|Photo by Ken Conley|
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.
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.
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.
above: the sprint photo finish. below: Levi crosses the finish line long after the main pack, but is awarded the same time
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.
- 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.
- Following up on yesterday's post, Bettini wasn't involved in the crash but got dropped by front pack on the final lap