Spectators 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.
After 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.
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.
Jens 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.
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.
Levi 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.
CSC 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.
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.