan as drivers. Any idea why? Do they a need a job? Can’t get away from the sport? Stepping stone toward future Director Sportif?"

For pro racers, cycling is a passion and a way of life (not to mention also their living). They may retire and often pursue non-cycling careers, but the connections made during their formative years in the 20s stay strong for many of them. Coming out for the big races, especially if they live nearby, is a great way to catch up with other pro cycling alums also out for the race as well as those racers still in the peloton. In addition, the race caravan features numerous vehicles for officials and media and all those vehicles need to be driven by someone.

79miles remaining from 182miles

A break of five riders has been established on this first KOM climb, including Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy), Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Davide Frattini (Team Type 1) and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) . The riders are about half-way up the climb and have a gap of 1:30.

It's foggy and damp as we climb up a narrow, winding road through a redwood forest.

Looks like all the work of the the domestic teams has paid off with Bissell, SpiderTech, Jelly Belly, Team Type 1 and Kelly Benefit Strategies represented in the break.  If they can get over the top with their lead intact and work together, they stand a good chance of spending some quality time off the front today.

In case you missed it, stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia happened earlier today.  It was an exciting sprint finish on the narrow, winding streets of Bitonto.  You can read the detailed race report here.

73miles remaining from 182miles

As we crested the Tunitas Creek Road KOM, there were lots of spectators out - we saw plenty of riders representing from the Webcor Club out of San Jose.  We're ahead of the racers, but at last check, the five break riders had a 2:00-minute gap. 

The descent off the KOM is still really wet, and it's very twisty. We're having a lot of fun in the car. There was one turn with a giant tree right in the apex - hopefully, no one will overshoot that, but it seems like the riders won't take as many risks at this point in the stage during day 3.

We'll get you KOM #1 results as soon as we know them.

When riders finish up this descent, they go almost directly into the climb for KOM #2 up CA Route 84.

We just passed a fan with a sign saying "Lance Strong".  I guess we know which rider he is cheering for!

The break has crested through the KOM, but the field still has about 200m to go.

According to Mike Sayers, with whom we spoke before the stage today, riders who are off the pace on this first Tunitas Creek Road climb are in serious danger of missing the time cut today.  There's a lot of pressure for some riders to hang on as long as they can during today's stage.  The longer they stay on, the less time they may lose on the day.

Guess what? It's lunch time!  We found out what's in the BMC musette bags for today: some paninis, a banana, bars and gels. They also get two bottles to wash it all down.

There are lots of spectators at the feed zone to pick up the scraps, possibly some souvenirs.  When riders pass through they'll see 5km to go until KOM #2.  That doesn't leave a lot of time to digest.

70miles remaining from 182miles

The five break riders are descending at 30mph.  That sounds cautious ... all the better to get to the next climb intact.  The peloton is one mile and 2:00 behind.  It seems likely that these five riders will be our break of the day.

Last year's stage 2 went from Sausalito to Santa Cruz, also finishing over the Bonny Doon.  Tom Peterson (then of Garmin-Slipstream), won the stage, taking his first-ever pro win.  That was the day Levi Leipheimer put in a massive attack on his rivals and took second on the stage.  Leipheimer ended that day as overall leader, with a 24-second margin. He went on to win the overall race.  We can expect fireworks again today - as the contenders will see this stage as potentially decisive toward the overall standings - it's a chance to make or loose time to their rivals.

Although race organizers moved the Amgen Tour of California from February to May for the first time in 2010, the weather hasn't been tons better so far.  Yesterday, was a rainy, wet and cold stage 2.  And today it is damp and foggy, with some wet roads.  Riders are sporting jackets - so much for that blue sky we saw from the start.  Maybe they'd be better off racing a route a bit away from the coast, where it'd likely be warmer and sunnier?

56miles remaining from 182miles

We're waiting on an update on the time gap to our five leaders, but officials have called the team cars up to them, so it's a sign that the gap is still increasing.  The leaders are on their way up the second KOM.  Meanwhile, we're in front of them, having just passed the Old La Honda climb, a climb popular among cyclists of San Jose.

We have a weather report from a reader at the finish. "Down here at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the skies are clearing up and the weather is gorgeous! Should make for a nice finish."  We're also happy to see the roads are drying out a bit up and over this second KOM, which by the way is only a Cat. 3 climb - it seems far less challenging - in terms of steepness, length, and twistiness - than the first KOM.

64miles remaining from 182miles

200m to go to the KOM for our leaders.  They've grown their gap slightly - to 2:20.  Seems like the peloton doesn't want to let them get too far away.4

62miles remaining from 182miles

The peloton is seeing 1km to go to the KOM.  Sorry, we don't have any KOM results yet for #2 or #3, we'll certainly let you know if we do hear.

We were probably too far ahead of the race to get the results for KOM #1.  They had us go ahead due to the technical nature of that first, major descent.

Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini spoke with Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) this morning at the start of the stage. He crashed on this stage last year and was taken away in an ambulance. However, Santa Cruz is his hometown, and he is hoping to do something special today.

Jacques-Maynes also crashed in yesterday's stage 2. He went down over a cliff on the side of the road and had to climb back up to the road. He was generally ok and still finished 113th for the day - despite the hair-raising incident.

59miles remaining from 182miles

The leaders are cruising at 35mph while a 50mph descent is upcoming for the peloton, presently led by Team RadioShack.  The gap is up slightly to 2:35.  The riders are closing in on the halfway point of today's race, with two climbs down and two to go.

Wonder what it's like to be a racer in the HTC-Columbia squad during the Tour of California?  Check out this Cyclingnews' feature, with plenty of photos, from a day spent following Mark Cavendish's team at the Amgen Tour of California.

57miles remaining from 182miles

Leaders are at the Triple Nickel (55.5 miles) point of the race.  They're headed toward KOM #3, a Cat. 4 climb up to 1,053 feet on Pescadero Road.   It's a minor climb relative to the two that just came before and the one to follow.

Wilfried Peters, the Director of Quick Step, talked to Cyclingnews this morning.  He told us that Carlos Barredo is the only guy that he expects to be up there on the climbs for his team in this race.  Yesterday, Barredo was in the front group, but he broke his wheel and lost a bunch of time waiting for the team car, which was way back.  Therefore, Barredo didn't make the lead group.  However, this could be an advantage today... if the break is brought back, look for Barredo to try to get off the front.  As a non-GC contender, he just might be allowed to get away.  Barredo was in the main break last year and then attacked the others on the final climb up Bonny Doon.  However, he was caught and finished 20th in the stage.

55miles remaining from 182miles

David Frattini (Team Type 1) takes a turn at the front with 1km to go until KOM #3.  The leaders' gap is 3 minutes - all the riders are taking their turns at the front and going in and out of the saddle.

They look ready to go the distance. After this KOM, it will flatten for awhile and they'll be along the coast. It's not too windy, though, so they'll likely stay away for awhile. RadioShack will probably let them dangle up until just before on on Bonny Doon - where we might reasonably expect a repeat attempt at what Leipheimer's team did last year - attack to gain valuable time.

Break rider Eric Boily (Spidertech) is a young Canadian rider. He'll turn 23 in June.  He is a former junior national road and criterium champion.

The break riders are working together well - both in terms of pulls and team support.  Davide Frattini (Team Type 1) just got a feed - a bottle - from the Jelly Belly team car.

Lance Armstrong pulled over to the side of the road.  He gets of his bike, stretches and waits for the team car to come up to him.  His team gives him a bike change.  A few RadioShack teammates have waited to help him back up to the main bunch.

We've got results from the third KOM - up Pescadero Road. They are
1 Davide Frattini (Team Type 1)
2 Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3 Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy)
4 Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda)

Will Routley (Jelly Belly), another break member, is also Canadian.  He will celebrate his 27th birthday this weekend.  Happy early Birthday, Will!  Did you know Routely raced the Mountain Bike World Championships for three years (2001-2003)?

A Saxo Bank rider, one of their domestiques, looks like Andrew Steensen, has gone down and looks to be in serious pain.  He's holding his shoulder - suggesting a broken collarbone or busted shoulder.

The break's gap is at 4:05.  It's gone up a bit - no doubt because RadioShack has backed off the chase while it lets Lance Armstrong catch back up after his mechanical.  Armstrong's working his way up through the caravan - closing back in.

We've got results - at last - from the first two KOMs today. 

KOM #1
1 Davide Frattini (Team Type 1)
2 Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3 Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell)
4 Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy)
5 Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda)

KOM #2
1 Davide Frattini (Team Type 1)
2 Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3 Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy)
4 Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell)
5 Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda)

Davide Frattini has taken all the KOMs (three) so far today.  He is motivated to scoop up the points.  His teammate, Dutchman Thomas Rabou was leading the mountains classification at the start of today.  Frattini's riding will help keep the jersey within his Team Type 1 team - whether he takes it over or Rabou keeps it.

41miles remaining from 182miles

Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) is back in the peloton with his teammates.  Looks like the American is enjoying a snack on the go.  It's important for the riders to keep their energy levels going throughout the stage - especially as the rider approach the final climb.

39miles remaining from 182miles

22-year-old Ryan Anderson rides for Kelly Benefit Strategies.  He joined the team in 2009.  Also a Canadian, Anderson got his start racing a mountain bike at the Shock the Monkey mountain bike race at age 10 in Edmonton, Alberta according to his team.

Team Cervelo is taking a turn at the front with two riders setting the pace - they're riding to protect the lead of Brett Lancaster.  RadioShack is just behind them, with its train of riders motivated for captain Levi Leipheimer.  The efforts of these guys has closed the gap to the lead somewhat - down to 3:30.

The Bonny Doon area has experienced two fires in recent years in 2008 and 2009.  In the 2009 fire, "More than 2,000 residents had been evacuated as the blaze spread from Swanton south toward Bonny Doon. The blaze cost over $26.6 million and took nearly 2 weeks to be fully contained. The cause of the fire remains under investigation," according to Wikipedia. 7,817 acres were burned.  We wonder if the racers will see any fire damage en route today?

32miles remaining from 182miles

The break's gap has dropped more rapidly in recent miles.  It's below the three-minute mark and still dropping.

When riders crest the Boony Doon KOM, the last one of the day, they'll have 15 miles to go.  It'll be pretty much all downhill then until the finish in Santa Cruz.

On May 1, the City of Santa Cruz hosted the Bonny Doon Challenge, for which amateur riders were invited to ride a 27- or 45-mile loop that included the Bonny Doon climb up Pine Flat Road.  Proceeds from the event went toward the city's effort to continue to host Amgen Tour of California stages.

31miles remaining from 182miles

Welcome to Santa Cruz County.  We're cruising on Route 1, right next the ocean.  The road is pretty amazing - a feat of civil engineering indeed.

Looks like the time off the front of our break - including Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Eric Boily (SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy), Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda), Davide Frattini (Team Type 1) and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) - is coming to an end.  Their margin is down to 1:30.

29miles remaining from 182miles

The teams at the Amgen Tour of California are a mix of domestic, North American teams and international ProTour teams.  What's interesting is that while some big teams are having to field rosters for both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of California simultaneously, Team RadioShack is not racing the Giro d'Italia - hence, it has been able to bring a very strong team to defend the race title of its Levi Leipheimer.

27miles remaining from 182miles

Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) decides his break mates are not going fast enough and puts in an attack on them.  He's got about 10 seconds on them and 40 seconds on the pelton.

Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) is riding with his hands on his brakehoods.  He's tucked over and head down, pedaling furiously.  The peloton seems a little less interested in catching the leaders and they've sat up a bit - biding their time in the chase as Bonny Doon looms.

Today there are no finishing circuits.  The route meanders a bit through Santa Cruz, but doesn't repeat any of itself as it heads to the finish.

It looks like all the members of the main break except Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) have been caught.  He remains as our sole leader.

Behind him, it's looking very red and gray, with RadioShack riders all lined up at the front of the peloton.

The peloton has Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) in sight - he's got 30 seconds. Behind him, Garmin-Transitions decides to take a turn at the front.

Some riders go off the road as they round a 90-degree corner.

Several riders take it a little too wide.  This is where those mountain bike handling skills come in handy - you can negotiate the dirt better while you try to get back on the pavement and still keep it upright.  Doesn't looking like anyone was hurt seriously as the few racers scramble back into the action as soon as possible.

21miles remaining from 182miles

The riders are on Bonny Doon Road.  Let the climbing and the fireworks begin!

Will Routley (Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda) is caught and the pace is high.

21miles remaining from 182miles

The pace is high enough that it's already causing a split - as some of the sprinters decide to take this climb at their own pace - a little more chill than the RadioShack guys at the front.

It's steep.  The riders are out of their saddle.  Chris Horner is taking a turn at the front, setting the pace for his RadioShack mates.

There are about a half dozen riders off the front - having made a split from the rest.

Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriske are off the front.  Then a slight gap to three more riders.

The riders are all strung out as Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriske - three GC contenders - make the climb look relatively effortless.

Lance Armstrong, Rory Sutherland and Chris Horner are in a group behind the three leaders.

19miles remaining from 182miles

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) is nowhere to be seen near the front - he seems to have missed the move.

The group with Armstrong, the one behind the three leaders, has grown quite a bit. There are 15-20 riders together.

18miles remaining from 182miles

The three leaders, Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie, are looking super smooth as they climb.  Leipheimer and Rogers seem to be doing the most work.

A BMC rider attacks out of the chase group.  It's Steve Morabito, the GC hope for BMC.  However, Chris Horner (RadioShack) doesn't think that's such a good idea, and he reels him back in.

17miles remaining from 182miles

Three more riders try to get away from the chase group, but they are shut down, too.

A Saxo Bank rider now takes a turn at the front of the chase.  There are probably 20 riders in this chase group.  Yellow jersey Brett Lancaster is not one of them.

Someone in the chase group crashed, but we're not sure which rider.  Looks like a Liquigas racer.  But he is up again quickly - barely misses a beat.

16miles remaining from 182miles

Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack riders are peppering the front of the lead chase group - stalling all efforts to go after the three leaders.

When riders crest the KOM, they will fly downhill toward Santa Cruz, with 15 miles to go. Once they get into Santa Cruz, there is a descent, then a sharp left turn, then tracks, and they'll see 1km to go.

15miles remaining from 182miles

All three our leaders - Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie - were 10 seconds down on the GC.  Assuming they can stay away, the man who wins the stage will take over the overall race lead.

14miles remaining from 182miles

There is one kilometer to go until the top of the final KOM.

Over the top, the final KOM, Levi Leipheimer leads, followed by Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions).

The Garmin riders are taking turns attacking the chase group over the top of Bonny Doon.  Peter Stetina goes first, then Ryder Hesjedal - another Canadian former mountain bike - launch attacks.

13miles remaining from 182miles

The racers are flying downhill.  All strung out

12miles remaining from 182miles

The three men at the front are all superb time trialists. All three are also favorite contenders for the overall win.  Whomever wins today will gain some bonus seconds over the others - those could be crucial seconds going into the rest of the race.

Liquigas' Peter Sagan, second in the GC at the start of today's stage, takes a turn at the front of the chase group.  If his group could catch the leaders, he'd be the virtual yellow jersey as Brett Lancaster is not with the chasers.

8miles remaining from 182miles

Our three leaders are descending on a road through a coniferous forest.  Their gap is shrinking - it's 55 seconds.  We'll see if the leaders can hold an advantage until the end.  They still have eight miles to go.

7miles remaining from 182miles

Fly V Australia, Liquigas and Cervelo Test Team are taking turns at the front.  Seven miles to go.  Of course, RadioShack, HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions aren't doing any work in the chase as their men are off the front.

6miles remaining from 182miles

The gap is at 40 seconds and still shrinking.

5miles remaining from 182miles

The leaders are in the drops, trading turns.  All three are excellent time trialists.  Rogers has won the world championship TT and Zabriskie has been a US National Champion.

The team cars are called out of the gap as the chasers keep pounding the pedals.  30 seconds and dropping.

The racers are in Santa Cruz proper now.  They are passing neighborhoods and it feels more urban again.

4miles remaining from 182miles

Liquigas and Cervelo are doing an excellent job at the front of the chase group.  Here comes a left hand turn.  There are lots of spectators out to watch. 

Gap is down to 20 seconds.

A flagman signals the chase group safely around a piece of road furniture as they race toward the finish.

2miles remaining from 182miles

The riders swing onto the beach front. Fans are everywhere.

A Liquigas rider in the chase group has a flat - that's not good news for the chase effort.

1miles remaining from 182miles

The three leaders are still pushing the pace and away with their 20-second margin.  The chasers are being led by Cervelo Test Team as they race along the oceanfront.

1miles remaining from 182miles

Two kilometres to go!

The chase group is spread out across the road - they don't appear to be chasing as fast.  An HTC-Columbia rider goes to the front of the chase, probably to slow things down for his leader Rogers.

0miles remaining from 182miles

1km to go as the leaders negotiate a small climb.

Zabriskie starts the sprint.

Leipheimer and Rogers are behind him in a line.

Zabriskie leads around the final bend.

It's a photo finish -we're waiting to hear if it was Zabriskie or Rogers taking the stage win.  The winner will also be in yellow.

Despite his long lead-out, Zabriskie holds on to take the stage win ahead of Rogers and Leipheimer, in second and third respectively.  That means Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)  is the new race leader.

Peter Sagan leads home the chase group.

The provisional stage and GC results are

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result 1 Dave Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions 4:26:09   2 Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia     3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack     4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:17   5 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis     6 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team     7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank     8 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack     9 Francois Parisien (Can) SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy     10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions     General classification after stage 3 # Rider Name (Country) Team Result 1 Dave Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions 13:09:33   2 Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia 0:00:04   3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack 0:00:06   4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:21   5 Marc De Maar (Ned) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis 0:00:24  

That wraps up our live coverage for stage 3. Please join us tomorrow for stage 4, 121.5 miles (195.5km) from San Jose to Modesto.  Our coverage will start just before the race begins at 11:00 am local (Pacific) time.

Provisional Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Dave Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions4:26:09
2Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia
3Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:17
5Rory Sutherland (Aus) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis
6Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team
7Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank
8Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
9Francois Parisien (Can) SpiderTech Powered by Planet Energy
10Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions

General classification after stage 3
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Dave Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions13:09:33
2Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia0:00:04
3Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana0:00:06
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:21
5Marc De Maar (Ned) Unitedhealthcare Presented by Maxxis0:00:24

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