Main

Fans looking down at JJ Haedo after his victory Levi raises the roof Mavic Neutral Support Levi Leipheimer Jens Voigt Fabian Cancellara starting Michael Rasmussen IMG_1159 Levi and Jason over the top, KOM Specialized Angel Cow on Sierra Road Levi on the ground Levi Zabriskie Jen Voigt Jason Donald

March 12, 2007

Simulated Tour Tracker

The Tour Tracker for the Tour of California was pretty awesome. I believe I uttered statements like, "the future of TV" to friends. But now the ToC is over and its much harder to convey how great it was... because the event is over.

Well, the real Tour Tracker is still up and its full of GPS-placed photos to browse and there's a Simulated Tour Tracker that shows how the CSC "OmniTracker" system worked (location/speed of riders). The OmniTracker never actually worked for the stages I watched, so it's a first for me.

The big item of coolness, full-browser video, is sadly gone for now. I await my DVD.

via John Nack

March 8, 2007

20% off Tour of California gear

If you're on the Amgen Tour of California mailing lists, you probably received this message

We would like to offer you a 20% discount* on our Official Amgen Tour of California merchandise. To take advantage of this exclusive offer, please visit www.amgentourofcalfornia.com.

The discount code is THANKYOU.

Time to pickup a t-shirt or two.

February 26, 2007

Tour of California Stage-by-Stage Recap

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 rocked 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.

February 25, 2007

Hincapie out for Paris-Roubaix?

Hincapie warming upIt would be a terrible result for Hincapie if his broken arm (radius) takes him out of this year's Paris-Roubaix. He was a strong competitor in the 2006 Paris-Roubaix, only to be taken out by a broken steerer tube. The reports are now saying 6-8 weeks for Hincapie to heal and that he will miss the Spring Classics.

I wouldn't be surprised if Hincapie does race Paris-Roubaix. The race is April 15th this year. It's definitely not the first race that you want to do with an arm on the mend, but Hincapie did do almost all of Stage 6 with a broken arm.

Tour of California Stage 7: Dominguez gets one for Toyota

Ivan Dominguez

CSC was doing an excellent job controlling the peloton on the final lap up to the final kilometer... and then lost it. CSC only had two leadout men left to pull JJ Haedo the final kilometer, which isn't nearly enough. The pack became chaos.

CSC's Stuart O'Grady was forced to jump over to the Liquigas train to keep the leadout for JJ Haedo going. Rabobank had a stunning acceleration to pull Graeme Brown all the way to the front. Liquigas's Luca Paolini couldn't come off of Brown's back wheel and ended up becoming the launching pad for Ivan Dominguez.

Dominguez jumped off Paolini's wheel to the left with Ciolek and Hushovd behind, but both could only follow as Dominguez nicked Brown on the line.

Stuart O'Grady tried to jump to the Gerolsteiner traint to given JJ Haedo a leadout but ended up gettng stuffed. Haedo jumped over to Paolini's wheel but got boxed in behind with Gerolsteiner's Forster to his right.

The peloton let a breakaway sit off the front for most of the race, which gave some of the other teams a chance to get some final press. Slipstream was particularly eager with the breaks, having sent Bill Frishkorn on a flier at the starting gun. They had Danny Pate and Steven Cozza in the main break of the day. Discovery got BMC's help up front and CSC did the final reel in. It was the easiest stage for Discovery this Tour and Levi got the overall win that he coveted.

Italian Frown

Basso and Bettini

above: Ivan Basso and Paolo Bettini, frowning

Tour of California Stage 6: Haedo x 4

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.]

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

Sorry for the outage, coverage will resume

The line my server runs on went out while I was in SoCal. I have reconfigured the site on a new host, but I wasn't able to post anything before driving back home (yes, this means no Long Beach photos for me). Hope you enjoyed the coverage while it lasted.

