Results tagged “Levi Leipheimer” from spare cycles

Levi's Gran Fondo Photos

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They're slowly uploading to the Gran Fondo site. A couple of scenics, and then a bunch of shots of a bunch of people, some people I know, a whole bunch I don't. 'Twas a fun and impressive event. If you saw me taking your photo, hopefully you'll find it here -- if you don't, it means I screwed up the shot.

Levi Out

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TechCrunch posted some internal documents from Twitter that shows that Twitter aims to be the "pulse" of the planet. @LeviLeipheimer offers his own support of this, Twittering directly from the operating room as doctor's insert a 22mm titanium screw into his wrist:

We'll miss him in the Alps, especially as he had a chance at podium this year, but we'll always have the tweets.

Andy Jacques-Maynes - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Daniel Holloway - (c) Ken Conley
Bissell - (c) Ken Conley

Gallery

It was the Bissell and Levi show, with a dash of Colavita. Bissell, because they owned the race, Colavita, because they tried but were outmanned, and Levi, because he's Levi. With the Tour de Georgia gone, Levi's schedule was freed up to drop on be Sea Otter for some laps around the course -- SRAM's sponsorship seemed to help entice him to come (as well as convince him, Lance, and Horner to go to Gila).

Bissell and Colavita made the first major break of six, which got a huge gap on the field. The two Felt U23 riders and Garmin's Holloway tried to contain it, but the break was too big. Apparently Bissell didn't like the makeup of that break, which contained two Colavita riders, so they were soon helping Levi chase it down. You knew that Levi was starting to hit it when the peloton came down the Corkscrew in fragments, slowly regrouping to prepare for another dose the next lap.

Bissell made two riders the next break, as did another Colavita rider, but with the odds 2:1 in Bissell favor, they were ready to let this one play out. Alex Howes of the Felt U23 team tried to bridge the gap, but it was far too much for a solo effort -- unless, perhaps, you're Levi Leipheimer, but Levi didn't seem terribly interested in towing a large group of riders up to the break.

Click to see more Men's Pro Circuit Race Gallery Click here for more photos from the Sea Otter 2009 Men's Pro Circuit Race

There shall be Otter and Levi

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Playground

I'm headed to Sea Otter tomorrow night to shoot over the weekend. I'm skipping the road race, but I'll be shooting the circuit race, some dual slalom, some XC, and whatever else floats my boat. Levi's officially a show this year -- last time he was at Sea Otter he looked like this:

Levi descends

Copperopolis 2009

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Ben Jacques-Maynes - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Copperopolis - (c) Ken ConleyPhoto by Ken Conley
Ben Jacques-Maynes - (c) Ken Conley Ben Jacques-Maynes - (c) Ken Conley
Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Ben Jacques-Maynes loved the break today and it paid off. After an earlier two-man break helped whittle the field, BJM attacked with Scott Nydam at the end of the penultimate lap and stayed away until the end. On the final turn up the hill to the finish he was able to look back, see that Nydam lost his wheel, and coast to victory. Levi Leipheimer was part of the chase group but was unable to repeat his victory from two years back -- he noted with amusement on Twitter

Rachel Heal of Colavita took the women's race in a sprint with Touchstone's Olivia Dillon. I got to Copperopolis and missed most of that race, so don't have much to add in the way of details.

officially DQ'd for crossing yellow line somewhere:)! What an amateur! Hard race though, 5hr 270w av

My gallery for this year is a bit smaller. I was mostly motivated to go to Copperopolis to procrastinate on doing my taxes, but I was only willing to procrastinate so much...

Click for more Copperopolis 2009 Photos

Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

The Solvang course is Levi country. It has yet to deny him, even with strong competition from Dave Zabriskie this year.

I have to head out as the transfer today is quite long. My photos from today are fairly terrible. I attempted to go big with my Levi and Lance photos and fell on my face instead. I took some safe shots earlier and should have stuck with that, but with the Prologue in the bank it was time for something new.

Tour of California Stage 6: Solvang

Cancellara: Golden World Champion

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Thumbnail image for BeijingOlympics.jpgCancellara vs. Contador, CSC vs. Astana, CSC vs. CSC, Astana vs. Astana. It was an up and down time trial that constantly redrew the lines of battle. The riders went off in three groups, with Canadian Svein Tuft the best of the first two groups, but it was the third group that really brought the fireworks.

Early on it was Contador scaling the Great Wall uphill, Cancellara tearing down that wall on the descents. Contador set the fastest time at the first time check on the uphill climb; Cancellara took back the lead at the second time check after the descent. Woe to any rider caught anywhere near the two as the passing of 90-second riders was fast and furious. Cancellara even got post-Tour-de-France revenge on Schumacher, who got to watch Cancellara power past at the start of the second lap.

Cancellara and Contador may have been eating up the time checks, but the man who was setting top times before them wasn't fading. Cancellara's CSC teammate Gustav Larsson had set the best times at the first and second checks before Cancellara and Contador rolled through. At first it looked like a battle between Larsson and Leipheimer, but Leipheimer slowly drifted further and further behind. CSC 1, Astana 0.

Big hopes were on Contador as he started his second lap. The uphill climb, which favored him so heavily the first lap, instead seemed to weigh heavily on his legs the second time around. Larsson, on the other hand, only improved on his position: this time when he set the fastest time at the third check, it stuck. CSC 2, Astana 0. Even Cancellara had to bow to Larsson's time.

With Leipheimer and Contador defeated, teammate was now turned against teammate. Contador now as battling Leipheimer for podium and It was up to Cancellara to prove his World Champion stripes by hunting Larsson down for gold.

It wasn't a fair battle. The time trial course was identical to the road race course. That final stretch into the finish is the same stretch that Cancellara screamed across to bridge two gaps and take bronze. They should rename that stretch in his honor because he tore it up again, taking the gold medal by almost half a minute. Larsson took silver and in the battle for bronze, Leipheimer held off both Contador and a late charge from Cadel Evans. On top of Kristin Armstrong's gold medal, USA cycling can be very proud.

As expected, the uphill course didn't suit Zabriskie's style and he wasn't able to best Svein Tuft's early best time. It seemed the course didn't really suit anyone, in fact. Plenty of riders in both the men's and women's time trial immediately dismounted and laid out on the ground just pass the finish. Even Cancellara had to take a seat and pour water of his head repeatedly.

Olympians

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Levi and DZ - (c) Ken Conley

USA Cycling announced most of the Olympic roster today. Several womens' selections won't be announced until July 15.

Men's Road Race

  • Levi Leipheimer
  • George Hincapie
  • Jason McCartney
  • Christian Vande Velde
  • Dave Zabriskie

Men's TT

  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Dave Zabriskie

Women's TT and Road

  • Kristin Armstrong
  • Two more TBA

Men's MTB

  • Todd Wells
  • Adam Craig

Women's MTB

  • Georgia Gould
  • One more TBA

Men's Track

  • Michael Blatchford
  • Bobby Lea
  • Taylor Phinney
  • Adam Duvendeck
  • Michael Friedman
  • Giddeon Massie

Women's Track

  • Sarah Hammer
  • Jennie Reed

See the USA Cycling press release for more.

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Kanstantin Siutsou - (c) Ken Conley Kanstantin Siutsou - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia 2007 Stage 6 Photo Gallery

Kanstantin Siutsou shocked all the Tour de Georgia pundits by winning Brasstown Bald and moving into the Tour de Georgia lead. While everyone's GC eyes were focused on the battle between Trent Lowe and Levi Leipheimer just behind, Siutsou managed to put 10 seconds on the two. With the GC separated by very few seconds due to the close TTT finishing times, this was just enough to put High Road into the yellow jersey. Siutsou came so far out of nowhere that reporters had to ask Bob Stapleton afterwards how to pronounce his name.

High Road's Tour de Georgia has now gone from good to excellent, with both the overall and sprint lead, as well as two stage victories. They will be focused on a defending both tomorrow along Atlanta's circuit.

Stage 6 was full of surprises. No one predicted that Trent Lowe would be duking it out it Levi for the overall, nor did they predict that Lowe would actually beat Levi. Who would have though that Astana would be shutout at an American Tour without even a stage win, after having won all Tour of California/Georgia/Missouris since Landis took the 2006 Tour de Georgia. There's still hope for tomorrow, but they'll have to play a perfect hand to take 14 seconds.

Trent Lowe Shadows Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley Trent Lowe Shadows Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley

Big things were expected of Tom Danielson, but he finished nearly 12 minutes back, smiling as he climbed. Photos show him and Zabriskie doing work at the front of the peloton to reel in the break, so I guess Slipstream put all their hopes on Lowe -- and he would have delivered, if anyone had known anything about Siutsou.

Tom Danielson - (c) Ken Conley

Then there's Team Type 1, which finished two riders in the top ten up Brasstown -- as many as any other team. Jittery Joe's found success with Neil Shirley, who hung with a break of Svein Tuft, Jason McCartney, and Andrey Mizurov to take the Most Aggressive Award.

Team Type 1 - (c) Ken Conley Jason McCartney - (c) Ken Conley Neil Shirley - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia 2007 Stage 6 Photo Gallery

More Stage 7 Photos: Champagne Fight and More

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Champagne Fight - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Champagne Fight - (c) Ken Conley Slipstream - (c) Ken Conley Levi and Odessa - (c) Ken Conley Christian Vande Velde - (c) Ken Conley Champagne Fight - (c) Ken Conley Dominique Rollin - (c) Ken Conley Tom Zirbel - (c) Ken Conley Champagne Fight - (c) Ken Conley Alexandre Moos - (c) Ken Conley

Levi was relentless when it came to the champagne fight -- I've never seen such a bleary-eyed podium. Dominique Rollin also tried to score points with the Rock Racing girls by handing them flowers, David MIllar showed patience in opening his champagne even as Levi sprayed him, Christian Vande Velde was smart enough to hand-off his baby before the champagne fight began, and Zabriskie was even smarter to use the giant check as a shield and then run off the stage with it.

Hincapie Wins - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 7 Photo Gallery

Team High Road got redemption today as George Hincapie delivered from the breakaway. After misjudging Dominique Rollin in Stage 4 and losing victory in Stage 6, High Road can at last celebrate. You had the feeling that there were many in the peloton content to see if Hincapie or any of the other riders in the break could pull one out for their teams. Tom Zirbel had the boldest move, surviving several laps off the front, Michael Creed made a go for Rock Racing, Rory Sutherland put his Most Aggressive jersey to use, and Jason McCartney tried to bookend the ToC for CSC, but Hincapie had the best legs.

