Stage 2 was as big as it was supposed to be, with George Hincapie taking the stage win and overall lead. Those of us who watched from the top of Sierra Road thought that Levi Leipheimer had the advantage and would protect his jersey. Leipheimer, Landis, and Kohl were over the top first, with a long string of riders behind them. Cycling is a team sport, though, and it was the combined might of Discovery that won out. Michael Barry and Jason McCartney pulled Hincapie over the top and on the descent they managed to link up with Tom Danielson, who was in front of them. A nineteen-man group formed that was able to slowly reel in Leipheimer, Landis, and Kohl. Michael Barry launched George Hincapie across the finish line for first place. Chris Horner followed in second, later saying that he didn't realize that he had a teammate on his wheel to help out. CSC had Zabriskie, Julich, and Vande Velde in the same group, but none were capable of outsprinting Hincapie and the various breakaway attempts on the final stretch failed.
Part of me was cheering for Ben Jacques-Maynes, a local Kodak rider who had his eyes set on the San Jose stages. He made a go of it with a three-man breakaway with Michael Creed and Mads Kaggestad, but Gerolsteiner was able to reel them in on the Sierra Road climb.
Video (shot by Al at 200m from the summit):
The thing to note from these videos is that Levi had no teammates closeby, Hincapie had three immediate teammates and two more not too far behind.
Stage Profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):
Read on for a personal account of the race from the top of Sierra Road down to the bottom and then over to the podium presentation, as well as personal photos from the race.
Today was a day of pain followed by anticipation. We pulled out of the parking lot on our bikes right at the start of the Sierra Road climb and were immediately greeted by a road that looked more like a wall. From there, it was 4mph in the granny gear to the top, mostly behind Al who had a far superior granny gear. It was a like a biker's pilgrammage, with hundreds of bicyclists around us making there way to their chosen vantage point. At the top were hundreds if not thousands of people watching the six helicopters overhead perform their slow synchronized dance closer and closer. There was even the Specialized Angel, who has now become an icon among the spectators, broadcasters, and announcers of this event. I got a shot of her praying for her wings (she's actually trying to warm up her hands as it's freezing) as well as our mounted lookouts:
We heard news of Ben Jacques-Maynes and Michael Creed's breakaway -- 4'30" ahead, 2'45" ahead, and then nothing. A kid on horseback was our herald and announced, "the riders are coming," and then it was many minutes of crowd cheering as group after group came by. Levi leading the charge with Kohl as Landis slipped back, Zabriskie attempting to catch up, Cadel Evans and Tom Danielson also trailing, Michael Barry leading Hincapie's charge up the mountain, and then fractured remains of peloton.
Ben Jacques-Maynes becomes part of the pack:
We got back on our bikes after the riders passed and zoomed back downhill, briefly pulling to the side to let the Broom Wagon and a lone Lotto rider pass -- it was a mean sight as the Broom Wagon has actually brooms on it, so you have the impression of the poor Lotto rider about to be swept up like detritus. Then more zooming down to the base of Sierra where we just missed the lead groups pass. I got there just in time to see Savoldelli and Ekimov latched onto the back of their group. Things hadn't got very reorganized on the descent as there were still many groups spread apart zooming past. I counted six Gerolsteiner riders way behind but very few Discovery riders. My camera managed to catch a CSC rider and a Gerolsteiner rider raising their arms in mock celebration as they were in one of the groups way, way back.
As we had already missed the lead group after our descent, we had little chance of catching back up with it before they reached the finish line, but we tried anyway. Al drove like a maniac to get us across San Jose to get to the city center. We got back on our bikes and pulled up to a light, noticing that in the car next to us was Levi Leipheimer and a Gerolsteiner teammate. He wasn't wearing his leader's jersey anymore, which was enough to tell us that (a) Levi got caught and (b) we missed the finish. We still got to catch the podium presentation with Hincapie, Horner, etc.. and we also got to see Hincapie enter the exciting medical control van.