February 23, 2007

Tour of California Stage 5: Solvang TT

Jen Voigt vs. Levi Leipheimer warming up

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

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

February 22, 2007

Tour of California Stage 4: Bettini's got legs

Photo by Mike Shimahara, BikeZen.comPaolo Bettini, I apologize. I noted your apathetic form in the prologue and stage 1, thinking that you didn't have form yet. But clearly you had a strategy to win because you took today's stage and quite nearly yesterday's as well -- if Mick Rogers hadn't gotten a flat on the descent, your chase group may have had enough power to reel it it.

photos by Mike Shimahara, BikeZen.com

It was a very different stage from last year's and not just with the deluge of rain. While there was a flurry of early attacks, Discovery Channel seemed to do a good job of letting a break get away and then keeping it on a three-minute leash. As the finish line approached, the sprint teams did their part to reel it back in and setup the finish.

Great Mark Shimahara shot of Basso leading Levi down along the ocean

Chipotle Giant Burrito, I miss you

Voigt realizes the ceiling is a bit lowThe awards ceremonies are not without their unique, fun moments. Like yesterday, there was Jens Voigt discovering that the organizers built the ceiling a little too low (Graeme Brown had the same problem after stage 1). There was also Jason Donald putting on the jersey backwards.

One of my favorite moment was after the prologue when all the Slipstream riders (Jason Donald, Taylor Tolleson) carried a giant Chipotle burrito on stage:

Jason Donald Taylor Tolleson

But I haven't caught sight of the burrito since. Tom Peterson has been their only rider at the awards presentation for every stage since the prologue (he impersonated Taylor Tolleson during the stage 1 awards). Is Peterson averse to carrying the burrito on stage, or did the burrito get eaten?

Update: I asked Tom Peterson -- the organizers won't allow the giant burrito on stage anymore.

Tom Peterson impersonating Taylor Tolleson

Sierra Road video


Tour of California: Riders crest Sierra Road on Vimeo

Al shot video for me at the top of Sierra Road. You get to hear but not see Levi/Voigt/Horner/McCartney/Gesink come through -- as I've previously mentioned, they came through fast, and the crowds also blocked line of sight. Al then wisely took to holding the tripod in the air, which provided some better views. I of course step in front of the camera several times and mess up the shot.

I'm not sure you can tell much detail the way Google Video compresses this. I'll try to replace with a Vimeo upload tomorrow. Update: Now using Vimeo with slightly better results. Google Video link if you want to download.

February 21, 2007

Media 2

I decided to head over the press room at the end of the stage today on a whim to see if they would give me a press credential. I've already done three stages without one and got decent photos, but it's been challenging -- you can't get a good spot near the awards presentation, a lot of the good viewing spots are marked off, spectators block your shots, etc...

Lo and behold, my very first press credential:

credential

I will be testing it out for the first time at Solvang and then at the start in Santa Clarita.

I don't know exactly why they gave me a credential, but I do know that it did require that I have actual readers, so I thank all of you who have this site on a bookmark, or read the feed, or have linked to stories here, or incorporated photos I've taken in your own entries. I also appreciate those of you who have left positive feedback to let me know that I'm not posting into the void.

My press pass is not going to get me the ride on a motorcycle that I want, but if I get one at Sea Otter it probably means that I can hop in the media van to be taken to different spots on the course. Al and d have both agreed to carry my gear if I can get them credentialed as well, which also opens up possibilities :).

The biggest difference for me is psychological. I've been trying to set a higher bar for myself and this is the next step. Or perhaps I'm just trying to raise the bar so I can order that shiny new Canon 16-35L lens I want, or that 70-200 f/2.8L USM IS, or that ... :).

Suggestions (for this site, and for lenses) are always welcome.