It's only fitting that the 2008 Tour of California end with soggy conditions, though more severe snow and flash flood conditions were avoided. As if tuned to race time, the sun and a rainbow emerged for Levi Leipheimer to gaze upon as he accepted his second straight overall victory. Leipheimer used the platform to continue to argue for Tour de France entry, as well as spray David Millar and Christian Vande Velde with champagne.

Slipstream-Chipotle has made impressive gains in just a year. With second and third place overall, best team, and Steven Cozza animating the breaks, it looks like they will be a team to watch on the international stage.

Millcreek Summit Descent - (c) Ken Conley

Millcreek Summit Descent - (c) Ken Conley Cavendish Takes the Bunch Sprint - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 7 Photo Gallery

Disco Lives (Almost)

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Discovery Channel TT Bike - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

You can tell it's the start of the season -- Levi's backup bike is still his old Discovery Channel bike, albeit with a black piece of tape that somehow disguises its origin.

Stage 5: Levi Wins in Solvang Again

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Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

David Millar - (c) Ken Conley Christian Vandevelde - (c) Ken Conley

Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken Conley Fabian Cancellara - (c) Ken Conley George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley Podium - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 5 Solvang Photo Gallery

Today started off ominously -- the skies poured rain off and on before the stage start and the navigation dial on my camera, which has the important duty of selecting my autofocus point, was only recognizing two out of its nine directions. Riders were stilled dazed from yesterday's efforts: Danny Pate talked about only being able to put down 1000 calories yesterday on a day he burned 5000. There seemed to be a lot less riders taking warmup rides than last year. And then it got better, much better. The roads dried off. Blue skies rolled in. My camera started working again.

Levi Leipheimer and Astana were the big winners on the day as Levi once again defended his overall lead in Solvang. Slipstream had a banner day as well -- they weren't able to beat Levi, but they took second, third, and sixth places. CSC took fourth and fifth, but Cancellara wasn't pull off his best effort after a rough week in the rain.

Stage 5 Solvang Photo Gallery

Gesink Wins - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Stage 3 Photo Gallery

Mount Hamilton was a big addition to today's stage, but the results were eerily familar -- so much so that Fritz of Cyclelicio.us was able to pull one of my 2007 photos for his stage 3 summary. Last year it was Levi, Voigt, and Gesink over the top of Sierra Road. The trio survived and Voigt easily took the sprint. This time around, Levi and Gesink were lucky to leave Voigt behind and negotiate a rider's agreement: Gesink took the stage, Levi the overall lead. From comments Leipheimer made after the stage, it sounds like Astana and Rabobank had worked this possibility out the night before.

With Farrar being a sprinter, it was well expected that the overall lead would be up for grabs. This came sooner than expected, however, as Farrar dropped out with a stomach bug. Farrar had hoped to transfer the jersey to Danielson, but Danielson was already far behind on the Mount Hamilton climb. Millar and Zabriskie had good rides and are both within striking distance to take the lead at the Solvang time trial. Fabian Cancellara also rode in with Millar and Zabriskie and sits in a close second at 13 seconds back.

Mario Cipollini - (c) Ken Conley Scott Nydam - (c) Ken Conley Gesink Podium - (c) Ken Conley Gesink Podium - (c) Ken Conley Gesink Podium - (c) Ken Conley George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 3 Photo Gallery

Prologue: Fabian Cancellara Dominates

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Fabian Cancellara
Photo by Ken Conley

Palo Alto Prologue Photos

Cancellara showed he is a man of the prologue by dominating his way to victory and becoming the first non-US recipient of the Tour of California leader's jersey. On a day in which tenths of seconds mattered, Cancellara dominated the field by nearly six seconds on the short 2.1 mile course.

I'll have many photos to come, including Zabriskie's retro-ugly mustache as well as non-racing news makers Hamilton, Sevilla, and Landis.

Palo Alto Prologue Photos

ToC '08 Kickoff Press Conference

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Press Conference
Photo by Ken Conley

Press Conference Photo Gallery

Freddie RodriguezRock Racing got the big news today as Michael Ball called a press conference just before the official kickoff press conference: Cipo is in but Ball claims that either his whole team will start or none at all. Race organizers readily admit to bending the rules a bit to allow Cipo to be a last minute addition, but Rock Racing will be only allow five riders at the start, and none of the Puerto Three. It puts AEG in a tough position as they took half a million of Ball's money, but it's the UCI that actually has control over who starts. Michael Ball will most likely pull some sort of stunt tomorrow by having his banned riders (Botero, Sevilla, Hamilton) attempt to start and he'll have to figure out if he really meant what he said.
David Millar Let Levi Ride Jens Voigt

As for the actual press conference, it was full of your general pablum by sponsors and organizers. My photo reel is full of riders pulling at their faces in boredom, but it was nice to see a very packed press conference. Analogies were made between Rock's situation and Astana's, and Levi was careful in his wording not to rule out switching to another team for the Tour de France while pimping LetLeviRide.com. Jens Voigt was there sporting some road rash from a recent crash and rumor has it that Zabriskie is sporting an handlebar mustache, ala Cozza.

Steephill.tv took video -- I'll link to it as soon as I spot it on his ToC page.

Press Conference Photo Gallery

Levi and Friends

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Horner and Leipheimer
Photo by Ken Conley

Chris Horner

Jelly Belly High Road Matteo Tosatto

Levi Leipheimer

Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner came to speak in Palo Alto at a fundraiser for the Tour of California. Riders for High Road, Jelly Belly, and High Road also showed up to sign autographs for fans. It was an interesting time, seeing at news of Astana's ban from ASO events is still being absorbed. The new bit of news on that front is that Levi indicated that Astana would be launching some sort of online petition to rally American fans. Other topics of conversation included Horner's virility, air resistance of ponytails, and the Tour of California.
Video:

Also, enjoy the photos.

Levi and Friends Photo Gallery

RBA6

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RBA6.Levi.web.jpg

Every issue of RBA that comes out is happy little surprise for me. Some more of my Levi shots get to see print, including the bottom right one, which is one of my favorites.

Levi Leipheimer
Photo by Ken Conley

Levi Leipheimer Alberto Contador George Hincapie

Alberto Contador

Stage 3 Photo Gallery

I took many photos of riders on the road, except of George Hincapie -- I managed to bump the manual focus switch on my camera as I raised it for the shot, leaving me to only get the one you see above. I tried to get another shot of Hincapie and Levi as they drafted the back of my car on the descent from the finish line, but driving and no-looks photography don't mix. Levi himself was difficult to photograph, in that he showed up 'early' due to the fact that he passed six riders on the road.

I don't have too much to say about the race itself. Most of the details were filled in as I watched the award ceremonies and attended the press conferences. Levi did say that it wasn't his best time trial, so he was happy to win anyway. Hincapie was a bit tired from the break yesterday and was simply happy to have beaten his breakaway companions.

Levi Leipheimer

Note: travel/vacation day, limited coverage

It was an amazing finish with all three of the top riders delivering the time trials of their careers. Levi Leipheimer, who's ridden near the top but never ahead this Tour, started almost a minute behind Cadel Evans. Levi delivered a smashing time trial, winning the stage and having us audience members thinking that he might have closed the gap with Evans. Evans rode strong over the final distance, pulling on the handlebars in the final straight to just save his second place podium spot. Alberto Contador, climber not time trialer, saved his yellow jersery and held off both Evans and Leipheimer.

Discovery Channel had an amazing day with Lance in attendance. They finished 1-4-5-7 on the stage and will head into the final Paris stage tomorrow in 1-3 overall. Levi will start 8" behind Evans, so the final standings are not settled yet. Contador has a 23" lead and should be able to cruise to the top podium spot tomorrow.

Preview links:

Discovery hit Rasmussen with everything they had, isolating Rasmussen early on the slopes of the Col d'Aubisque. Levi and Contador launched attacks back and forth, but in the end it was Rasmussen who launched the final attack in the final kilometer to take the stage win. Rasmussen rolled through to a chorus of cheers and boos.

Discovery's game plan was near perfect, but Rasmussen was not to be broken. Popovych went to the front to set a blistering pace after Rabobank's Menchov cracked. Boogerd was quickly shed as well, leaving Rasmussen all by himself. Soon it was just six riders, with three of those riders from Discovery. Levi launched the first attack and zoomed past Sastre's and Mayo's breakaway. Levi and Contador exchanged attacks on Rasmussen until it was just Contador and Rasmussen together, with Levi and Evans chasing. Levi was able to chase back up and setup the final selection for the day: Leipheimer, Rasmussen, and Contador.

Levi led Contador and Rasmussen up the slopes of the Aubisque with Evans dangling behind. Rasmussen was in control, worried more about waving off TV motos than Leipheimer's and Contador's efforts. He even took the time to encourage Levi's effort at the front to move onto the podium over Evans. The attacks from Discovery were over and as the final kilometer kite dangled overhead, Rasmussen left Contador and Rasmussen in his dust. Levi jumped for second to take the 0:12 time bonus and a 0:43 gap on Evans. Evans fought valiantly to keep his losses to a minimum, even pulling back some time before losing most of it in the final kilometer. Levi pulled to within 0:56 of Evans, so Levi will have to ride the time trial of his career to finish in third -- he seems motivated to do it, but Evans is the unofficial winner of the first time trial.

Sastre tried to make it his day by attacking on the very first mountain and being joined by Mayo and Soler, but by the Aubisque their lead was less than a minute -- it didn't last very long with Discovery's assault on Rabobank. The break was worthwhile for Soler, who took most of the KOM points on the day to move into the KOM lead (he no longer has to wear a borrowed jersey from Rasmussen). Soler moved into the tenth overall.

Valverde moved into seventh place while Kirchen dropped to eighth. Astarloza lost his top-ten placing.

The stage was harsh on the peloton today. It was whittled down to 25 riders on the very first climb and many riders spent their time chasing back on the descents.

Also:

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Contador took the stage win on a great day for Discovery -- and me, as I got my pick :). It was a battle of the skinny boys and Contador's white jersey was lighter on the shoulders than Rasmussen's yellow. Rasmussen and Contador initially worked well together to get separation on an elite group of Leipheimer, Sastre, Evans, and Soler. That cooperation shutdown with a couple kilometers to go as Contador took advantage of Rasmussen's need to defend his yellow jersey. Contador grabbed a hold of Rasmussen's wheel and didn't come around until the final meters for the victory. Rasmussen can't be too disappointed: he put lots of time into strong TT riders like Kloden and Evans, and he defended both the yellow and polka dot jerseys.

