Tour of California: Stage 1

The collective wisdom today was that today would be a finish for sprinter's and that Freddie Rodriguez would make a go of it. The pre-race analysis was correct, but I don't think anyone put Juan Jose Haedo of Toyota on their short list of potential winners. The sprint setup was led by Fast Freddie's Lotto Davitamon team, which couldn't keep the pace fast enough. T-Mobile took over going into the final bends and seemed to have the advantage, but, as the sprinters emerged from the small dip before the finish, it was Haedo who was far in front of the rest of the pack and took the win easily (online video ). T-Mobile's Davis took a distant second and CSC's Stuart O'Grady third. Toyota is a brand new team and this is a very big first victory.

Kodak's Jackson Stewart made a go of it today. Stewart's name was already getting ingrained in my head as he was the first rider up the hill during the prologue and also one of the two Kodak/Sierra Nevada riders that was at the introduction of the San Jose stage routes. Stewart and Jean Marc Marino of Credit Agricole broke away from the pack today and built up a lead of over three minutes. Discovery's Gusev and McCartney attacked the peloton on the final climb before Santa Rosa, which pretty much spelled the end of Stewart's/Marino's breakaway as their lead was slashed. Stewart and Marino were caught as the peloton reached Santa Rosa.

If it's any sign of the popularity of the Tour of California, I'll note that both CyclingNews and Amgen's official Tour site had trouble keeping their live update feeds running. Amgen's site was completely knocked out and CyclingNews was up and down. The crowds were reportedly huge in Levi Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa -- possibly in the 30,000-50,000 range -- and Leipheimer's home crowd got to see him don the leader's jersey for another day as he was able to finish with the pack and maintain his overall lead.

No Flickr photos from me for this stage. I had to pass on this stage as four hours of driving for a probable sprint finish was a bit too much and I'm already taking time off work to watch Stage 2 and 3 in person.

related articles: Tour of California 2006
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