A day on Sierra Road

Cow on Sierra Road

above: one of the many cows that line the Sierra Road climb

Sierra Road was a hard climb for me last year. I hadn't even done Old La Honda yet, so being hit with a 15% grade was more than my body knew how to deal with. I took my time. I think I was more prepared this year, but I decided to up the ante by carrying 10-20 lbs of gear, including a tripod. To compound my foolishness, I didn't tighten my rear skewer enough so my tire rubbed against brake for the first kilometer -- I discovered this after taking an overheating break and being unable to get my rear wheel spinning again -- and I also climbed in my second chainring when I thought I was using my granny gear. Sierra Road was steeper than I remembered, but I finally made it up.

It was a long and cold wait at the top, but we were entertained by Shimano throwing out free jackets and Toyota passing out cowbells, thundersticks, and chalk. More riders showed up the closer the race got and it was a fun and friendly atmosphere. Saul Raisin sped by on his Raisin Hope Ride and was gone in the blink of an eye:

Saul Raisin

We watched the helicopters to tell us how close the riders were -- the marshals told us they were climbing at 10-12mph (I averaged 4mph). When the big moment came, it was over before you knew it. Everyone bunched onto the road so you couldn't see anyone approaching. There was a sudden parting and my eyes registered Levi's golden jersey flying past. I also saw McCartney and Horner and figured that the CSC rider must have been Jens Voigt from the occassional race update we got. The photos below were probably the most difficult of any I've taken the whole Tour:

Robert Gesink at the top of Sierra Road Jens at the top of Sierra Road Levi and Jason over the top, KOM

It became easier to spot the later groups as people didn't crowd the roads as much. Julich came over in a large group with Bettini. Then there were a lot of riders by themselves or in small groups. And then there was Basso and Cancellara in a fairly large group and, even further back, Tom Danielson with a bunch of Liquigas riders -- Danielson must have been putting in some big efforts today (correction: food poisoning). Near the very end was Discovery sprinter Allan Davis, who I'm told helped Discovery nail back the breakaway. His long day ended back on the podium with another green jersey.

With the last riders past us, we were free to begin our descent. Its fun to descend a road that you know is relatively car free, especially with other riders to accompany you. It got a little iffy when I locked up my rear end going around one of the tighter bends, but we made it to the bottom safe and sound despite our hurried pace. Riders were already crossing the base of Sierra Road on Piedmont, so we knew that we didn't have much time.

San Jose from the top of Sierra Road

above: from the top of Sierra Road, you can make out San Jose City Hall where the riders finish

Al drove like a madman and we were able to make it to San Jose City Hall in record time. We had a feeling we were already too late, though, when we could see the helicopter swing around onto Santa Clara. We hopped back on our bikes and rode over to City Hall, but the first two big groups of riders had already come it. We watched the stragglers roll in and then made it over to the team cars. Lance Armstrong was just getting off the Discovery Channel bus and ran over to a waiting van to avoid fans. There wasn't much to see as the riders were already aboard their team buses. Allan Davis rolled in and then quickly back out as I'm sure he was informed that he needed to get over to the awards presentation, which is where we next headed, but not before I snapped a photo of this Team Slipstream/Chipotle dog:

Slipstream Dog

Awards ceremony (shot from an awkward position):

Levi Leipheimer, overall leader Stage winner Jens Voigt

The Tour podium a bit to close to the ceiling:

Voigt realizes the ceiling is a bit low

There was one last errand to do while at the finish line. I'll talk about it in my next entry.

Tour of California Stage 3: Jens!

IMG_0596 Jens at the top of Sierra Road Levi and Jason over the top

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

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).

Mick Rogers, Sierra Road KOM Paolo Bettini, Sierra Road KOM IMG_0662 Sierra Road, KOM Fabian Cancellara, Sierra Rd KOM

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, overall leader

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.

Links

SF Chronicle on Health Net support team

An SF Chronicle followed the Health Net mechanics during Tuesday's stage. It's a nice perspective on the race, though the writer seems interested in making the Health Net riders sound like a bunch of whiners:

With half an hour to go before the day's start, cyclist Ryder Hesjedal complained to Legan that his brakes seemed too "grabby," and the mechanic replaced the yellow brake pads with a pair of red ones.