Astana and Discovery traded roles today. Yesterday Astana finished 1-3-4 while Discovery finished 6-7-9. Today Discovery finished 1-4-10 while Astana finished 6-8-9. Discovery is also now 2-4-10 in the GC. Contador only got eight seconds closer to the yellow jersey, but he did leapfrog Cadel Evans for second place. Leipheimer did a great job of riding to finish in 4th -- he yoyo'd with Sastre quite a bit as they were both unable to match the frightening accelerations of Rasmussen and Contador. Leipheimer's time gains moved him past Kloden in the GC into 4th and he closed his gap on Evans. Popovych was Discovery's hero today: fighting to bridge back after the Port de Pailheres to bring bottles up to his teammates, then setting the tempo on the Plateau de Baille that whittled the field down to eight riders. And he finished in 10th. Hincapie did similar work to bridge back after the Pailheres and was in the driver's seat on the lead-in to the Plateau de Beille.

Astana's 6-8-9 was a bit of a mixed bag. Kloden did well to finish in sixth, despite being the main rider dropped by Popovych's pace making. Colom and Kashechkin both fought to keep Kloden's losses to 1:52. The big hurt for Astana is Vinokourov. Vino appears to have left it all on the line with yesterday's TT victory: Vino was already in trouble on the Port de Pailheres and lost gigantic time on the Plateau de Beille.

CSC had a so-so day. Sastre managed fifth place and moved up a spot in the GC to 6th, but Schleck was far behind. Whereas Discovery had three riders in the final selection of eight, Sastre had none and found himself at a big disadvantage. Levi was able to just sit on Sastre's wheel because of Contador's place up the rode and Soler sat on as well.

Soler was a surprising rider to make the selection. He took enough points on the Pailheres to move into the KOM lead by 10 points, but Rasmussen's second place finish regained his lead by 2 points. After impressive moves on the Pailheres and the lower slopes of Plateau de Beille, I was a bit disappointed by the way Soler rode in the end -- he didn't have a good excuse like Levi to sit on Sastre's wheel and then he had the nerve to launch a big attack to get the third place KOM points.

Saunier Duval is probably in a sour mood. Millar and others did a lot of work up front on the Pailheres to set things up for Mayo, but Mayo didn't have the legs today and performed disappointing for his team.

Valverde had a second-straight awful day. Perhaps its because he's used to bowing out of Tours at this point, but he picked two of the worst days to be off, especially after having look so strong in the first week. Valverde actually managed to move into the top ten despite his weak legs. He can thank Arroyo and Pereiro for forming a train for him as well as Vino and Kirchen for plummeting.

GC Shakeup (previous position holder in ()'s ):

1 Rasmussen
2 Contador 2.23 (Evans)
3 Evans 3.04
4 Leipheimer 4.25 (Kloden)
5 Kloden 4.38
6 Sastre 5.50 (Kascheckin)
7 Kashechkin 6.58
8 Astarloza 8.25
9 Valverde 9.45 (Vinokourov)
10 Popovych 10.55 (Kirchen)

Tour de France '07 Stage 13: Albi TT

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Vinokourov - JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

13 was a lucky number for Astana as they turned their disasterous Stage 5 on its head: Vinokourov first, Kloden third, and Kashechkin fourth. Vino's effort jumped him from 19th to 9th place in the overall standings, 5:10 behind. Kloden is 4th and Kashechkin is 6th, giving Astana several weapons in the GC.

Evans broke up the Astana 1-2-3 by finishing in second, 1:14 behind, but he will be disappointed that he didn't take the yellow jersey with his effort: Rasmussen did the time trial of his career and even passed Valverde on the finishing straight. Valverde's poor 47th-place finish dropped him out of the overall top ten after starting in second.

Discovery didn't have an Astana day but put in a respectable 6-7-9 in the standings with Popovych (despite crashing), Contador, and Leipheimer. Contador appears to be taking over the leader status from Leipheimer as he finished 0:21 faster and moves into third in the overall, while Levi takes fifth. CSC, as expected, couldn't deliver a strong effort with Sastre or Schleck, but Sastre was able to stay seventh overall.

Early rain saw many riders finish with wet and bloody skinsuits. Cancellara put in a good early time check but quickly fell from the standings after he crashed and appeared to hurt his arm. Wiggins instead had the top early mark on the day, which stood until Vinokourov put in a shockingly fast TT: 2:13 faster than Wiggins. Gusev was putting in a good time until he crashed into a roundabout and went skidding over the curb.

Despite drying road conditions, none of the riders who started later than Vino could match his pace. Kloden nipped at his teammate's heels but lost time when he crashed in a wet, slippery corner.

Disco fines: Saddle beats bottle

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rocketbike.jpgLeipheimer was fined 50 CHF ($41.53) for the Saddle-Slingshot Maneuver that got him back in the pack after a dropped chain. The mechanic leaned out of the window of the team car and grabbed the back of Leipheimer's saddle while the team car accelerated back up to the peloton (I want to do that!). I'm sure the mechanic was just checking the saddle height on the replacement bike.

More expensive was the 50 CHF, 5 points, and 10 seconds he lost for a Water-Bottle-Slingshot Maneuver. From the TV coverage, the saddle maneuver seemed more effective and it didn't come with the ten-second time penalty. Clearly, saddle rocket wins.

The Disco sport director was fined 200 CHF ($166.15) for Leipheimer's fines and a similar watter-bottle offense with Gusev. I'm pretty sure he's willing to pay that fine.

Rasmussen in Yellow - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

They don't make yellow jerseys small enough for Rasmussen. Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

The Tour de France finally got some fireworks in the overall standings. Rasmussen showed why he wears the polka dots so much as he cranked over the Cat 1 climbs, dropped all who sat on his wheel, and took the stage win 2:47 over the nearest rider, Iban Mayo. Rasmussen took the triple polka-yellow-win as he racked up big KOM points and time gains on this stage.

Moreau - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Valverde - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
Moreau almost single-handedly led a group of overall contenders (Valverde, Evans, Schleck, Kashechkin) up the road to chase Michael Rasmussen. Although they had no chance of catching Chicken Legs, they put in half a minute or more on some top contenders: 0:28 to Contador, 0:32 to Sastre and Menchov, 0:46 to Leipheimer, and 1:16 on Kloden and Vinokourov. They probably would have done better if it weren't for the fact that the other riders were content to jump on Moreau's wheel every time he tried to attack. Moreau was visibly frustrated as he gestured for Evans to pull through. On a day that saw the losses of three Aussies -- O'Grady, Rogers, and McEwen -- I can't say that Evans gave fans too much hope that he'll learn to attack this Tour. Valverde eventually pipped the group on the line by outsprinting them for a 1-second gap, but it was Mayo who was the only rider strong enough to launch an attack that wasn't pulled back. With a little more cohesion they could have put in bigger time gains and they may come to regret the energy they expended.

It was a day that the backup leaders/lieutenants shined: Rasmussen, who took yellow and polka dots while Menchov lost time; Kasheckin, who finished the top contenders; Kloden, who limited Vino's losses; Contador who still finish ahead of Leipheimer despite having a mechanical; and Schleck, who road the aggressive race for CSC today.

Plenty of teams missed their chance to shine today:

Discovery: I thought Discovery had its tactics sorted out as they managed to get both Hincapie and Paulinho up the road in a break, but those riders were quickly shot off the back on the final climb of the Tignes. Mechanical problems then upset their next move. Discovery then sent Contador and Popovych up the road and Popo did a good job of sacrificing himself to raise the pace for Contador. But notably absent from any Discovery moves was Levi Leipheimer. Contador was doing well and matching the moves of the Moreau group until a tire change forced him back into the Astana/Leipheimer group. Leipheimer sat on the wheels of the Astana train, Sastre, and Menchov, but couldn't follow when Contador decided to try and bridge back up to the Moreau group. Sastre and Menchov did and limited their losses to Rasmussen, Evans, Moreau, Valvderde, and Schleck. Discovery's plan had to been to have Levi ride conservatively and let Popo and Contador be aggressive, but mechanicals ruined Contador's efforts and Levi was a bit too conservative -- he's still waiting for the Pyrenees. As Levi himself said, he had an "okay day" -- what would have made a good day would be if he was able to follow Sastre and Menchov. Nevertheless, losing less than a minute on a mountain stage isn't much to worry about yet.

O'Grady - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
CSC: Schleck was a bright spot as their shadow leader showed good strength, finishing with the Valverde/Moreau/Evans group. Sastre rode conservatively, though a late effort with Menchov to follow Contador limited his losses. Sastre can't afford to lose much time in the mountains given his lacking time trial abilities, but perhaps is saving up. Harder to stomach for CSC was the loss of O'Grady, who crashed out of the Tour and was taken off in a stretcher with some pretty bad injuries. Cuesta also crashed, though appeared fine.

Astana: Astana's day was a mixed bag. Kashechkin was their sole rider who survived their stage 5 carnage and he had to carry the banner for Astana all by himself today. Kashechkin got into the Moreau group and looked strong pulling back Moreau's attacks. Back with the rest of the team things were not as well. Astana initially found itself at the front pulling for Vinokourov, but Vino was cracked when Contador launched his attack to jump back up. Kloden had to drop back to pace the wounded warrior back. In all of Vino's interviews, he can barely walk, so his efforts have nevertheless been amazing.

T-Mobile: They certainly had the worst day. All seemed promising as Michael Rogers was one of the few riders able to get onto Michael Rasmussen's wheel. Then a run-in with a guard rail and Caisse's Arroyo put him into some hurt. Rogers bridged back up, but his injuries were too much and eventually he was falling backwards, until he had to abandon into the team car. Focus shifted to Gerdemann, who rode valiantly to stay with the overall contenders as long as possible, but he still fell into second at 0:43 behind Rasmussen. At least he keeps the white jersey. Things got worse for T-Mobile after the race when Sinkewitz collided with a spectator and may be out of the Tour. Cavendish was yet-another abandon. Even though this last one was planned, it means the T-Mobile bus will be even more empty.

Links:

Basso suspended, Levi's patience pays off?

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IMG_1084Things aren't looking good for Basso's season as Discovery Channel has suspended him due to the Italian investigation into Fuentes blood bags. Basso may have to finally submit a DNA sample, which could finally resolve this once and for all.

