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Tour of California 2013: Stage 1


Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California.

The riders are about to get underway from Escondido for the first stage of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California. And what a doozy! It's already hot, and on top of the 1600m summit of Palomar Mountain, it's reportedly in the 90's. There will be a lot of water bottles being dumped over riders' heads today.

The peloton is off for a 2.7km neutral lap and then it's 165.1km of racing today with the first KOM coming at 61.3km into the race on Mesa Grande.

Before the first climb, however, the sprinters will have a chance to show themselves at the sole intermediate sprint in Ramona at km. 31.1. They're past the 0km mark now and rolling along at 42mph - that's a quick start!

While today's main peak - Palomar Mountain - rises to a mile in elevation, it does so over 10.8 miles, and averages 4.5%. That isn't the worst climb one can imagine, but given today's high temperatures it will be a bit more difficult.

159km remaining from 165km

The only non-starter of the day is RadioShack's Ben King. The former US champion crashed in a pre-race training ride and scraped up his hands so badly that he couldn't hold onto the handlebars.

155km remaining from 165km

Farrar also predicted that it would be a while before any breakaway could go clear today, and it looks like his prediction is coming true: the bunch is all together and hurtling out of town at top speed - 35mph!

151km remaining from 165km

149km remaining from 165km

147km remaining from 165km

The gap for our four leaders has grown large enough that their team cars: Bissell, Optum, NetApp-Endura and 5 Hour Energy have been allowed to move forward into the gap.

141km remaining from 165km

The riders are currently making their way uphill on CA 78 toward Ramona, it's a long, gradual slog and they're doing it rather steadily. Only 11mph at the moment for the break, and they're still extending their lead to 4:10.

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140km remaining from 165km

The breakaway is only a few kilometers from the first sprint, and has a gap of five minutes.

134km remaining from 165km

130km remaining from 165km

Marsh Cooper (Optum) is from British Columbia, and is 27. He started his career with the Symmetrics team and was a junior national champion of Canada, but he took some time away from bike racing before returning with the Optum team.

The leaders have a whopping 7:50 lead as they continue to climb out of Ramona. There isn't much shade out here in the ranch lands, and the temperatures are soaring into the 100s.

125km remaining from 165km

James Stemper has transformed himself from a notable criterium rider into an important helper for his team leader. He rode a strong race at the Redlands Classic, taking second in the mountains classification.

As expected Mancebo's move with Beyer has been reabsorbed, and the gap has gone back out over 11 minutes now.

115km remaining from 165km

Maybe the peloton can stop at Dudley's World Famous Bakery if they need some more energy to pull back that 11 minute gap. It's just up the road from them. Best pies in San Diego County, or so we're told.

We're told that former US 'cross world champion Tim Johnson was one of the top riders in the L'Etape du California yesterday - along with Wayne Stetina, who at age 59 recovered from hip surgery in February. It took them 5:30 to do today's stage route. We expect the pro peloton to be a shade quicker.

The peloton is really not willing to push too hard on such a hot opening stage, and as a result, they're averaging less than the 35kph slowest estimated speed for the stage (22mph).

108km remaining from 165km

Just a few more kilometers and the leaders should be starting up the first KOM. There is a steep kicker at the start that brings them to the sprint line, but there isn't a good descent right after. It twists and turns across the mesa for about 10km before plunging down a steep, technical descent.

105km remaining from 165km

Carter Jones has attacked to go for the KOM, but Stemper is on his wheel.

Dempster came over the top of Jones to steal the points atop Mesa Grande, with Stemper and Cooper behind in that order.

The peloton is now strung out single file going up Mesa Grande, bringing down the gap to 8:40 with Cannondale working hard for Sagan.

BMC is also working up front in the peloton for Tejay van Garderen - the gap is consistently falling. Fortunately the temperature appears to be dropping a touch as well - it's only 90. "only".

The four breakaway riders have pulled the gap out to 8:45 thanks to the descent, but the peloton is about to go down it. This descent scared the pants off of me when I last rode it in 2004... I don't expect it's gotten any less dicey!

86km remaining from 165km

Here we go! The breakaway has made the turn onto East Grade road and is beginning the long haul up the slopes of Palomar Mountain!

The breakaway is climbing, and the peloton descending, flat out in pursuit. The gap is falling to 7:40 now, but as the peloton picks up lunch that might go back out a touch.

80km remaining from 165km

Although he was first across the Mesa Grande climb, Zak Dempster is struggling on the Palmoar climb and is behind the other three at the moment.

There is a gruppetto forming at the back, about four minutes behind the main peloton. The gap between the leaders and the peloton is still wavering around the seven minute mark.

Dempster has been well and truly left behind by the other three, Stemper, Cooper and Jones. The climb was a bit up and down but is now going steadily up toward the summit, which is still about 8km away.

Stemper is leading Jones and Cooper, and the trio are keeping the peloton at bay for the moment. Cannondale is leading the chase for Sagan, but it's no panic yet - there are still more than 5km to go before the top.

We've got a Saxo-Tinkoff rider on the front of the peloton now, the race going to script for Tour of California: the domestic teams doing what they can to show their jerseys to the television audience, while the WorldTour riders are forced to do the chasing.

Thor Hushovd (BMC) has been left behind by the peloton, or maybe was just going back to chat with the team car. There is no big effort coming from the bunch, as one NetApp rider has stopped to answer the call of nature, and the rest are 10 riders wide across the road.

Saxo-Tinkoff has faith in Mick Rogers, they've got several riders up front leading the chase, as the trio up front have 5km to the top of the climb. The descent will be very fast and twisty.

The "easy side" of Palomar isn't causing much problem for the peloton, which is still in a compact mass, not yet in full pursuit. The gap is going up a bit to 7:40.

While the peloton makes Palomar look easy, Cooper seems to be having a bit of a hard time at the back of the leading trio. The gradient gets slightly easier toward the top, but that is almost worse, when the stronger riders drop it into the big ring and start to hammer is when cramps can form.

Carter Jones leads the trio across the KOM line ahead of Cooper and Stemper, but there was no sprint, the trio are determined to stick together, and they will need to in order to stay away.

The three leaders are on the descent now and are bombing around the wide turns to stay ahead of the BMC train that is currently in charge of chasing them down.

Andy Schleck has decided that it's time to move up - he's up and out of the saddle trying to get to the front, maybe so he can have a good look at the descent. Only 1 km to the top for the peloton.

With that KOM win, Carter Jones will be in the climber's jersey tonight. A UHC rider has taken the top spot from the peloton - Chris Jones perhaps?

The peloton is chasing after Lucas Euser (UHC) who was the rider who attacked the peloton at the top. BMC is in the lead of the chase.

Dempster was still in the middle of the gap between the break and the field at the top, and took fourth on the KOM.

Euser is going hell-bent for leather on this descent, getting in a tight aero tuck on his top tube. He can see Dempster up ahead and will catch him in a moment.

Euser passes Dempster like he's standing still, but the Aussie is carrying a jersey full of bottles to take back to his team, so he might be a bit off balance from the sloshing.

NetApp's Benedetti has had a flat tire, not a great time since the peloton is flat out on the descent. Let's hope he stayed upright when it went out.

110km remaining from 165km

Stemper, Cooper and Jones are doing everything they can to stay clear, getting into their tight aero tuck to maximize their speed on the descent. The climb up Cole Grade is still 15km away.

The breakaway has as of yet resisted the chase, they are nearing the turn onto Cole Grade road. They have 5:40 -will it be enough?

41km remaining from 165km

2010 champion Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) looks comfortable, rolling along in the peloton.

The break has begun to climb the day's final KOM, the Category 3-rated Cole Grade.

At the head of the race it looks like Marsh Cooper (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) has cracked.

37km remaining from 165km

The two breakaway riders have just passed the 1km to go marker for the KOM on Cole Grade

Carter Jones is across the KOM on Cole Grade in first place, followed by Stemper. That seals up the mountains jersey for the Bissell rider. Now 4:45 for the bunch which is being led by NetApp.

Gilbert is also in difficulty, but there's plenty of time to chase back on after the top. Present at the front behind NetApp is one Andy Schleck, looking like he's enjoying the climb.

200m to go for the peloton and the bunch has been shattered byt he pace of NetApp. Lucas Euser attacks them to take third on the KOM.

The group of Sagan is now coming up to the KOM, and he has several teammates with him - his group may be able to rejoin over the top.

No worries for Sagan, his teammates pulled him back into the main peloton, which is still chasing two riders, as they absorb Marsh Cooper.

4:10 for Jones and Stemper, but that gap will be hard to maintain as all manner of riders are chasing through the team cars to rejoin the main bunch - Gilbert is the latest to make it through.

Now Cannondale has firm control at the front, they have three men to chase two, and 30km to do so.

20km remaining from 165km

Gilbert might have been tipped for today's stage before the race, but he's off the back now, trying to get back on as Cannondale's Koren goes backward after doing his job for the day.

17km remaining from 165km

Crash. The attack has been neutralized, but we've got Luis Amaran on the floor. He is sitting up but looks in pain.

Daniel here, taking over for the final 14km. BMC continue to set the pace on the front, trying to assert some control over the pace setting. This will play into Sagan's hands as the lead to the break is now down to 1'20.

It looked like the two man break had a chance 10 km ago but it's all changed and the leaders are really struggling. That attack from Rogers, formerly of Sky, now of Saxo Bank, really increased the pressure within the peloton.

The advantage is now under a minute for Jones and Stemper. 13km to go.

Sagan has put his team on the front but he himself smartly drifts back to the end of the group to see who is present. Farrar has apparently made contact after being dropped earlier.

Meersman is also in the main group, hence why QuickStep have moved to help Cannondale on the front of the peloton.

The two leaders have just 10km to race but the gap is down to 35 seconds.

It's a long sweeping downhill section and the bunch are lined out around the corners.

Mancebo is sitting third wheel in the bunch. He's been there for most of the last 20 km.

Onto the flat section with 8km to go and the bunch can see the leaders just ahead of them.

Stemper is about to take his last turn on the front. After that it'll be all over for the two leaders.

Meersman looks to have glued himself to Sagan's rear wheel.

An attack from Vacansoleil, just as the catch is made with 5km to go.

It's Westra who has attacked, and Sagan is just off the back of the bunch

Sagan has a mechanical and Mancebo is coming over to Westra.

The two riders have joined up together on the front of the race.

Westra and Manceho have a short gap here and they're working well together.

Sagan seems to have recovered and he's moving up the bunch.

Looked like a RadioShack rider just threw a punch there.

2km to go for the two leaders and they're pulling clear.

BMC have to chase for van Garderen because Mancebo is a GC threat. It's 9 seconds.

1km to go .

Still 9 seconds.


Westra takes the win, Mancebo second and then Sagan leads the bunch home for third.

So Westra leads the race by four seconds ahead of Mancebo, Sagan in third.

Cannondale just couldn't hold the peloton together in the final 5km and Westra and Mancebo took advantage.

Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report and results, right here. Stay tuned tomorrow for more action from the Amgen Tour of California.

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