There was nothing really wrong with the yellow pads, Legan said quietly, and he slipped them into his pocket for the next time a rider complained about brakes that didn't really need fixing.

"If they think the new pads are going to make them ride better, then they will," Legan said. "I'm here to install confidence, along with everything else."

Another rider said his seat was one-sixteenth of an inch too high, even though it was the same height it was the day before. And another rider said his handlebars were just the tiniest bit crooked, even though they weren't. Legan and his hex wrenches took care of both crises.

SF Chronicle: Support team keeps wheels turning in bike race

February 20, 2007

Sierra Road tomorrow

Sierra Climb-1-1

Sierra Road won't be a pivotal climb, but it will shake things up a bit. The KOM is positioned too far from the San Jose finish line and there are too many straight open roads to allow anyone to realistically stay away after going over the top. Levi tried to have them change the course so that they would go up Sierra Road twice and finish at the top, but the organizers aren't amenable to mountain-top finishes yet.

Last year featured Bernhard Kohl and Leipheimer going over first, with Zabriskie, Landis, Hincapie, Horner, Julich, and another dozen-or-so riders linking up on the descent. Based on who made it in the lead pack last year, we could expect to see Leipheimer there with Hincapie, McCartney, and Danielson. Basso, of course, has the legs for it as well. From CSC, I would expect Bobby Julich and Christan Vandevelde. T-Mobile's Mick Rogers will probably make it over and we could at least see Michael Barry with him. Bernhard Kohl is riding for Gerolsteiner and may wish to reassert his KOM status, but I wouldn't rule out Slipstream continuing their ToC success and trying to keep Peterson in the KOM lead.

A dark horse for tomorrow's stage is Ben Jacques-Maynes. He's local, he knows the climb. Last year he tried to convert that into a successful breakaway attempt that launched itself well before Sierra Road, but he was caught half-way up the climb. This time, with the overall leader's jersey within grasp, a more conservative strategy could still net him the lead.

Tour of California Stage 2: JJ

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

right: JJ Haedo takes the stage over Luca Paolini and Thor Hushovd. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

JJ Haedo takes the sprint victory. It was a familiar result from last year's ToC, but Haedo did it under CSC colors this time around. Yesterday was a disappointing day for Haedo, who finished back in eighth place behind his own teammate Stuart O'Grady. This time around Haedo put several bike lengths over both Luca Paolini and Thor Hushovd -- no photo finish necessary. Kudos to Bobby Julich, Stuart O'Grady, Jens Voigt, and the rest of the team for their leadout efforts. They're going to have to switching gears tomorrow: none of the sprinters (including Haedo) had the legs to make it over Sierra Road with the lead pack. With Zabriskie out, it's time for CSC to start positioning Julich for the overall.

It was good to see that yesterday's crash didn't seem to effect the riders too much. Chris Horner went down hard yesterday but was able to lead Freddie Rodriguez up to the front. Christophe Laurent also spent most of the day flying off the front (with Omer Kem and David McCann) before being passed by Danny Pate on a futile late breakaway attempt.

Discovery did a good job of protecting the lead today. It's still mind-boggling to see images of Basso pulling at the front. Discovery was also there in the sprint with George Hincapie giving Allan Davis a good leadout for fourth. Luckily for Levi, Navigator's Hilton Clark was only able to manage a ninth place showing and won't be taking the overall leader's jersey away.

Note to Versus: please recognize that many of your viewers use TiVo/DVRs. In addition to marking shows as re-runs, this time around they started 15 minutes late, cutting off the final sprint.