Levi may be inwardly celebrating based on statements he made during his Lombardi Sports talk. Going back to my notes:

...There were of course plenty of questions and rephrased questions as to Basso vs. his role on the team. Levi admitted he was surprised that Discovery signed Basso, but he hasn't given up his hopes for the Tour de France. Noting that many teams run with two leaders, Levi seems to be taking a two-phased wait-and-see approach: wait and see if Basso/Discovery survive the current uproar, and wait and see who is the strongest come Tour time.

There is that other doping news involving Floyd Landis. My only response to that is to wonder repeatedly, "Why do they keep giving Landis more ammunition? Can't they gather evidence without creating reasonable doubt in the process?" I don't want to believe in a conspiracy, but its almost as if the authorities want to help fuel the flames.

Tour de Georgia Stage 5: Brasstown Bald

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Levi Leipheimer by James/jctdesign
Levi Leipheimer 150m from the finish by jctdesign
It's the mountaintop finish that Tour-of-Californians dream of, with a result fitting for the Tour of California as Levi Leipheimer took the stage win with a solo attack up Brasstown Bald. With his TdG and ToC performances, Leipheimer's season is starting out much like Floyd Landis' infamous 2006 season, except the Stage 3 29-minute gap will keep Leipheimer from donning the TdG overall jersey. For all intents and purposes, though, the ITT and Brasstown Bald wins clearly anoint Leipheimer as the strongest rider. Leipheimer's teammate Brajkovic gets the official honor after sticking to Christian Vandevelde's wheel the whole way up, while Tom Danielson, another TdG hopeful, took second on the day to complete the dominance for Discovery Channel.

The US continental teams sent their best riders on a breakaway to get some coverage and hopefully get on the board. Danny Pate (Slipstream), Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net), Ben Day (Navigators Insurance), Anthony Colby (Colavita/Sutter Home), Phil Zajicek (Navigators Insurance), and Alexandre Moos (BMC) were all present. CSC also managed to sneak in Michael Blaudzun. Their break managed to make it over the penultimate climb in the lead but the peloton was highly interested in bringing it back for Brasstown Bald.

Moos was the first rider from the break to reach the slopes and his attack sent many of the breakaway riders back into the peloton. From the peloton, Danielson, Leipheimer, and Simoni were the first to launch a move. Much like his move on Sierra Road in the ToC, Leipheimer was able to quickly bridged up through the remnants of the early break. Danielson and Simoni were left behind as Leipheimer soloed his way up most of the climb.

In the race for the overall lead, Vandevelde and Brajkovic stayed glued to one another. Brajkovic just had to stay on Vandevelde's wheel to stay in the lead and keep the day all-Discovery.

Levi Leipheimer, TdG stage 4, Photo by whileseated
photo by whileseated
Leipheimer continues to show his early-season TT form with a dominating 41-second win over David Zabriskie. Brajkovic was able to leap into the overall lead by easily besting Canada's TT. Today's results show what might have been: with Leipheimer, Zabriskie, O'Neill, and Danielson in the top four, they could have been the ones fighting for the overall win. But either storyline is good for Discovery that is now starting to dominate this TdG. Discovery and CSC split most of the glory in the ToC, but we're still waiting to see some sparks from CSC in the TdG. Christian Vandevelde is sitting in second overall, so it now looks up to him or JJ Haedo to start putting CSC on the board.

Levi wins Copperopolis

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Levi made another appearance at Copperopolis (aka Cali's Paris-Roubaix) this year and took the win. Greg Drake of Alto Velo has a race report. My hopes are up that this means Levi will make another appearance at Sea Otter as he's been a good photo subject for me this year.

Apparently, Levi had attacked on the final climb and popped Kevin Klein and Andy Jaques Maynes with Kevin continuing alone and Andy being absorbed by the chasing group containing his teammate, Jesse Moore... Needless to say, Levi took the win. Kevin Klein was nipped by the chasers from behind right at the finish after being out there all day long.

Tour of California Stage-by-Stage Recap

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Prologue

LeviSpectators were stunned as Slipstream's Jason Donald (seventh rider out) held the best time on the day over every rider that followed, including Fabian Cancellara, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, and Bobby Julich. That is, until Levi Leipheimer successfully fought the change in winds to beat Donald by a second and a half. It was still a fantastic result for Team Slipstream as they ended the day in the sprinter's jersey and best young rider's jersey.

Stage 1

Levi on the groundAfter Discovery spent all day controlling the peloton and chasing down breakaways, controversy struck at the start of the penultimate circuit in Santa Rosa. Thousands of hometown fans watched as Levi Leipheimer and about 80 other riders were taken out as T-Mobile's Ciolek crashed on a Bott's Dot. Hincapie and Basso made their best efforts to bridge Leipheimer back but to no avail. Rabobank's Graeme Brown was able to nudge out T-Mobile's Greg Henderson at the throw on the line. Commissaires invoked "The Levi Rule" to award the main peloton the same time, thus preventing another local rider -- Priority Health's Ben Jacques-Maynes -- from wearing the overall jersey. More importantly, Jens Voigt, Bobby Julich, and Michael Rogers didn't gain a minute either.

The breakaways served Team Slipstream well: Tom Peterson took the KOM jersey and Taylor Tolleson retained his lead in the young rider classification.

Another big result of Stage 1 was that overall hopeful Dave Zabriskie was taken out in an earlier crash and did not finish. It's unclear what form Zabriskie brought to the ToC, but the Solvang TT was the decisive stage.

Stage 2

The peloton let a breakaway stay off the front until the approach into Santa Rosa, which set the ideal conditions for a sprint finish. CSC's Stuart O'Grady rocketed JJ Haedo to the front of the sprint and Haedo took his third Tour of California win easily.

Stage 2 moved Credit Agricole's Christophe Laurent into second place in the KOM standings and setup his eventual victory. It also earned him the Most Aggressive jersey for a day.

Stage 3

Jens at the top of Sierra RoadJens Voigt beat out Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner for the stage win, which was remarkable for Voigt given that he had been in a breakaway that was chased down by Discovery. It also setup Voigt as CSC's overall favorite. Stage 3 was a costly day for Discovery. They made the costly mistake of letting a breakaway get too far ahead and ended up losing Allan Davis and the green jersey due to the time cut.

Leipheimer did an amazing job jumping across the gap on Sierra Road to reach the breakaway, where teammate Jason McCartney was waiting to help lead the charge up Sierra Road. All their work was almost for naught: Paolo Bettini's group finished only four seconds behind. The entire stage result may have come down to a tire puncture: Michael Rogers was in Bettini's group but punctured, which left Bettini without the help of the T-Mobile riders in bringing back the lead group.

Stage 4

Paolo Bettini outkicked T-Mobile's Ciolek and CSC's JJ Haedo to improve upon the previous day's near victory chase-down. It was a fairly easy day for Discovery as perhaps the rain made for a much more sedate version of the course this year. Attacks went early on Pacific Coast Highway, but the peloton was soon drenched in rain going down the coast. Sun eventually came as they made their way into Southern California, but Discovery kept the breakaway under control and let the sprint teams doing the catch.

Stage 5

Levi LeipheimerLevi dominated the time trial and beat Jens Voigt by 18 seconds as they were the only two riders to break the 30-minute barrier. Looking at the standings you would think that Discovery and CSC were the only two teams racing. In addition to first, Discovery also took third place with Jason McCartney, as well as fifth and ninth. CSC took second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eigth. Priority Health's Ben Jacques-Maynes was the only non-Discovery/CSC rider to make the top ten.

Stage 5 pretty much guaranteed Leipheimer the victory. Discovery would still have some tough riding ahead, but the remaining stages didn't allow for easy time gaps.

Rabobank's Robert Gesink was able to use the time trial to leapfrog Predictor's Matthew Lloyd to take the young rider classification for good.

Stage 6

JJ Haedo beats out Paolo Bettini and Greg HendersonCSC did their best to upset Leipheimer's place at the top of the standings but had a hard course to do it on. Although stage 6 had four climbs, they were all positioned early in the course and the road to the finish was a long, open and relatively flat highway. CSC was relentless with the attacks starting as early as mile 3 -- an attack that incidentally took down Tony Cruz and George Hincapie. Cruz and Hincapie were forced to chase back -- Hincapie with a broken arm -- which left Discovery undermanned for the continued assault. Voigt's breakaway attempts were personally marked by Leipheimer, but O'Grady was able to eventually get into a breakaway and present a threat to Discovery. Discovery got some help from Health Net for the final chasedown, but the catch didn't occur until the circuits in Santa Clarita. Exhausted, Basso, Hincapie, Vandborg, and Cruz all finished off the back of the peloton.

With O'Grady's breakaway caught, CSC shifted gears and setup JJ Haedo for the final sprint. Haedo outkicked Bettini and Henderson and took his record fourth Tour of California victory -- that's more victories than any team has had at the Tour.

Stage 7

The smaller teams had their day today sending riders off the front. Slipstream seemed to get the most TV coverage by sending Bill Frishkorn at the gun and later having Steven Cozza and Danny Pate in the longest break of the day.

CSC tried to up Haedo's record but didn't have enough riders to keep their train going. Instead, it was Haedo's old team Toyota-United that was able to snag the sprint with Ivan Dominguez.

Tour of California Stage 6: Haedo x 4

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JJ Haedo beats out Paolo Bettini and Greg Henderson

above: JJ Haedo beat Paolo Bettini and Greg Henderson to the line. [Ed: As you can see, I haven't quite mastered the art of the aesthetic finish line shot, but I can't complain: I got to chose my spot for shooting it.]

Photo Gallery

JJ Haedo was the first rider to get three Tour of California stage wins. Now he is the first rider to achieve four. He easily beat out Paolo Bettini and Greg Henderson for the win. It was a sprint full of flub-ups: Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster got into a lot of push and shove with Freddie Rodriguez and ended up pulling his left foot out of the pedal. T-Mobile's Greg Henderson was supposed to be leading out Ciolek, but Ciolek lost his wheel.

Although the finish was your typical sprint, the true battle on the day was Discovery vs. CSC. CSC put it to Discovery hard, though the first casualty was inflicted by one of their own. CSC attacked three miles into the course and Discovery's Tony Cruz went to cover it. Cruz's wheel hit Basso's, taking Cruz and George Hincapie down. Hincapie and Cruz weren't able to rejoin until the approach to the final climb of Balcom Canyon.

