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Tour of California 2012: Stage 1

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 Well, hello.

I'm Charles Pelkey and this is something of a first for me. I'm here on CyclingNews.com offering Live Updates from the First Stage of the Amgen Tour of California, a 186.5-kilometer (115.8-mile) stage that starts and finishes in Santa Rosa, California.

Right now in Sant Rosa, it's cool and overcast but it should burn off. Riders are currently riding two short neutral laps in downtown Santa Rosa, before heading off into the surrounding countryside for what promises to be a tough day in the saddle. This sure isn't your typical little prologue time trial with relatively little impact on GC, that's for sure.

 

 

The big news at the start today is that Jens Voigt said on stage he may retire. He's still undecided but said he "might be stupid enough to sign on for another year."
Here's hoping for another year of Jens' "stupidity," eh folks?

 

Riders are just about to hit the official start of the stage.

 

I hope you folks can bear with me for a while. I am still getting the hang of this update tool. It is, to say the least, an odd experience for VeloNews.com's old editor to be a guest here on CyclingNews. Thanks to the crew here for inviting me. I appreciate it.

 

 

And they're off!

 

And it hasn't taken long for the hopeful souls in the bunch to start attacking. Let's see how this sorts out over the opening kilometers.

 

We have an Ag2r rider on the move. Let's see who it is and we'll let you know ASAP.

 

It's beginning to shape up. We have six riders off the front. We don't have numbers yet, but we will soon.

 

We have some IDs here. 
The peloton seems content to let them go for now. There are a number of riders taking a collective nature break, which would serve as ample evidence of that.

 

Not relieving themselves at the side of the road are the men in the break and they include: Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), Jeffry Louder (UnitedHealthcare), David Boily (Spidertech-C10), Andrew Dahlheim and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling), Sebastian Salas (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Josh Atkins (Bontrager Livestrong Team) and Sam Johnson (Team Exergy)

 

176km remaining from 186km

Our last time check gives the group up front an advantage of about 55 seconds.

 

Update on that gap. It looks like the guys in the break have three minutes on the field.

 

One rider worth watching this week is Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano). He made a big impression late last season and has had a good season this year, too.

He's here at California. Today at the start he said that he has hopes of doing well at AToC.

"I took a break after the Scheldeprijs (which he won), and my first race back was Tour of Turkey, so I am getting back into form. Today will be 50-50 for a bunch sprint, it's not an easy stage and I will have to fight a lot. It will be a challenge."

 

That gap is climbing pretty quickly. Our escapees now have an advantage of 4:35.

 

It looks like three more riders have tried to move ahead of the peloton.

 

The men off the front now have six minutes on the field.

 

GreenEdge's Robbie McEwen spoke to us at the start today. He's hoping for a sprint, today, but remains realistic about that prospect.

"We've got 3000m of climbing today, he said, "and that's tough for anyone, not just the sprinters. It will be 50-50 whether it will come to a bunch sprint, it depends on how it's ridden. If they light it up on the climb when we turn back from the coast (Coleman Valley Rd) then there's only 40km from there to the finish. There won't be many opportunities to organise a chase after that. Leigh and I will try to hang in there, but if we aren't able to contest the sprint today, the next opportunity will be stage 3"

 

Garmin's  Andrew Talansky said he just wants an easy ride. "I just want to stay safe, to have a nice normal day. It's a beautiful route. It'll be a good day for photos ... and to wait for the TT and the GC battle."

 

Bontrager-Livestrong's Joe Dombrowski said that he rode the route on Wednesday and predicts it's going to be a hard day.

"It's a tough climb, not consistently steep," he said. "It should be a tough stage all day."

 

 At mile-55 today the race will pass by the famous "Bohemian Grove" - it's a (not-so) secret encampment where the Bohemian Club has their annual two-week bacchanal. The BC is an all-male secret society that includes artists, prominent businessmen, government types and generally powerful dudes. The Club motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here".

Famously, the planning meeting for the Manhattan Project took place there in 1942.

On the weather front: it's been brilliantly sunny for two weeks here, but last night a thick fog bank rolled into the coast. It's overcast here still, and while it might clear up in Santa Rosa, it could still be foggy when the riders hit the coast.

 

163km remaining from 186km

Twenty three kilometers into the stage, the gap to the eight escapees is now 6:25.

 

158km remaining from 186km

Bissell's Patrick Bevin, from New Zealand, says he's thrilled to be in this race.

I slept well, but this is a very exciting experience to rub shoulders with the best in the world," Bevins said. "I would love to win in Santa Rosa, my home base in the states. This is the closest thing I have to a home town race in the U.S."

The race is heading through the heart of Sonoma/Russian River wine region - Eastside Road is lined with just winery after winery. While it's a big overcast today, normally you can get a nice sweeping view of the rolling hills that surround the valley.

 

CyclingNews' Laura Weislo spoke with Exergy's Logan Loader this morning. He's local to the Bay Area and has posted some impressive results this spring, winning a stage in the Merco Classic in March, and getting up there in the NRC sprints. He's a good sprinter, but he's small and can go uphill pretty well.

He said he's done some of today's route in Levi's Grand Fondo and the climbs aren't for pure climbers. "Really fit sprinters" can get over them with the leaders. He's currently nursing some bruised ribs from a crash in the Joe Martin stage race, but is hoping to get in the sprint along with Fred Rodriguez.

 

Garmin's Heinrich Haussler has been here in the U.S. for the past four weeks in preparation for this race.

Be thinks he might have a shot at this stage, but he has a bit of bug today.

"I would like to have a good result ... would really like to win, today."

 

146km remaining from 186km

The men in the break are flying down the descent at 40km. The gap is down to six minutes.

 

Today could be the fourth career ATOC stage win for Peter Sagan. The Liquigas-Cannondale man is not only quick in the sprints, but he's shown he can go uphill with the best GC contenders.

Cyclingnews spoke to him yesterday and he said this year's course is really tough. He joked that he took one look at the profiles and then closed the race book. But seriously, he is going to see how he feels - he is working for Vincenzo Nibali for the overall, but will play it by ear in the first few stages. If the bunch stays together the team will work for him in the sprints but if Nibali is in a position to take time, then Sagan will work for him. "I'm not someone who just rides for himself".

 

The eight men in the break are passing the vineyards of the Balletto Winery.

 

There are little bits of rain out there on the road, but nothing major.

 

Matt Cooke is in need of assistance from the Exergy team car - not sure if it's a flat or mechanical.

Cameron Meyer is returning to the field after a mechanical.
 

 

Matt Cooke is in need of assistance from the Exergy team car - not sure if it's a flat or mechanical.

Cameron Meyer is returning to the field after a mechanical.
 

 

135km remaining from 186km

 I hope you folks can bear with me. I am still getting a hang of this thing here.

The men in the break are about 4.5km from the first of two intermediate sprints.

 

The crowds are pretty big in Santa Rosa, still lining the streets of downtown as the breakaway heads in for their first intermediate sprint. There is a huge Levi Leipheimer fan base, as he's very active in the community, not just for cycling but for other charities, especially those involving animals.

 

The men in the break have passed through the sprint: Louder, BJM, Bouet.
For the benefit of fans, that first sprint is right at the start/finish in Santa Rosa.

 

 

Michael Creed (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) says his team is hoping to be active today. "We've got a good sprint squad here, so it's not going to make or break us if we don't get into a break."

The team is playing it safe with Sebastian Salas in the break.

 

The peloton is now through the sprint mark and heading through Santa Rosa to start the big circuit.

Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) is trying to go off the front of the peloton.
 

 

Geniez is still in no man's land according to race radio. We're still trying to figure out what he's doing. Maybe just stretching his legs?

 

121km remaining from 186km

Geniez is 8 minutes behind the leaders, the peloton is 9:05.

 

Romain Bardet had a little incident, he's broken his rear wheel. Looks like AG2R's bad luck followed them from Europe.

Meanwhile, the latest time check puts the break at 10:20 ahead of the peloton and 9:50 ahead of Geniez.

 

 Geniez is back in the main field. His little adventure didn't pan out.

119km remaining from 186km

You still have to wonder what was going through Geniez's mind as he tried to bridge a 10-minute gap. Oh well. He's back in the main field and probably chatting about the strategy with his mates.

 

The break is coming up to the feedzone, located among some beautiful vineyards. Maybe it's time to stop for some wine, too?

 

112km remaining from 186km

As you can see from the profile above, this stage is about to get a little tougher, as the road tips upward.
The break is still holding a substantial lead.

 

The peloton is still about 5k from the feedzone.

 

114km remaining from 186km

The gap is still hanging around the 11-minute mark, but there is plenty of racing to go.

 

There has been a crash

 

It's in the peloton and involves riders from Exergy, Optum and Colombia Coldeportes

 

For those of you following this on The RadioShack Tour Tracker, you can catch Live Video in about an hour. Meanwhile, you're stuck with me. I'll do my best to keep you up-to-date.

 

106km remaining from 186km

We still have no updates on that crash. We're hoping that no one was seriously injured.

 

The peloton is picking up the pace. The gap has dropped to 9:05.

 

96km remaining from 186km

Our latest time check puts the eight-man break 8:45 ahead of the peloton.

 

The break is on the Bohemian Highway. They'll be deep in the woods and we may be having a tough time getting frequent reports from our crew out there.

 

93km remaining from 186km

We're at the half-way mark in today's stage.

 

The break is about 10km from the day's first KOM.

 

The break is now 8:30 ahead of the main field. They are on River Road, the main drag between Santa Rosa and the coast at the moment.

The road twists and turns as it follows the Russian River - it's very fast. I expect the peloton is having no trouble clicking off 30mph.

However, once they turn right onto Cazadero Highway the road gets narrow and undulates more, then begins to climb at mile 65.

 

88km remaining from 186km

The break is now 8:30 ahead of the peloton.

 The  Greenedge tam is calling for the team car for clothing. Earlier it was sprinkling a bit. It might be that there's drizzle

Ag2r is staking its hopes on Bouet's presence in the break. The team has yet to win a race this season.

Here's a look at his palmares.

 

82km remaining from 186km

[2:30:40 PM] David Boily from Canada just turned 22 a two weeks ago. He was second overall in the Tour de l'Avenir last year and could be a dangerous rider to give 8 minutes to.

 

Here are the results of the Cat. 4 climb:
1.David Boily,
2. Sebastian Salas
3. Josh Atkins
4. Ben Jacques-Maynes

 

Speaking of guys in the break, Sebastian Salas of Optum recently placed sixth overall in the Tour of the Gila, and he was fourth in the Joe Martin Stage Race.

 

The break is working its way through some gorgeous Redwood Forest roads. The gap is coming down and it's now 7:45.

 

Our leaders are within 3k of the next KOM.

 

75km remaining from 186km

The gap has grown again and is back up to 8:35

 

The eight leaders are now over the day's second KOM. We'll get results ASAP.

 

 

Here are results from the second KOM (a Category 3):
1. David Boily (Spidertech powered by C10)
2. Sebastian Salas (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3. Joshua Atkins (Bontrager-Livestrong)
4. Jeffry Louder (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
5. Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell Cycling) has lost contact with the break.

 

65km remaining from 186km

Lorinn Rhodes is the voice of radio tour, she's currently providing all of our information. CyclingNews did a feature on her back in 2007.

 

Dahlheim is trailing the break by 20 seconds. Come on folks, cheer him on.

 

The leaders are within a kilometer of the day's third KOM.

 

Well, the Live Video is on, Folks!

 

Here are results from the day's third KOM:
Boily extended his lead winning this one as well.

Salas was second, beating out Atkins. Ben Jacques-Maynes took fourth and Bouet was fifth for the last of the points on this Category 3.

 

The leaders have just rocketed down the descent after the last KOM. They are now 56km from the finish.

 

62km remaining from 186km

Correction on the distance. The leaders are 62km from the finish

 

Poor Mr. Dahlheim is still chasing his former break away companions.

 

With 60km remaining, the men in the break are still enjoying a substantial lead of 8:15.

 

As you can see from the profile, there is still plenty of bumpy terrain ahead, so this 8:15 lead is not insurmountable for the peloton. A coordinated effort could pull these guys back pretty quickly, but it could be cause for concern.

 

The race is nearing Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean has a huge estuary that is the playground of harbor seals. A really fun activity here is to rent a kayak and paddle downstream to the estuary and then float and wait for the harbor seals to come investigate you. They'll get pretty close and pop their heads out to look at you but as soon as you turn and look at them, they duck underwater.

They're very shy, but intensely curious.

 

58km remaining from 186km

It is the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek squad doing the bulk of the chase work in the peloton. 

 

55km remaining from 186km

These roads along the coast are stunning. The stages in this part of the ATOC easily meet and exceed the standards set by those of all of the grand tours.

 

Bissell's Frank Pipp has had a puncture. He's chasing back on.

 

Bissell's Andrew Dahlheim is still chasing the others from the break.
Liquigas is also lending a big hand in the chase.

 

Our leaders are turning inland again and will soon be facing the climb to the day's fourth and final KOM after they hit the day's second sprint.

It's a common image at the front of the peloton: Jens Voigt just hammering in the lead spot. Man, that guy works hard.

 

40km remaining from 186km

We are seeing inconsistent reports regarding the distance.

The video seems to have added 10k, so we're going to stick with the GPS-based Tracker.

 

39km remaining from 186km

You know, it's really worth taking a look at the full roster of riders at the Amgen Tour. 
Despite the Giro d'Italia being underway this week, too, there are some seriously heavy hitters in the peloton here in California.

 

Garmin is putting guys into the chase, now too. The gap is still around 7:45. It's going to take a big, big effort at this point.

 

Jeff Louder takes the day's second sprint. He's scooped up two three-second bonuses along the way today.

 

 

43km remaining from 186km

Of course, that also means that the video counter was the correct measure of distance.

 

46km remaining from 186km

You know, it's really worth taking a look at the full roster of riders at the Amgen Tour. 
Despite the Giro d'Italia being underway this week, too, there are some seriously heavy hitters in the peloton here in California.

 

42km remaining from 186km

Louder has taken both of today's intermediate sprints. He's earned 6 bonus seconds, which could mean something in Santa Rosa when they hand out the first leader's jersey. 

40km remaining from 186km

Up ahead is the day's fourth and final KOM. The points are awarded a little shy of the top of the climb on Coleman Valley Rd. It still goes up after that, it's not very steep but it's maybe 3-4% for a while.

Just a note on distances. We were relying on the Tour tracker, but those distances are actually a little off. The distances on the video are the ones that are correct.

 

The latest time check puts the gap at 4:00. This could be close, after all.

 

37km remaining from 186km

The peloton is riding with a bit more confidence. The gap is coming down and the possibility of a catch is seeming more and more realistic.

 

The leaders are now 1km from the KOM mark.

 

Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell) has been pulled back into the field.

 

37km remaining from 186km

The leaders are nearing the KOM and they are going to charge to the line.

 

The peloton is rather strung out on this climb as Garmin is putting in a big effort. 
The time gap has to be down to about 2:30 or so.

The peloton hits the KOM exactly 2:40 behind the leaders.

 

35km remaining from 186km

A number of good sprinters have been gapped on the climb, but they are not out of contention, given the largely downhill run to the finish from here.

 

Results of the KOM:
1. David Boily (SpiderTech)
2. Sebastian Salas (Optum)
3. Maxime Bouet (Ag2r)

 

33km remaining from 186km

The gap continues to drop and the fellas in the break do look quite a bit more tired than do the guys chasing them.

 

Oh the view from the helicopter sure shows a fractured peloton, with several groups forming up on the road. The peloton is only made up of about 50 or 60 riders.

 

31km remaining from 186km

Jeff Louder is trying to go on his own, now.

 

29km remaining from 186km

Louder has been pulled back, but it's clear that with the gap coming down, it's going to be every man for himself from here on out.

 

28km remaining from 186km

The men in the break continue to lose time. The gap is down to 1:35.

 

26km remaining from 186km

The peloton is stretched out in single file. There's a big group off of the back and trailing by about 40 seconds.

 

25km remaining from 186km

Boily has faded off the back of the break. 

Indeed, now it's down to three up front. Ben Jacques Maynes, Maxime Bouet and Jeff Louder.

 

The team cars are being pulled out of the gap. That's a bad sign for the boys in the break.

 

24km remaining from 186km

It's Rabobank really driving the chase at this point. They have pulled to within a minute.

 

Boily is pulled back into the main field.

 

22km remaining from 186km

Our three leaders are being pulled in. We could see a catch coming soon.

 

Louder dropped his chain and got gapped. He's catching back on.

21km remaining from 186km

Louder stayed cool and worked his chain back on to the ring.

 

19km remaining from 186km

The gap has grown slightly again.

 

18km remaining from 186km

 Rabobank continues to drive the chase. The leaders look like they are suffering under the pressure of the chase.

Sam Johnson - from the original break - is back in the field.

17km remaining from 186km

The gap is still holding at around a minute, but I wouldn't bet much on the trio's chances.

 

15km remaining from 186km

The peloton is growing again and we've got about 80 riders in the main field. 

Our three leaders are just about 40 seconds ahead of the field.

 

14km remaining from 186km

 The three leaders are within sight of the peloton.

13km remaining from 186km

Were I doing my usual gig, I'd be rousting a certain heavy-set fellow to begin warming up his voice.

 

12km remaining from 186km

Long, straight roads under sunny skies. 

 

10km remaining from 186km

The main field is easing up a bit. They met let those three dangle out there for a bit.

 

9km remaining from 186km

Oh the universal sign of surrender: riders in the break are looking over their shoulders. Still, they are trying it.

 

8km remaining from 186km

10 seconds maybe.

 

8km remaining from 186km

Handshakes among the three men in the break. They know what's about to happen.

 

7km remaining from 186km

Peter Sagan has a flat.

 

7km remaining from 186km

Sagan is riding and about to catch.

The three leaders are caught.

It's over.

 

6km remaining from 186km

Sagan is now working his way back through the caravan.

 

5km remaining from 186km

Rabobank sees the trouble Sagan is having and put the hammer down... but Sagan is bout to make contact

 

5km remaining from 186km

Liquigas now has a rider at the front of the field and Sagan is working his way up front.

 

4km remaining from 186km

Well, we're going to see a field sprint after all. 

 

3km remaining from 186km

BMC is moving up.

 

3km remaining from 186km

Crash!

 

3km remaining from 186km

Michael Matthews (Rabobank) is the most notable sprinter taken out by that crash.

 

That crash took place just outside of the 3km 

Nicholas Roche was caught out. He's chasing.

 

1km remaining from 186km

Sagan avoided the trouble

 

Green Edge is driving hard with 700 meters.
Sagan is getting a great lead, too.

 

Sagan takes it and makes it look EASY!

 

22-year-old Peter Sagan is the first leader of the Amgen Tour of California. This is his fourth stage win at ATOC.

 

Wowie.
That was quite the sprint.

 

1. Peter Sagan (Svk), Liquigas-Cannondale
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin
3. Freddy Rodriguez (USA) Exergy.
 

 

Okay, that was terrific.
I will be back doing live on Friday and through next weekend.
Have fun and I'll see you in a few days.

 

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