Tuesday updates

  • Podium Cafe and tdfblog have their takes on Stage 1's Levi Rule. A lot of attention has been paid on Ben Jacques-Maynes, a different local California rider who could have been in the overall lead today instead. But we should also note that Bobby Julich and Michael Rogers would have also been really big winners. I like Ben -- I shot him at the ToC, Sea Otter, and Burlingame Crit last year (photos) -- but Priority Health isn't exactly having a stellar Tour of California this year. Six of their riders got dropped off the peloton prior to Santa Rosa in stage 1 and three of their riders have already been involved in crashes in today's stage 2 (including running into a spectator). With Zabriskie out of the picture, Julich is the highest placed rider from last year, and Michael Roger's time trial ability is a big strength for the ToC course.
  • Brown won yesterday's stage cleanly, but Tom Steels has filed a letter of protest for his sprinting behavior at the Tour of Qatar that ended with Steels getting a broken collarbone and head stitches.
  • Christophe Laurent has spent lead the long breakaway today, which shows the amazing resilience of these riders. Laurent is the same rider who was one of the last to get going after yesterday's pileup. I think he was waiting for a bike, but I detected a touch of pain as well:

Christophe Laurent

Skipping stage 2

I'll be watching stage 2 with the rest of you on Versus as I have a proper job to attend to tomorrow. TiVo screwed up and didn't record stage 1, which I was hoping to watch because there was simply too much chaos to take in all at once. I'm putting my TiVo on notice now that it better behave (it's actually Versus fault for marking all the showings as reruns).

Personal photographic coverage will resume on Sierra Road and, if my bike descent skills permit, the finish in San Jose. The latter is much less likely as the riders are simply too fast to keep up with, even in a car.

Stage 1: different take

I wrote a journal entry over on my blog talking about today's stage from a slightly more personal perspective. In summary, what started off as a frustrating exercise in not being able to find a good position to take photos from turned out to be the right spot after all for witnessing the chaos of stage 1.

Journal entry about stage 1

February 19, 2007

Tour of California Stage 1: The Levi Rule

Levi on the ground

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

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.

Levi, seconds before the crash Crash Crash Stage 1 Crash Nicolas Gates receiving medical care after crash

Basso checking for damage after the crash:

Basso inspects the damage

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.

The Lucky Ones Chris Horner, chasing alone McCartney and Rasmussen far behind

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.

Photo Finish

Henderson, Brown, and Davis battle for the finish Henderson misses out by centimeters

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.

Stage winner Graeme Brown Allan Davis, 3rd Place Tom Peterson impersonating Taylor Tolleson Tom Peterson, KOM Allan Davis, Sprint Leader Levi Leipheimer, Overall Leader

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
    Bettini dropped by the front pack

Links:

Steephill.tv Grassy Knoll project improved

I've participated in Steephill.tv's Grassy Knoll Project before and enjoyed the results. The goal is to grassroot's media effort to collect photos and videos from a particular cycling event. Last year saw 1,733 photos and videos with start-to-finish coverage. The only problem was that it was a pain in the butt to participate -- after spending hours processing photos and videos to post to Flickr/YouTube/Google Video, you then had to spend more time uploading media one-by-one for the Grassy Knoll Project. As a result, I only sent a select number of images over the fence.

This time around things are integrated with Flickr (YouTube soon) so that all you have to do is tag your image and tell the Grassy Knoll Project to bring in your photos. One step contribution is a wonderful improvement.

Prologue Videos

Just in case Versus didn't give you enough coverage, I've posted some videos from the finishing stretch of various riders: Julich, Hincapie, Hushovd, Rogers, Fast Freddie.

NOTE: Video shot by offtopicartistan, with the camera on loan from parakkum. I apologize for my CSC hat blocking the video from time to time.

Continue reading "Prologue Videos" »

Levi videos from the Prologue

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:

Prologue: Bettini's day

Paolo Bettini clearly wasn't having a good day yesterday and it's probably fair to say that he won't be a competitor in the Tour of California -- he's currently in 122nd place (out of 144) at 42 seconds back. What was striking for me was how looked better in warmup than the actual race:

Paolo Bettini Paolo Bettini

Bettini pretty much crawled past us in comparison to the other riders:

(video credits: offtopicartisan, thanks parakkum for the loaning the camera)

I love my 30D

For the past several years I've been shooting with Rebels -- I even wrote a guide for using the Digital Rebel, which attempted to codify all my accumulated knowledge at its limitations. I felt like I learned a lot using the Rebel, enough to write a whole entry about it. When you're trying to manual focus a time trialist, you quickly learn to how to keep the rest of the variables under control.