With Discovery down two riders (in addition to Davis, who they lost as a result of Stage 3), CSC continued with the assault. Leipheimer was able to personally cover attacks by Jens Voigt, but Stuart O'Grady was able to make it into the breakaway and present a threat to Leipheimer's overall lead.

O'Grady's breakaway also contained overall threat Michael Rogers. Despite the long, wide, and relatively flat road to the finish, that breakaway was able to stay away until the finishing circuit in Santa Clarita. It took the full efforts of Discovery's Basso, Vandborg, and Danielson to finally reel it in, along with some help from HealthNet. Vandborg and Basso both were shot off the back of the peloton after their final efforts.

But the most ridiculous effort award should go to Hincapie: he chased back to the peloton for two hours, with a broken arm. Hincapie rode the entire stage, with its four KOMs, minus a small three mile start segment, injured.

Although Levi built his lead on the strength of his solo performances in the prologue and time trial, it was the efforts of the Discovery team that protected Levi's small lead throughout. Levi clearly owes his teammates, and most significantly, he owes Basso.

It's been an amazing sight throughout the Tour to see the likes of Ivan Basso drilling it at the front of the peloton to bring back a breakaway. How would you like your lead protected by a Tour de France favorite? Prior to the Tour of California, Levi was giving controversial quotes about being disappointed by Basso's signing. Now he's giving quotes like, ""When someone sacrifices as much as he has for me, that goes a long ways to solidifying a friendship, a bond." A Tour of California win isn't a fair trade for a Tour of California win, but Basso has earned some favor and friendship.

IMG_1831 Levi, post-race

above left: Brian Vandborg drive the peloton to bring back the breakaway on the final circuits of Santa Clarita. above right: Levi wipes off the sweat after a hard day on the bike. below: Ivan Basso is back among the team cars after giving everything he had to bring back the breakaway

Basso, exhausted

below: John from Mavic offers some neutral support to a young rider

Mavic Neutral Support

kwc Stage 6 Photo Gallery

Tour of California Stage 5: Solvang TT

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Jen Voigt vs. Levi Leipheimer warming up

*left: Jens Voigt on the finishing straight of the Coit Tower Prologue. right: Levi Leipheimer warms up. *

Photo Gallery

Even with 91 riders within 1 minute of Levi's overall time, this was a race between two riders: Levi and Jens (CSC vs. Discovery, as it often is). Jens was the stronger sprinter on stage 3 and beat Levi across the line to move within three seconds of Levi's overall lead. Jens is also an amazing time trialist -- it was going to be close.

Jens and Levi started last, but that doesn't mean that the "pre-battle" wasn't entertaining as well. Priority Health put in an amazing showing early on. Tom Zirbel set the best time on the day. Priority Health had another good showing with Ben Jacques-Mayes, who was able to finish 4th overall and best Zirbel's time. It wasn't until World TT champion Fabian Cancellara came rolling through at 30:17 that the battle started to tilt towards the ProTour riders.

The Discovery Armada put huge dents in the standings with Basso, Hincapie, and Danielson, but none were able to best Cancellara's time. The big (but pleasant) surprise came from Discovery's Jason McCartney, who was the first to be Cancellara's time. McCartney has been Leipheimer's lieutenant for this Tour of California and always seems to show up well in the North American series.

Horner, Julich, and Rogers came in with respectable times, but their split times made it clear that the real battle was Jens vs. Levi.

At the first time split they broadcast, Jens was three seconds up on Levi. It was a virtual tie on the road. The second time split we heard: Levi was 4 seconds faster than Jens at the halfway point.

Jens Voigt crossed the line at 29:58, the fastest time on the day and the first sub-30-minute time. It was an amazing time that best world TT champ Fabian Cancellara as well as Jason McCartney's amazing effort. It seemed that Jens may have pulled it off.

Jens Voigt

above: Jens Voigt crosses the finish line, the first rider to break the 30-minute barrier

That is, until they announced Levi only had 1k to go. The clock was just ticking up to 29 minutes -- that gave Levi more than enough time to do the final kilometer. Levi didn't know though because Johan Bruyneel was yelling in his ear that he needed to give it full gas because it was going to be close. Levi charged to the finish a full 18 seconds faster than Jens Voigt, sealing the stage victory and most likely putting keeping him in the overall jersey for good.

below: Levi sprints and crosses the finish line to take the stage

Levi Leipheimer Levi Leipheimer Levi

Keeping the overall lead from start to finish is an amazing achievement for Leipheimer. Last year his attempt was undone by a poor showing in the stage 3 time trial. Whether or not it is his new time trial position, new team, or better conditioning, who knows, but Leipheimer has undoubtedly been the strongest rider to show up to this Tour of California.

CSC could attempt something amazing tomorrow, but the KOMs are so far from the finish it would have to be epic. Discovery has been hit hard this Tour: Sierra Road cost Discovery Davis and the green jersey. Discovery was lucky that this year's Pacific Coast Highway stage was relatively tame.

Fabian Cancellara had set the best time on the day until Jason McCartney amazingly beat it

Jason McCartney IMG_1225

IMG_0955 IMG_0909 IMG_0996 Leipheimer and McCartney IMG_1137 Fabian Cancellara starting Tom Danielson starting IMG_1539

IMG_1603 George and Lance IMG_1556

kwc Stage 5 Photo Gallery

VeloNews Stage 5 Summary

Tour of California Stage 3: Jens!

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Robert Gesink Jens Voigt Levi Leipheimer

above: Levi Leipheimer, Jason McCartney, Jens Voigt, Robert Gesink, and Chris Horner go over the KOM line at the top of Sierra Road

Photo Gallery

Stage winner Jens VoigtJens Voigt beat Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner for the stage win after they managed to get over the top of Sierra Road first and hold off a chasing group with Paolo Bettini. Jens was the strongest sprinter and Levi was just trying to stay on Jens' wheel to remain in the overall lead. Levi owes a great debt to Jason McCartney, who was able to help bring Levi to the top of Sierra Road. McCartney had been a breakaway ahead of Levi but was able to stick with his leader when Levi caught up.

Levi called today's stage a "bike race" and it truly was. It first took shape with a large breakaway of 17 riders that included Jens Voigt and Jason McCartney. They got a huge gap over the peloton, but Discovery absolutely drilled it at the front to start bringing it back (with some help from Rabobank and Slipstream). Hincapie, Cruz, and Davis all put in their turns and by the time Sierra Road came, it was Basso's turn to lead the charge. Meanwhile, in the breakaway, Jason McCartney and Jens Voigt put the hammer down at the base of Sierra Road and were able to whittle the breakaway from 17 down to 4.

(Brief aside 1) I asked a rider at the top how Sierra Road compares to Alpe d'Huez: steeper, but shorter.

Then, the amazing bit, occurring all along Sierra Road's 15% grades: Basso was able to reel the breakaway within striking distance and Levi started to jump across the gap. Chris Horner and Rabobank's Gesink glued themselves to Levi's wheel, but it was all Levi. Up ahead Jason McCartney put in an attack and was able to drop everyone except Jens Voigt, and still, Levi continued to bridge up.

(Brief aside 2) Last year, it was Bernhard Kohl and Leipheimer leading the charge over the top. Discovery Channel chased with Barry, McCartney, and Hincapie -- Horner and Julich were tucked in as well. Barry and McCartney were able to pull it all together and Hincapie took the final sprint (photo, more)

With Levi closing in, Jason McCartney switched into domestique mode and began to pull himself further inside out to lead the front group to the top of the climb. As they reached the top it was Levi over first, followed by McCartney, Voigt, Gesink, and Horner all in a tight bunch riding as if there were no hill.

Further back, Paolo Bettini was showing that I shouldn't have been calling out his poor showings in the first three stages. Bettini led the effort to chase down Leipheimer's group and crossed the KOM point twenty seconds back (along with Bobby Julich and Mick Rogers).

Bobby Julich Basso and Cancellara

Levi drove the descent initially, but then McCartney and Horner started to help push the gap over the chase group of Bettini/Rogers/Julich. Jens Voigt, tired from driving the breakaway earlier in the day as McCartney sat on, smartly sat on during the descent.

(Brief aside 3): The course to the finish line is a long, wide, and straight shot into downtown San Jose. Conventional wisdom from last year was that it is too difficult for a breakaway to hold off chasers from Sierra Road all the way to the finish

Jens Voigt attacked and sloughed off Gesink and McCartney. Quick Step and T-Mobile continued to lead the chase. By the time the lead group approached the final turn to the finish line, the large chase group had them in sight.

It didn't matter: Jens Voigt came through the final turn first and simply road Leipheimer and Horner off his wheel. Levi wanted Chris Horner to get the stage win after Horner helped them stay away, but it's hard not to like a win by Jens Voigt. Everyone loves Jens Voigt, fan and cyclist alike -- there's just something about a masochistically aggressive rider that you appreciate.

The win moved Voigt to within three seconds of the lead, which means that Leipheimer will have his work out for him in the Solvang time trial. Levi will also have CSC's Bobby Julich to worry about.

Levi Leipheimer

Other notes: * Slipstream's Tom Peterson didn't have to impersonate Taylor Tolleson on the podium today: this time the best young rider's jersey was his to keep * Lance Armstrong was with the race today. The only photos I got were of his back as he ran away from fans.

kwc Stage 3 Photo Gallery (top of Sierra, podium)

Links:

Tour of California Stage 1: The Levi Rule

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Levi Crash
Photo by Ken Conley

above: Levi Leipheimer is on the ground and sandwiched between riders that continue to crash around him.

Photo Gallery

The Levi Rule: When a poster boy for the race is riding into his hometown with the overall lead, you don't take away his jersey for a junk crash. Especially when he has to suffer through the front page of VeloNews featuring a photo of his butt poking out from his ripped shorts.

The Levi Rule is a variation on the 3km rule which says that everyone gets the same time if a crash occurs within the final 3km of a sprint finish. In this case, it is a fair variation because the three laps the teams were doing in Santa Rosa made that part of the course into a really drawn out sprint finish setup, which is dangerous for the riders.

It was an ugly crash. I was looking at the other end of the peloton when there was a loud balloon popping noise. I turned to see bike after bike piling up across the full breadth of the street. T-Mobile's Ciolek hit a traffic dot and lost control. Chris Horner and a Matteo Tosatto were among the first to be taken down and Levi wasn't far behind. About 80 riders in total were held up by the pileup. I'm still pouring through the photos and noticing new details -- I didn't even know at the time that Levi had gone down.

