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.]

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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

related articles: Tour of California 2007
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