This past July I treated myself to a Canon 30D and I can't say that I miss 'ole Rebel. I knew from the Pescadero Road Race and Burlingame Criterium that I had purchased a big upgrade, but it wasn't until the Tour of California prologue that I had a real comparison. Hopefully some of the improvement is due to gaining more experience this past year, but look at last year's photos in comparison to this year's. Last year, Jens Voigt came right across my field of vision and all I got was this crummy shot. This year I couldn't track him because he was riding too close to the barrier. He popped out at the last second and my autofocus grabbed him for this shot. Any questions?

February 18, 2007

Tour of California Prologue: Levi Delivers Again

IMG_0060 IMG_0064 IMG_0065

Jason Donald (Second Place)Those 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.

Zabriskie Stuart O'Grady 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:

February 16, 2007

Gearing up for the Tour of California

Only two more days to the start of California's Tour and I'm stoked. This year's roster is amazing and I've already heard rumors of QuickStep doing King's Mountain earlier this week. It looks like it will be a Discovery vs. CSC battle royale, but who knows with the additional pro teams this time around. CSC has last year's 2nd and 3rd place winner (Zabriskie/Julich), plus two-stage winner JJ Haedo. AND they have O'Grady, Cancellara, and Voigt.

On the Discovery side, Levi should have the opportunity to be helped by Basso, Danielson, and Hincapie (2-stage winner last year). Tony Cruz is also back with the squad.

The rest of the rider list is amazing. I'm going to have fun yelling "THOR!" and maybe we'll see Bettini risk his kneecaps on another descent. Then there's the Rasmussen climbing Sierra Road and the rematch of Zabriskie vs. Baldwin in the Solvang time trial.

My tentative plan is to be at the Prologue, atop Sierra Road, and at the Solvang TT. There's a small chance that I'll be in Santa Rosa as well.

I love this race!

July 21, 2006

Host cities for Tour of California Announced

I'm really looking forward to the Tour of California next year. The crowds were big this year, but think of the Floyd Landis effect. There are In-n-Out Burger chains in/near all the new host cities (Sacramento, Stockton, and Long Beach have In-n-Outs, there's one nearby Santa Clarita in Newhall, and Salinas is 20 min from Seaside), so Landis will be unable to resist entering.

The route itself is still under wraps, but here the basics are below. It was previously announced that San Jose would not get two stages this year; now we know that the time trial has migrated south to Solvang.

  • Prologue: Sunday, Feb. 18 - San Francisco
  • Stage 1: Monday, Feb. 19 - Sausalito to Santa Rosa
  • Stage 2: Tuesday, Feb. 20 - Santa Rosa to Sacramento
  • Stage 3: Wednesday, Feb. 21 - Stockton to San Jose
  • Stage 4: Thursday, Feb. 22 - Seaside to San Luis Obispo
  • Stage 5: Friday, Feb. 23 - Solvang time trial
  • Stage 6: Saturday, Feb. 24 - Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita
  • Stage 7: Sunday, Feb. 25 - Long Beach circuit race

The definites for me are the prologue and stage 3. The most curious for me is the stage 5 Solvang time trial -- they probably moved that later as the time trial was too decisive too early in the 2006 event. Stage 6 also looks like it could be really exciting -- my guess is that it will swing up through Ojai and top a mountain or two. I'm thinking of driving down Thursday night and taking in stages 5-7 in addition to the prologue and stage 3. (To all you Tour of Georgians -- next year might also be the year I make it out to Brasstown Bald).

Amgen Tour of California Press Release: AEG Announces Host Cities for 2007