Basso Crash Basso checking for damage after the crash

Utter chaos followed. The local announcers didn't seem to catch onto the fact that Levi was behind the lead pack. Basso and Hincapie tried to help Levi chase back, but I had caught a glimpse of Basso wincing as he got up from the crash. Elsewhere, there was a group of four with Jason McCartney and Michael Rasmussen chasing, Ivan Dominguez was completely caught out by himself, and so too was Chris Horner, who had cuts on his elbow and knee.

Peloton Chris Horner

T-Mobile had led the peloton around the circuit and was lucky to have most of their numbers unscathed (even if one of their riders caused the crash). The win seemed theirs for the taking with Greg Henderson, but Rabobank's Graeme Brown jumped first and the finish was close. It wasn't until after much sorting out they finally announced the results of the stage: Brown took it on the line and the commissaires used the Levi Rule to award the peloton the same time.

The Throw

above: the sprint photo finish. below: Levi crosses the finish line long after the main pack, but is awarded the same time

Levi finishes

The final bit of chaos: Slipstream's Taylor Tolleson ran off before the awards ceremony, so after much delay, they decided to have his teammate Tom Peterson accept the young rider jersey on his behalf. Even with the award ceremony snafus -- Jason Donald tried to put on his jersey the wrong way at the prologue presentation -- it continues to be an amazing Tour of California for the Slipstream/Chipotle team. In addition to accepting Tolleson's jersey, Peterson got to come up right after to accept the KOM jersey that he got from participating in the breakaway.

Other notes:

  • The big crash in Santa Rosa may not have affected the overall standings, but a crash earlier in the stage took out Dave Zabriskie (Getty photo). I was hoping to see him on the podium again this year, but I guess it's solely up to Julich now.
  • Discovery Channel's Allan Davis got to come up on stage three times to accept an award: a check for winning a sprint point, again to don the green sprinter's jersey, and a third time for finishing third.
  • the crowds in Santa Rosa were amazing. People were lining the roads and filling the upper decks of the parking garage to watch.
    Huge crowds in Santa Rosa
  • Following up on yesterday's post, Bettini wasn't involved in the crash but got dropped by front pack on the final lap

Paolo Bettini

kwc Stage 1 Photo Gallery

Links:

Levi videos from the Prologue

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ota shot video while I shot photos. Its a great improvement over last year's efforts and I thank both ota and parakkum (owner of the video camera) for the help. The best videos are probably the interview videos if you're looking for something that you didn't catch on Versus.

FYI: YouTube is being a pain and also mucks up cycling videos. I had to re-upload everything this morning to Google Video (thumbs down YouTube for cycling)

Levi Wins:

Levi Post-Race (talks about Prologue strategy; shots of Levi towards the end):

Levi Jersey Presentation:

Levi Podium Interview:

Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Jason Donald - (c) Ken ConleyThose of us who were there last year should have expected the finale to today's opener, but it still surprised the hell out of us. Virtually unknown Jason Donald set the fastest time as the seventh rider out. No one thought that their times would hold, but big rider after big rider came in much slower: Hincapie, Zabriskie, Julich, Danielson. I was sure that Danielson would post a better time after the six-or-so practice runs he did up to the top, but he came in about 10 seconds slower. Of the big names, Cancellara was the closest at 5 seconds back, but that still left the top three as Jason Donald, Ben Jacques-Maynes, and Rory Sutherland. We literally watched over a hundred riders attempt and fail to beat Donald's time. It seemed to us that the winds had probably changed direction to make it harder for the bigger riders that started later.

So with Levi the only rider left to finish, ota asked me whether or not Levi stood a chance -- I said, "no way, the course is too hard now."

Then everyone waited. We were listening for the sounds of the thundersticks and cowbells and general yelling that would herald Levi's arrival. We also watched the clock tick up past four minutes. If there wasn't cheering soon, there would be no chance.

Levi came screaming around the final bend. The crowd was never louder until it exploded as Levi froze the clock at 4:48.86 (officially 4:49:06) -- a second and a half better than Jason Donald.

Finishing Time

Levi's secret to success: Hincapie radioed back to tell him to change out of the big chainring sooner on the final climb -- Levi flew up the steep stretch in the easier gear. Levi's other secret (other than being Levi): no one wants to wear that jersey into Santa Rosa more than him.

Levi Leipheimer

It was still a big day for Slipstream/Chipotle even without the stage win. Jason Donald kept the team part of the coverage from nearly start to finish and also earned him a podium spot for the sprinter's jersey. Taylor Tollesen snagged them another podium spot by getting the best young rider jersey. Slipstream was also in our mind because ota and I spent the day standing next to Slipstream rider Steven Cozza's family. It's great to know that a team that is making waves with its anti-doping platform can hold the stage with race success as well.

Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken Conley Stuart O'Grady - (c) Ken Conley Jen Voigt Danielson Bobby Julich Fabian Cancellara Michael Rogers Chris Horner Viktar Rapinkski Giovanni Visconti Michael Barry IMG_0138 IMG_0119 IMG_0110 Taylor Tolleson

kwc photosets:

Coverage elsewhere:

Levi @ Lombardi Sports

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IMG_1010_edited-1

NOTE: lots of video in the extended entry

update: forgot to thank erik the first time around for the heads up about the event. Thanks!

d and I went up to SF to watch Levi speak at Lombardi Sports. It was primarily an event held for Colorado Altitude Training's Shaun Wallace to promote his products, with Levi chiming in on how he uses altitude tents in his training and how they've improved his metabolism and recovery.

But I was there primarily to hear from Levi, so I was happy when Q&A came around and talk of altitude training died down a bit. There were of course plenty of questions and rephrased questions as to Basso vs. his role on the team. Levi admitted he was surprised that Discovery signed Basso, but he hasn't given up his hopes for the Tour de France. Noting that many teams run with two leaders, Levi seems to be taking a two-phased wait-and-see approach: wait and see if Basso/Discovery survive the current uproar, and wait and see who is the strongest come Tour time.

I couldn't resist my own take on the question: "much has been said about the tension with Basso, but I'm more concerned about the Tour of California. If I recall correctly, George hunted you down on Sierra Road. Is there going to be a little West Coast vs. East Coast this Tour of California? Are you going to uphold California's honor?" Levi answered my joking question with an interesting fact about the route: he tried to get the organizers to have the route go up Sierra Road twice and finish at the top, instead of the long, open boulevard run into the finish. As for the rivalry, "George owes me one."

Levi was surprised by one questioner who had inside information on Levi's wind tunnel session. Apparently, Levi's new time trial position has the lowest drag they have ever seen in that particular wind tunnel. After getting over the surprise at this 'top secret' information getting out, Levi noted that he can only use the new position on straights and he hasn't quite figured out if he can really ride it outside the wind tunnel.

(continue reading for video)

Levi at Lombardi Sports in SF

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Levi feels no painupdate: oops, forgot to include link to more details

Lombardi Sports in SF is hosting a "special evening" with Levi Leipheimer. Event is limited to 50 people, and I don't know if they have already run out of spots. It should be a good chance for those who attend to figure out who is going to be passing water bottles to whom on Team Disco.

Event Details (thanks erik )

ToG Stage 7 and 8: Voigt TT, Everything

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Voigt is a powerful rider, but winning his third stage of the Tour of Germany on a time trial? That's just crazy talk, but Voigt is a crazy rider. With that TT victory, Voigt sealed up his overall win as the final stage 8 only had one climb to get over and ended in a sprint finish.

Everyone was clustered at least a minute back in the time trial, with Leipheimer finishing in fifth at 1:14 back. Levi's time was good enough to stay in the second spot on the podium; Discovery's Gusev was unable to leapfrog Kashechkin for the third and final podium spot -- Petrov dropped to fifth after a slow time trial. Astana didn't get the two stage victories that they wanted, nor did the get the performance from Vinokourov they probably wanted, but Kashechkin's third place overall was good finish for the team that's been fighting back from its Tour ejection.

Voigt considers his Tour of Germany victory above all others, and it's easy to agree. I've never seen him ride at this level, Levi's never seen him ride at this level, and to win three very different stages -- breakaway, mountain top, time trial -- is an impressive demonstration of cycling talent.

On a side note, I find it incredibly amusing that the Tour of Germany plays the Star Wars fanfare when awarding the podium prizes.

ToG Stage 6: Voigt on Fire!

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Wow, I love watching Voigt race but I never knew he could pull out performances like this -- he beat out Levi for an impressive stage 6 victory, holding onto his lead in the overall. I don't know what kind of legs Voigt will show for the time trial tomorrow, but this has already been an amazing showing by Voigt: two stage wins and two days in the overall lead.

Levi led an attack on the final climb that whittled the pack down to Voigt, Kaseschkin, and Petrov. With a little with a little over 2k to go, Levi lited the pace again on a steep part of the climb and Voigt started to fall off the pace. Kaseschkin jumped around Voigt and grapped Levi's wheel, and the two increased their gap on Voigt and Petrov. The race entered a tunnel (some great video) and Kaseschkin attacked Levi, but Voigt caming charging from behind with Petrov on his wheel. Voigt managed to catch back on about half way through the tunnel, and in the final 1k charge to the finish line, Voigt showed too much power in the tank to be challenged. Levi was the only one to hold close, but he had to be impressed by Voigt's effort: bridging back and then taking the stage win.

The overall standings are still fairly close given the pending time trial. Levi hasn't put in a good time trial since the Dauphine, so Voigt has a descent chance of winning the overall.

  1. Jens Voigt, CSC 27.39.29
  2. Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner 0.24
  3. Evgeni Petrov, Lampre-Fondital 0.56
  4. Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel 1.00
  5. Andrey Kashechkin, Astana 1.03

CyclingNews Stage 6 Summary

ToG Stage 5: Levi

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It was a dark and stormy stage that the riders refused to race until it was shortened -- the snowy, icy HC K�htal Pass climb was removed. The riders made up for the shortened route by riding the 100 miles very fast: 3:40:20. There was still a mountain top finish, and with a couple of kilometers to go, Levi attacked Kashechkin and Piepoli. Kashechkin and Piepoli couldn't give much chase until Jens Voigt joined their wheels, and it was Voigt, racing for the overall lead, that helped lift up the pace in order to put more distance between him and Discovery's Gusev. Levi still took the stage, but Voigt's determination got him into the overall lead, well earned after his stage 2 victory. I'm impressed to see that Gusev was even hanging in there, given that he's more of a time trialist and has had to hold his placing in the overall largely on his own efforts, as Discovery hasn't been able to protect him (correction: Gusev did have Devolder with him on the final climb today, though he was by himself on stage 2). I'm impressed with Voigt's high finish as well, though he admits he was helped by the elimination of the HC climb.

