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Tour of California 2011: Stage 2


Hello, and welcome to stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California! Racing will commence today at 12:15pm PDT.

For the second year in a row the first action of the race will take the peloton from Nevada City to Sacramento, although this was hardly the original intent.

Mother Nature unleashed a snow storm on the Lake Tahoe region yesterday which forced the cancellation of stage 1 - what would have been an absolutely spectacular 191km route taking in 1.5 laps around Lake Tahoe.

The race organisation went to plan B for stage 1, which entailed a shortened, 80km stage starting later in the day from South Lake Tahoe to the finish in North Lake Tahoe, but that, too, was cancelled due to snowy weather creating dangerous conditions on the road.

The original route of today's second stage would have taken the peloton 214.4km from North Lake Tahoe-Squaw Valley to Sacramento, via the Donner Pass early in the stage, but again, snow had created adverse weather conditions rendering Donner Pass un-passable.

While our Cyclingnews colleagues on the ground were sharing Donner Pass "humor", we'll be denied any airing of that today.

Anyway, the original route took the peloton through Nevada City after 98km of racing, but due to the adverse weather the stage will actually start there instead and follow the remainder of the planned route to Sacramento.

It's approximately 113km from Nevada City to California's state capitol where the peloton will conclude the day's racing on a 3.2km finishing circuit, which will be negotiated three times for a total stage distance of 122.8km.

The peloton has just started rolling and are in a neutral section of 4.2km

Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo is in the race caravan and relates that the crowds are really rather amazing for a last-minute change of venues for the start.

Nevada City was scheduled to be part of the original race route, but large crowds are on hand to see the peloton off.

And.....we're racing! The Amgen Tour of California is in action!

And straight off the bat is a bit of a kicker of a climb on the way out of Nevada City.

The peloton is rolling past Scotten School with plenty of children out showing their support for the race.

And we now have an attack. Three riders have a slight advantage. Hopefully we'll have names for you shortly.

117km remaining from 122km

We're 5.5km into the stage and the peloton is rolling along at 30mph.

No word yet on the identities of the riders up the road.

While there was a touch of rain at the start, the sun has appeared!

The terrain is flat to rolling.

Today should be a day for the peloton's sprinters as the parcours primarily descends for the early portion of the stage and flattens out all the way through to the finish in Sacramento.

But who knows what's in store for us...

Still no word on who's up the road, but they're advantage is currently 10 seconds on the peloton.

Well, sorry that we couldn't provide who was on the attack, but their stint off the front is now over. The peloton is back together.

Keeping with the theme of a predominantly downhill opening sector, the peloton is now bombing down a twisting descent.

Three riders now have a 20 second lead.
Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis) and Timon Seubert (Team Netapp) are up there, and we're waiting for the ID of the third.

105km remaining from 122km

The three leaders have pushed their lead out to 30 seconds.

The peloton is on flat, wide roads with plenty of trees lining the route.

James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) is the third rider up the road along with Bodrogi and Seubert.

But with flat, wide-open roads the peloton is bringing them back. Lead down to 10 seconds.

More riders are on the attack from the peloton, trying to bridge across. It's been very active thus far.

The peloton is now descending again and there's a great view up ahead, almost to Sacramento.

Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) is nearly across to the break.

The break's being kept on a short leash at the moment. Lots of fresh legs here.

We now have a four man break: Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) have a 15-second advantage.

So, if the peloton arrives en masse at the finish who are the likely contenders for victory?

Last year Mark Cavendish took top honours and the first leader's jersey of the Amgen Tour of California with his sprint victory in Sacramento, but this year the speedy Manxman is contesting the Giro d'Italia. His HTC-Highroad team still packs quite a finishing punch, however, with 2011 Milan-San Remo champion Matt Goss in the line-up.

Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) is now trying to bridge across on his own to the four leaders.

The US domestic teams are letting their presence be known.

A Saxo Bank Sungard rider has just stopped to make an adjustment to a wheel magnet. Doesn't seem very concerned at the moment.

The break has now stretched its lead out to 1:15. '

The peloton is slowing for a nature break.

Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis has some researchers collecting data on their riders' power, heart rate and glucose levels. Bodrogi should be providing some good data to crunch.

Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) now hold a 1:25 gap over Hernandez and a 2:30 margin on the peloton.

Bodrogi, Seubert, Driscoll and Ben Jacques-Maynes are working well together, taking even pulls.

Ben Jacques-Maynes is one of the few professionals who has started all six editions of the Tour of California.

The other six-time starters include Chris Horner, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Jason McCartney, Jens Voigt, JJ Haedo, Levi Leipheimer and Tom Danielson.

The break has entered Beale Air Force Base.

The break and peloton have been facing a headwind all day thus far and it's likely to stay that way through to Sacramento.

Bodrogi is a good man to have in a break as he's quite accomplished against the clock. Plenty of power.

He and several teammates spent some time in the wind tunnel this winter to hone their positions.

Bodrogi, Seubert, Driscoll and Ben Jacques-Maynes are now off the Beale Air Force Base compound.

Things aren't looking good for Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly) who's stuck in no-man's land and starting to lose time on the four up the road.

There's a high ceiling of clouds and it looks like the rain will hold off...fingers crossed.

The riders in the break are definitely warmed up as they're beginning to shed arm warmers.

Temps are at a pleasant 60 degrees F, quite a difference from yesterday's frigid day in Lake Tahoe.

Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly) has been absorbed by the peloton. The break's lead is at 4:30.

The peloton has made its way through the Air Force base.

The terrain is now open and exposed with a bit of a crosswind.

Back to our prognostications about candidates for a sprint victory...

Looking down the start list, one can't help but notice world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), winner of a stage in the 2009 edition, Sky's Greg Henderson and Ben Swift, plus Liquigas-Cannondale's Peter Sagan, winner of two stages last year.

Also packing quite a finishing kick is Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard), who's won five stages at the Amgen Tour of California.

The break's lead has levelled off at five minutes.

Back in the peloton, HTC-Highroad is on the front, just setting steady tempo. Liquigas-Cannondale and Rabobank also have a few riders up there to contribute to pace-making duties.


72km remaining from 122km

We're 50km into the day's shortened 122.8km stage.

We're passing through some rural areas now, with plenty of cows watching the action. Some hearty moos of encouragement are being heard.

Jonas Carney, team director of Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, spoke to us before the start.

He though it would stay together for a bunch sprint. The team has two strong sprinters in Michael Friedman and Alex Candelario, but Carney thought that yesterday's stage, had it happened, would have been a better scenario, as the late climb and uphill kick to the line would better favor them.

Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini is at the finish in Sacramento where she's reporting that the sun is out.

Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) also had a word with our Cyclingnews crew pre-stage.

The riders are in Wheatland and are passing Wheatland Union High School. The road is full of chalk messages from the students.

Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) also had a word with our Cyclingnews crew pre-stage.

"I'm just happy to get racing finally. We have Leigh Howard and Matt Goss for the finish today, but it's difficult to do a lead-out on the finishing circuit. We'll go into it with sharp elbows."

Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) also had a word with our Cyclingnews crew pre-stage.

"I'm just happy to get racing finally. We have Leigh Howard and Matt Goss for the finish today, but it's difficult to do a lead-out on the finishing circuit. We'll go into it with sharp elbows."

Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo is in the race caravan in a car driven by Andy Paulin. In addition to some good palmares on the bike back in the 1980s while racing for teams such as Coors Light, he knows his botany and is giving our very own Laura lessons en route. Plenty of walnut trees today.

58km remaining from 122km

The peloton has chipped into the lead slightly, now 4:20 back.

HTC-Highroad on the front setting tempo.

Bodrogi, in the break, is sporting full leg warmers. Seubert, Driscoll and Ben Jacques-Maynes all have shed leg coverings.

So who else has the goods to win a field sprint today?

Rabobank fields a dynamic duo of Oscar Freire, a three-time world champion, plus Aussie fast man Michael Matthews, the 2010 U23 world champion making quite a mark in his first year at the ProTour level.

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) is resplendent in his rainbow-striped jersey as world champion, sitting comfortably in the peloton.

Riders are dropping back to the team cars for bottles. The temps are rising, up to about 65 degrees F.

54km remaining from 122km

Steady progress being made by HTC-Highroad at the head of the peloton. The break's lead has dropped below four minutes, at 3:55.

Omer Kem, DS of Bissell, had this to say about Ben Jacques-Maynes getting into the break of the day

"The break was important for us today. The courageous rider jersey is a good goal for Ben to look for, and it also makes sure that we don't need to think about the chase and closing gap to Sacramento circuits, in order to set up Frank Pipp and Jay Thomson for the sprint."

Here are some other riders to think about come finish time.

Among the Pro Continental and Continental ranks in the peloton there's Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare), Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home), Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Luca Damiani (Kenda/5-hour Energy), Martin Gilbert and Kevin LaCombe (SpiderTech p/b C10) and last but not least Aldo Ino Ilesic and Jure Kocjan (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis).

BMC teammates George Hincapie and Jeff Louder roll along in the peloton, having a chat.

And there's Oscar Freire (Rabobank), also comfortably tucked away in the peloton.

48km remaining from 122km

The break's continuing to share the work. Their lead over the peloton is at 3:30

James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home), currently in the break, is perhaps best known for his prowess in cyclo-cross.

Here's what his directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre had to say about today's performance.

"We came to the Amgen Tour of California with the goal of stages because we have good sprinters, climbers and time trialists.

"We wanted our riders to take advantage of other opportunities during the race. Jamey is a strong rider. It is also important for our sponsors and our team to race hard, and race well, and try to put on a good show. We will try to do that every day this week."

Team NetApp, who has Seubert in the break, is providing Cyclingnews with video of their Amgen Tour of California experience.

Here's their first installment from yesterday's cancelled stage in Lake Tahoe.

42km remaining from 122km

There's no KOMS or intermediate sprints in today's stage.

The winner of the stage will also pull on the jersey as overall leader.

There will also be best young rider and most courageous rider up for grabs at the finish in Sacramento.

It's wide open and flat right now en route to Sacramento.

The break's lead is now at 3:15.

RadioShack's general classification contenders Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner should be looking to stay out of trouble and not lose any time on the opening stage.

RadioShack's riders are sporting some custom-painted Madones for the race, designed by Shepard Fairey, with Chris Horner's featured here.

37km remaining from 122km

As a reminder, we have Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) off the front.

Their advantage is at 3:00 with 37.5km remaining.

I'd mentioned UnitedHealthcare's Robert Förster earlier.

Read about the German's and the team's ambitions for the Amgen Tour of California.

34km remaining from 122km

Hmmm...tick tick goes the clock. The leading quartet's lead is at 2:35.

The break is riding in an echelon in the crosswind and is about 20km out from the finishing circuit.

Powerhouse Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) at the front of the peloton, grinding out the tempo in a cadence that makes my knees hurt just watching it.

30km remaining from 122km

Bodrogi, Seubert, Driscoll and Ben Jacques-Maynes' lead has dropped to 1:50.

30.5km remaining to the finish.

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) is being paced up towards the front of the peloton by a pair of teammates

On Leipheimer's wheel is Napa, California resident Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervelo), an occasional training partner of Leipheimer when they're home in the States.

And speaking of Talansky, the 22-year-old American has been having a fine season in Europe thus far in his first year on Garmin-Cervelo.

Recently, he scored the best young rider's jersey and a top-10 finish at the Tour de Romandie.

27km remaining from 122km

Rabobank now on the front of the peloton.

The break's lead is nearing one minute, currently at 1:25 with 27km to go.

And we have our first sighting of "Antler Dude" with 26km to go, running along the side of the road.

24km remaining from 122km

Sky, Liquigas-Cannondale, UnitedHealthcare, Rabobank and HTC-Highroad each have a rider at the front of the peloton contributing to the chase.

Break's lead at 1:20.

Our leading quartet of Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling) are still sharing the work up front.

We're on suburban streets now, no more countryside.

The break is approximately 9km out from the finishing 3.2km finishing circuit. When they see the finish line there will be three laps of the circuit remaining.

20km remaining from 122km

And the break's advantage is at 1:00 with 20.5km remaining.

Saxo Bank, Jelly Belly and HTC-Highroad has riders at the front of the peloton.

19km remaining from 122km

Garmin-Cervelo teammate Thor Hushovd and Johan Van Summeren riding side by side in the peloton, looking very relaxed.

The peloton has the break in sight on a long, wide stretch of road.

17km remaining from 122km

The end is near for today's intrepit quartet: Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling).

0:30 lead over the peloton with 17.5km to go.

17km remaining from 122km

The end is near for today's intrepid quartet: Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Timon Seubert (Team Netapp), James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling).

0:30 lead over the peloton with 17.5km to go.

Jelly Belly driving the peloton.

Ooh, not a good time for a flat. Nic Hamilton (Jelly Belly) getting a new rear wheel.

15km remaining from 122km

The break is splitting up. Suebert jumped and Ben Jacques-Maynes is with him.

They're both still fighting, but it's all over.

13km remaining from 122km

Ben Jacques-Maynes is the sole rider off the front.

13km remaining from 122km

The break is completely absorbed with 13km to go.

Garmin-Cervelo is not setting tempo on the streets of Sacramento.

13km remaining from 122km

The break is completely absorbed with 13km to go.

Garmin-Cervelo is setting tempo on the streets of Sacramento.

HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo at the front.

The peloton is 1km out from the finish line and will see three laps to go on the finishing circuits when they cross it.

Ryder Hesjedal on the front followed by four HTC-Highroad riders.

Three laps to go.

Danny Pate at the front for HTC-Highroad.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is up near the head of affairs.

6km remaining from 122km

Two laps to go on finishing circuit. Saxo Bank and HTC-Highroad at the front.

It's starting to rain, rather heavily.

The rain is increasing in intensity, not what the peloton wants so close to the finish on a finishing circuit.

Peloton exercising caution on turns, full of slick road decals.

NetApp now has riders on the front, Saxo Bank tucked in behind.

And just like that, the rain has let off.

Spidertech at the front.

3km remaining from 122km

The riders now have one lap to go!

Who's it going to be for the sprint win? Saxo Bank back on the front.

Getting very dodgy up front. Now Sky's in control

Sky is gunning it.

1km remaining from 122km

UnitedHealthcare train trying to come up. Sky still in control.

Sky and Liquigas vying for control.

Three Sky riders on the front, drilling it



Sky takes it! Looks like Ben Swift.

Definitely Ben Swift with the stage victory in Sacramento. He'll become the first leader of the Amgen Tour of California.

Here's the provisional results:

1 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling 2:47:12
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
4 Kevin Lacombe (Can) Team Spidertech Powered By C10
5 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard
6 Alejandro Alberto Borrajo (Arg) Jamis - Sutter Home
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
9 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Shawn Milne (USA) Kenda presented by Gear Grinder

General classification after stage 2

1 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling 2:47:02
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:04
3 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad 0:00:06

Thanks for joining us on this first day of competition at the Amgen Tour of California.

Tune in tomorrow for full live coverage of the 196.2km stage three from Auburn to Modesto.

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