Levi has now moved within 18 seconds of the overall, so he seems to be making up for his poor prologue performance. He definitely has a shot at repeating his Tour of Germany victory from last year. At least he won't have to worry about Vino, who lost 4:39 on the stage. It's now up to Kashechkin for Astana.

This is yet-another great day for CSC: in addition to Voigt's yellow jersey, Cancellara won the Tour of Denmark. This comes just three days after CSC's impressive three wins on Thursday: Voigt's stage 2 ToG victory, Cancellara's stage 2 ToD victory, and Ljungqvist's Paris-Correze win.

Contract news

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Landis got a one-year contract extension and the rest of the team got two-year extensions. I'm not sure what the difference means for Landis' future, but at the very least we know that the iShares logo will move from his butt to his chest as iShares takes over lead sponsorship.

Discovery will announce a major signing tomorrow. Well, we know it's not Landis. Update: It's Levi! (paceline registration req'd for link. via)

Trouble is brewing at T-Mobile, as if there weren't enough trouble for the team that fired its former leader by fax. The speculation is that general manager Ludwig and team manager Kummer will be shown the door for their inability to use cycling tactics, among other things.

Stage 18: Morzine - Macon

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FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Look! A QuickStep jersey crossing the line first! Tossato won on a day controlled by the breakaway, getting a win for QuickStep where Boonen could not. Fifteen riders got away and stayed away as Saunier Duval gave a half-hearted chase. With most of the sprint teams missing their big sprinters -- Boonen abandoned, Bennati crashed/abandoned, Freire did not start -- and with Lotto having Aerts in the breakaway, no one really had a reason to help out SD. The good news for Phonak is that Saunier Duval did try to chase as it meant that they wouldn't have to worry about Levi Leipheimer in the break. Even though Levi was 22 minutes down, Pereiro's yellow jersey has something to say about that. Levi still gained almost seven minutes in the GC, which moves him within striking distance of the top ten.

Gerolsteiner went for the win with Levi and Scholz in the break. Levi made the first attempt at going for the win, jumping off the front of the break and pedalling with Euskatel's Isasi, but they were eventually pulled back with 20k to go. Scholz then attacked and two riders jumped across to join him. That attack was successful, but Scholz seemed fairly spent in the final kilometers. Tossato and Moreni came around easily in the final sprint.

Zabriskie was in the break but ended up finishing by himself, 2:23 down. I hope that means that he intentionally dropped off to save some energy for tomorrow. I'm still picking him for the time trial, though I have a feeling that the week may have been too difficult for CSC as they vaulted Sastre up the standings. Landis is the better bet for the time trial, especially with Zabriskie having to go very early in the day and setting a benchmark for others to follow. But CSC has fought back after losing two leaders and a domestique, getting stage wins by Schleck and Voigt in week two, leading the team classification for a bit, and putting Sastre on the podium. It's a strong squad of six and I'd like to see them get another prize.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Breakaway.George Hincapie has been going into break after break with no results. I'll pick him, but I'm also wondering if Chris Horner finally has his legs back. McEwen should win the bunch sprint easily as all of his competitors are out. Freire abandoned today, Boonen and Bennati previously abandoned. * Actual: Popo was in the first break and Martinez in the second, but no sign of Hincapie. McEwen didn't even bother participating in the sprint.

Post Stage 11 Analysis

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Some times you need pre-race plan, sometimes you don't. Discovery, already on the ropes from a poor time trial showing, probably came in with a race plan, but they disintegrated well before execution. T-Mobile, vaulted into the top of everyone's mind after a strong time trial performance, came in with a plan and over executed: they went so hard on the penultimate climb that they couldn't hold onto their own pace -- a mistake they made last year as well. Gerolsteiner, which had all the pieces for a plan -- three riders in the lead on the penultimate climb -- no longer had a leader to call the plan into play. Rabobank, which seemed more concerned with helping Rasmussen pick up third-place KOM points, suddenly came together on the penultimate climb and decided, hey, our leader Menchov is strong, let's give it a go.

Boogerd and Rasmussen were the uber domestiques, the true stage winners on the day. Rasmussen, previously criticized for being too selfish, sacrificed himself pulling Menchov and the rest of the lead pack to the final Pla da Beret climb. Granted, he did get beat by Voeckler going for some KOM points, so Rasmussen may not have had full chicken-leg power today, but he had more than enough power to give over the Menchov. Boogerd then put in the super effort on the Pla da Beret, an effort that reminded me of Landis' super pulls for Armstrong. Boogerd created the final selection, and then was able to finish in a descent position himself... all of this after helping lead out Rasmussen for his KOM points earlier in the day.

Menchov did his job as leader -- he took the setup, and then delivered the final punch. Landis was stronger, but Menchov was the better sprinter, and Levi just couldn't time it right. In a game of what-if, Levi might have been in the same position had he not had a disasterous time trial. Menchov had two teammates going over the penultimate climb, but so did Levi: Totschnig and Fothen. Instead of riding for Levi, though, Totschnig seemed to be protecting their rider in the best young rider jersey, guiding him along. Levi was no longer in a position to ask for a sadistic effort from them, and he essentially rode alone.

Landis also rode alone, but it didn't matter. He had delivered in the time trial, all he needed to do today was defend and pad. He had no riders to send to the front to set the tempo, so he sat on the T-Mobile train instead. When the T-Mobile train ran out of gas, he sat on the Rabobank train. And when the Rabobank train was just Menchov, Landis lead the train himself.

The race is far from over, as the five-minute gaps that were made today could easily become five-minute deficits in the Alps, but no rider has looked nearly as strong as Landis. As predicted, Landis' team is nowhere to be found, but it's going to take a lot more than an imploding Discovery and an exploding T-Mobile to take him down. Cadel Evans' Lotto seems to have no riders to throw at Landis in the mountains, as Chris Horner went backwards today, and CSC only has six riders left, though the Sastre/Schleck combination could definitely net a stage win. Rabobank could enact a plan -- they didn't have one before, but perhaps they'll have one now. Denis Menchov looks to have his podium spot sealed up, they just have to fight for the top seat.

Well, a day with five hard climbs will sort out the standings, won't it? Menchov takes the stage win on a day that Rabobank controlled the end, but it's Floyd Landis that takes the yellow jersey. Menchov and Landis are the clear leaders now; Kloden, Evans, and Sastre are close, but they will have to look towards the Alps to prove themselves better than they were today. If Landis continues to ride the way he did today, without any teammates to really help him, then he should be in yellow in Paris. It won't be an easy defense as Menchov's Rabobank showed themselves to be a strong mountain threat. T-Mobile hasn't given up yet either, though all their bets are riding on Kloden now. One team that won't give Landis any trouble is Discovery. I picked them as the strongest team going into this Tour, and let me say I couldn't have been more entirely wrong. They haven't controlled a second of this race and certainly weren't ready for today's attacks.

Leipheimer hung in there with Landis and Menchov, hoping that his loss of contender status would allow him to escape for the win, but Menchov kept nailing back his attacks. It didn't seem like it was going to be a Rabobank day: T-Mobile did the initial damage on the penultimate Col du Portilon climb, dropping all of Discovery except Azevedo as well as Caisse rider Vladimir Karpets; however, T-Mobile did the most damage to itself, knocking all of their highly placed riders out of contention, except Kloden, who they pushed into cramping. Rabobank seemed more concerned with helping Rasmussen get some KOM points, as Boogerd led out Rasmussen twice to collect points. On the lead-in to the final climb, though, Rasmussen moved to the front of the surviving 18 riders and set a pace that kept the peloton from closing down the gap. Then on the final climb it was Boogerd who shattered the rest of the group, shedding Azevedo, Fothen, Parra, Schleck, Simoni, Moreau, and Zubeldia. With a final push he popped off Kloden.

Menchov, Landis, Leipheimer, Evans, and Sastre were the only riders to survive Boogerd's final acceleration. Leipheimer made several attacks, but wasn't going to be allowed to get the win by Menchov. Landis did the majority of the work, with Menchov and Evans doing a bit of pacing as well. An attack by Levi and counterattacks by Menchov and Landis were enough to drop Sastre and Evans. Menchov timed his final sprint perfectly, coming around the final corner ahead and holding off Levi and Landis. From there it was a race to see if Dessel could pull a Voeckler and stay in the yellow jersey. Dessel needed to limit the time gap to about four and a half minutes, but was eight seconds too slow in the end -- the difference was Landis' twelve-second time bonus.

David de la Fuente deserves a big mention as he and Fabian Wegmann duked it out for KOM points early in the day. de la Fuente won that battle and was able to stay away until the final climb.

Prediction check:

  • Prediction: First I picked Sastre and then swapped for Rasmussen, with Floyd in yellow.
  • Actual: Rasmussen was nowhere close as he sacrificed himself for Menchov, who took the stage win. Sastre got dropped near the very top and came in fifth.

Stage 7: Saint-Gregoire - Rennes, ITT

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AP Photo/Christian HartmannTime-trial specialist Sergei Gontchar/Gonchar/Honchar dominated today's time trial and took the yellow jersey with a time of 1:01:43. This was the last chance for the time trial specialists to slip into the yellow jersey, and of that crowd -- Zabriskie, Rogers, Karpets, and Gontchar -- it was Gontchar who annihilated the rest of the field by a minute over the next best time. This was a T-Mobile day: 1st, 4th, 6th, and 8th. Who needs Ullrich? Or, rather, in the words of Johan Bruyneel, "It's lucky Jan Ullrich is not here, otherwise the Tour would be over."

Photo by AP Photo/Christian Hartmann

It was a surprisingly poor showing by the American riders, who were expected to dominate. Bobby J had it worst, crashing early on, sliding over a curb, and appearing to injure his arm. Levi had a terrible showing, losing a minute and a half by the first time check and six minutes overall with a time of 1:07:49. Hincapie did poorly as well with a time of 1:04:25, which was 30 seconds slower than Savoldelli -- we may see Savoldelli become Discovery's protected man in the mountains. My main pick, Zabriskie, had a respectable 1:03:40, but for those of us who thought he'd light the course of fire, it was a disappointment.

There was one bright light among the Americans: Landis is certainly the American to beat and has vaulted himself to the top of the overall contenders. Landis finished in second with a time of 1:02:44, which he did while apparently having to switch his bike on the course either due to a flat tire or to his bars slipping -- the UCI apparently ordered Landis to lower his bars just prior to the race. If Landis's mechanic can just get these mechanical issues under control, Landis should easily finish on the podium. Then again, his legs appeared to disappear in the mountains in the Dauphine, so I should wait until the first mountain stage.

Big Losers: Discovery (no riders in the top ten overall anymore), CSC (now have lost Basso and Julich, Zabriskie only managed 10th, O'Grady is still hurting, and Voigt isn't looking very strong after finishing in last place), Leipheimer

Big Winners: T-Mobile, which now has four riders in the top ten including Kloden; Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov, whose chances in the overall just got a whole lot better with strong top ten finishes today. Christophe Moreau also looks primed for a top five finish if he can hold in the mountains.

Prediction check:

  • My predictions: Zabriskie, Landis, Hincapie, Julich, Rogers, Levi
  • Actual: Landis was second, Rogers was fourth instead of fifth, scratch the rest of the picks.

Zabriskie kicked some butt at 30.4 mph -- no one else cracked the 30mph barrier. Americans dominated the time trial, taking the top four positions, with Landis in second followed by Leipheimer and Hincapie. It looks like Leipheimer got his handlebars squared away this time around.

The effort wasn't enough to put Zabriskie in the lead as Gilbert is strong enough in the time trials to keep a 2'47" lead going into the mountains. I'm looking forward to seeing who has the mountain-climbing legs.

Sea Otter Road Race Video Recap

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cyclelicio.us pointed me to steephill.tv's latest multimedia contribution: video recap of the pro men's road race at Sea Otter. There are even interviews with Matty Rice and Levi Leipheimer. Quite a nice bit of citizen media.

Podium-1-4There's been no lack of Americans in the cycling spotlight post-Lance. Levi, Hincapie, and Landis put in great Tour of California performances. Landis took the Paris-Nice overall and Julich took the prologue. It would have been nice to see Horner, Danielson and Zabriskie get some early spotlght, but the main event is still months away.

I thought I'd take an early stab at making some predictions for the Tour de France. "Predict early, predict often." That way I get more chances to pretend I was right. Fat Cyclist went bolder and did a full set of early predictions for the Tour. I'm just going to focus on the Americans because everyone in America is holding their breath to see if the post-Armstrongians can hold the fort for American cycling.

The gist of my predictions: I don't expect to see any American at the top of that podium in Paris this year. I expect to see many strong performances and stage wins, but we will probably have to wait a couple years. This is hardly a bold prediction. I'll be a little more risky and say that I think you'll see Zabriskie, Julich, and Landis all in yellow jerseys this year. Zabriskie because he's fast. Julich because this is one of his last chances to get one. Landis because his combined time trial and mountain climbing ability gives him a good chance of getting one.

There's more specifics if you'd like to read on

Tour of California: Stage 5

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Hincapie again! (very similar again, in fact)

This was a fairly predictable stage. Going back to my previous entry, Voigt (CSC) did go on a breakaway along with Ekimov (Discovery), Lang (Gerolsteiner), and Reistad (Jelly Belly), but they were all caught on the final climb. Leipheimer attacked and took the KOM lead. The peloton then came back together on the descent and all of Discovery went up to the front, setting up another sprint win for Hincapie. Leipheimer's attack for the KOM points was a threat to Landis' lead, but Levi probably didn't expect to get away for the stage win (update: he didn't, but he went for it anyway... and he didn't care about the KOM points but they'll defend it now). Barring any major incident, Landis has it all wrapped up. Maybe we'll get to see Gord Fraser get a stage win or Haedo could go for a hat trick.

There some rearrangement in the non-GC classifications. Hincapie took back the the green sprinter's jersey from Haedo and Leipheimer's attack on the final climb got him the KOM jersey that he wanted.

Today was the first day that I got to really try out the live coverage on the Amgen Tour of California site. Very, very nice. The live video feed wasn't working for me yesterday but it came in fairly well today, except near the end of the race, where perhaps a lot of people decided to start tuning in. Wish the Grand Tours (Giro/Vuelta/Tour) would have live video and status updates of the same caliber. It saves me from having to listen to Bob Roll mispronounce for an hour.

Stage links: * VeloNews Stage 5 summary * DailyPeloton Stage 5 summary * Stage 5 results * DailyPeloton Stage 5 Rider Comments (including Julich blog) * Levi Leipheimer Stage 5 journal * Graham Watson Stage 5 Gallery * Grassy Knoll Stage 5 media * Team CSC Stage 5 video

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

stage 5 profile

Tour of California: Stage 2

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Sierra Climb-1-1

Hincapie in the Leader's JerseyStage 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.

Podium-1-3 Hincapie Points Kohl KOM

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 links:

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.

Tour of California: San Francisco Prologue

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Levi Leipheimer Tour of California Levi Leipheimer Post-Race Tour of California

Coit TowerThe prologue was so much fun to watch. We got a great spot on the final bend going to the finish line and go to see all of the pros warming up. Jackson Stewart's opening time of 5'38" made us wonder how long it would be before the magical five-minute-barrier would be broken. Discovery's Old Man Ekimov was the first to really start pushing the barrier by setting a time of 5'14" for the rest of his teammates to follow. Ekimov's time didn't last very long, but it was Tour-de-France-Prologue-Winner Fabian Cancellara who really set the next standard with an impressive 5'03". Discovery's Jason McCartney quickly followed up with a slightly slower 5'03" and it seemed that the five-minute barrier could be breached at any moment.

Ekimov 2 Jason McCartney

We had to wait quite a bit of time. It seemed that the major teams sent some of their fast men (Ekimov, Cancellara) early to set a good pace for the rest of the team, but the middle part of the race was filled with 5'10"s. The most exciting event of the middle part was when Olivier Kaisen came around the bend. The riders started at one minute intervals and every time a rider approached the crowd would begin to cheer. You could use the gap between cheers to estimate how fast a rider had gone through the course. As Kaisen started to pass, a second, louder cheer started coming from just around the bend. Discovery's young hope Tom Danielson came zooming around the corner and passed Kaisen at the finish line:

Tom Danielson Danielson's Pass-2 Danielson's Pass-3 Danielson's Pass-4 Danielson's Pass-5

We settled back down again for awhile until we heard the news that Bobby Julich was on the course. The roar from around the bend as Julich approached was awesome and his time earned every bit of it: 4'58.19. I keep telling myself that my Bobby J and Cancellara photos are so blurry because they were so much faster.

Bobby Julich

The final part of the race was big rider after big rider also trying to break the five-minute barrier and Julich's time. Giro di Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli (5'04.83), Floyd Landis (4'59.55), Dave Zabriskie (5'02), Cadel Evans (5'05), George Hincapie (4'59.11). (update: in the prologue video, you can see Zabriskie having shifting problems at the start of the Coit Tower ascent, which certainly cost him valuable time).

Paolo Savoldelli Floyd Landis Cadel Evans George Hincapie

Al and I started talking at this point after watching big name after big name fail to beat Julich's time. Simoni, Leipheimer, and Rogers were the only big riders left of note. I put my money on Levi as the only rider left that could beat Bobby J's, but I didn't really believe it.

Leipheimer Climbs to the FinishEven with big name after big name, the crowd roar for Levi can be called huge. Leipheimer came flying up the final leg (video), so much faster than we had seen anyone else finish. His final time of 4'53.43 clobbered everyone else's efforts, and neither Simoni nor Rogers were even close.

Stage links: * VeloNews Prologue Summary * Prologue Results * Graham Watson Prologue photos * Levi Leipheimer Prologue journal * Grassy Knoll Project Prologue Media

Photo sets: * Main contenders: Leipheimer, Landis, Savoldelli, Zabriskie, Julich, Hincapie, Horner, Voigt, Danielson, O'Grady, Evans, Simoni, and more. There's also a sequence of Tom Danielson passing the rider that started a minute in front of him. * Big riders warming up: Photos of Leipheimer, Landis, Savoldelli, Hincapie, Ekimov, Horner, and others testing the final climb to Coit Tower * More riders: Photos of Tony Cruz, Michael Barry, Nicolas Jalabert, Saul Raisin, Fabian Wegmann, Robbie Hunter, Christian Vande Velde, and more * Even more riders: Photos of riders I couldn't identify as I don't have the starting order for the prologue (anyone happen to have a copy?).

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

prologue profile

Barclays SF Grand Prix 2005

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Al, Jill, d and I went to the Barclays San Francisco Grand Prix on Sunday. There was no Armstrong this year due to retirement, but there were plenty of big names to go and watch: Basso, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Horner, and Zabriskie. Zabriskie only did a couple of laps due to prior injury to his right hand and Basso dropped out as well, but the rest raced strong.

The race was dominated by Team Discovery, which sent Michael Creed on an early breakaway as a carrot for the other riders to chase. Creed stayed away for nearly 50 miles before being caught by a breakaway that included his teammates Jason McCartney and Ryder Hesjedal, along with HealthNet's John Lieswyn. Hesjedal and Creed couldn't hold on and it was McCartney and Lieswyn that looked in control of the race. They were caught on the final lap by Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann, who had tag-teammed with his teammate Andrea Molette to catch the lead pair. Wegmann had better sprinting legs and became the first non-North American to win the race.

Finishing Sprint

If you want more of a summary, I suggest reading the VeloNews article.

For all intents and purposes I had an all-access pass to this year's race. The security guards seemed not to notice me sneaking past them, though I had help from Al and Jill who had tickets into the VIP section. They fed me food from the VIP tents and we shook hands with OLN commentator Bob Roll. d and I both managed to sneak into the grandstands to watch the finishing sprint (Al scouted out the position of the guards) and then we jumped into the photographers-only area in front of the podium for the prize presentation. We then went over to the CSC tent and managed to get autographs from Dave Zabriskie, Ivan Basso, and Bjarne Riis. Al had found a wristband on the ground and decided that sending in Jill was the best strategy, which turned out beautfully. Their CSC hat has got a bunch of great signatures on it and my backpack has a left-handed Dave Zabriskie signature (his right hand is injured), which is charming in its own way.

autograph autograph hat

(note: I didn't have any photos of Basso to get autographed so I printed this one taken by Flickr user wuertele)

Partial photo listing (full photoset). d should also have photos of the event, which will hopefully be posted as well: