Friday, February 29, 2008

On Tap...

The Return of Gent [Ghent] & The Revenge
Because of its weather, the month of March has been said to "come in like a lion, and leave like a lamb." In cycling parlance, that lion must be a Flemish one as March kicks off the Spring Classics campaign with the semi-classics Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, or simply K-B-K, on Sunday.

This year's Het Volk returns to its roots, once referred to as Gent-Gent, as the 2008 edition will start and finish in the town of Gent. Started in 1945 by the newspaper Het Volk, the race uses much of the same route as its legendary and monumental counterpart the Ronde van Vlaanderen [which strangely enough was started by the competing newspaper Het Niewsblad].

The lesser known, but equally demanding K-B-K, is known as "The Revenge" for helping to take the sting away from those who missed out on victory the day before.

Each race favors the Belgians, as 52 of 59 editions of Het Volk, and 49 of 60 editions of K-B-K have gone to the locals.

Start List for Het Volk
Start List for K-B-K


Catch it all on Cycling.tv. If you are crazy for the Classics, its a small price to pay.

Harder Than It Looks, Wish You Were Here

Since returning from the Amgen Tour of California, my health has been dodgy at best. As a result, it’s been rather difficult to recount the events of the week with any clarity. But as the fog in my head has lifted, it has all come back into focus.

If there is one thing that can be said from my experience in California its that I have a healthier respect for those who cover such an event, whether writer, photographer, or videographer.

Admittedly, I felt greatly out of sorts for the first few days. Although being credentialed for our first major race was quite an achievement, the logistics of covering such an event proved to be a completely different animal than doing likewise for a trade show like Interbike.

Right out of the gate, I felt as if I was at a severe disadvantage from the other media outlets present, as I attempted to cover the event solo. My passion for cycling, my fandom, and my jack-of-all-trades mentality left me scatter-brained wanting to take it ALL in. I was literally like that kid in a candy store, but one who was allowed to get on the other side of the glass.

There were many times that I had to remind that little kid in me that though some of these riders were presently or would someday go down as giants of the sport, they were nonetheless people, and as my friend Liz might point out people who “ride a bike for a living.”

Not knowing exactly where to be or exactly what I wanted to do, I headed for the finish line of the Prologue. Through a bit of happenstance I was able to secure a photographer’s vest, which let me inside the barricades and left me [and a select few] on the actual course one-on-one with the riders bearing down on the finish line. It was precarious at times, especially with those riders who rode that side of the course and had to quickly veer off to miss the lot of us.

After the Prologue, I found myself walking next to the winner, Fabian Cancellara [he on bike], and a host of CSC personnel, among them Director Sportif, Bjarne Riis, as they headed to the press conference room. For a brief moment, I was Riis’ personal photographer as fans would kindly ask me to take their photo with the former Tour de France winner.

In the recounting, if it all seems a little surreal, it was. But not how you would imagine.

The remainder of the Tour of California was a blur of similar occurrences; running into the likes of Tom Boonen, Mario Cipollini, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Jonathan Vaughters, and Vladislav Ekimov, to name a few.

But as a media type, and one who admires those who write or visually capture these riders and events, it was equally fantastic being in the same press room as a Cathy Mehl [currently writing for Astana; top], Neal Rogers [Velonews], Bonnie Ford [Desimone], and Kirsten Robbins [Cyclingnews], or in the same photographers’ pen as a Graham Watson [inset], Jonathan Devich, and Kurt Jambretz, to name a few.

Observing those individuals work their craft day-in and day-out was mind numbing and inspiring as the press room was at times as active a hornets’ nest as the peloton it was there to cover.

Kirsten Robbins chatting with Rock Racing owner Michael Ball

Ironically, once I finally felt like I somewhat belonged in their ranks, I was on a plane back to the Midwest. C'est la vie, oui? Another day [week] in the life of a blogger.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Twitter Armada

On the heels of a successful Amgen Tour of California that saw the team claim its first yellow jersey along with 2nd and 3rd in the final overall, Team Slipstream-Chipotle presented by H3O is continuing its live team update service for its fans. Nearly 300 of you have signed up already.

TEAM SLIPSTREAM-CHIPOTLE PRESENTED BY H30 NOW OFFERING FANS LIVE UPDATES ON TWITTER


For the first time ever, fans get instant text/SMS updates, live from the team, car as races unfold.

BOULDER, CO – February 28, 2008 – Fans of Team Slipstream-Chipotle presented by H30 can now receive live updates on the team on Twitter, a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates to other users who have signed up to receive them. For the first time ever, fans will be able to receive instant Text/SMS updates as races unfold.

“We love our fans, and we are excited that for the first time we can connect with them from anywhere in the world in real time,” said Doug Ellis, Chairman, Slipstream Sports. “This is an exciting race season, and we are happy to give our fans such great access to the team.”

To subscribe to receive the latest updates:

1) Go to TeamSlipstream on Twitter (http://twitter.com//TeamSlipstream)
2) Sign up for a Twitter account, register, and login
3) Go back to TeamSlipstream page on Twitter and click the grey “Follow Me” box

Michael Plays Ball

Rock Racing To Launch Aggressive Internal Anti-Doping Program

Los Angeles, Calif. (Feb. 26, 2008)
– Continuing its commitment to the sport of cycling and clean competition, Rock Racing today announced plans for an aggressive internal team anti-doping program. This internal anti-doping initiative underscores Rock Racing's, and Team Owner Michael Ball's, willingness to take every measure to ensure that its members race clean and fair.

Rock Racing has not yet selected a consultant for its internal anti-doping program, but is proud to announce that it will make its formal selection within three days. The selection process will involve discussions with leading internal anti-doping consultants. The program will include testing for performance enhancing substances known to be used in the sport of professional cycling, including EPO, blood doping and steroids.

Although Rock Racing is not disclosing the exact dollar figure of the program’s cost, it is a significant investment and one Ball says is necessary.

“The responsibility to change this sport for the better has to come from within – from the riders and team owners,” Ball said. “For Rock Racing, the investment in such a comprehensive anti-doping program is really an investment in the future of the sport and we hope our example will encourage more teams to adopt similar programs. The selection process will be led by Maurice Suh of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with assistance from the team and its management."

The implementation of Rock Racing’s testing program follows the conclusion of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California where three of the team’s riders – American Tyler Hamilton, Colombian Santiago Botero and Spaniard Oscar Sevilla ­– were barred from competition in a controversial decision by race organizer, AEG, citing open doping investigations as the basis. All three had previously received clearance from their respective national federations confirming they were not the subject of any current investigations and were free and clear to race.

"Hopefully, by announcing this internal anti-doping program, we will continue to show the world that Tyler, Santiago and Oscar should be eligible to race in the future, and have earned that right," said Michael Ball.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tour of Calfornia - Stage 7

Patriot's Day
In its three short years, the Amgen Tour of California has become arguably the signature bicycle race in the United States. It only seemed appropriate then that riders from the United States would play such a pivotal and dominant role in the final stage.

There they were, Michael Creed and Doug Ollerenshaw [Rock Racing] leading the break, George Hincapie [Team High Road] winning the stage, Levi Leipheimer [Astana] winning the overall and Christian Vande Velde [Team Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O] placing third overall.

PASADENA, CALIF., February 24, 2008 – After eight challenging days of cycling through 650-miles of scenic California highways, roadways and coastline drives, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was crowned as champion of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California for the second consecutive year, with a weeklong total time of 29 hours, 24 minutes and 32 seconds of cycling across California. A resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., Leipheimer battled against the best field ever assembled to compete in the United States, which included Olympic medalists and World Champions, among others. George Hincapie (USA) of High Road claimed the Stage 7 win.


Despite rainy weather on the race’s final day, fans turned out in record numbers to cheer on the cyclists throughout the week, bringing the overall total attendance for the duration of the race to more than 1.6 million.

“I think this win is more special now because of the caliber of the field,” said Leipheimer. “For me, this win is unbelievable because of the amount of cycling stars that we had here in California. Winning the Amgen Tour of California has been a goal of mine from the beginning. This has always been a top priority for me.”

Tens of thousands of spectators awaited the arrival of the cyclists in Pasadena to see the final 30 miles of the 650-mile stage race. The race’s final day, which included the highest elevation ever reached by the Amgen Tour of California on the towering Millcreek Summit (4,906 feet), would prove to be full of excitement for the fans and cyclists alike, with Hincapie winning an all-out sprint tot the finish.

The third annual Amgen tour of California featured a new generation of American cyclists. Although still in the shadows of their Armstrong-era veterans, this crop showcased young, hungry new talent.

This became evident during the final stage, as right from the gun, a wet squall of attacks broke out with Michael Creed (USA; inset) and Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), both of Rock Racing, at the front. This battle drew the attention of Hincapie. Having crashed at nearly 40 mph on Stage 1; attacking both climbs on Stage 3, the most difficult stage of the race; and then riding a 90-mile breakaway in the epic rain and wind of the race’s longest stage, only to finish second to Dominique Rollin (CAN) of Toyota-United Pro Cycling, Hincapie roared across the gap and hit the break.

They drove hard for 50 miles as a break, but as they closed in on Pasadena, Tom Zirbel (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling launched a solo break. In just his second year as a professional cyclist, Zirbel, known as a powerful time trialist, broke loose and carried a 15-second lead into the final six circuits on the five-mile loop around the Rose Bowl.

“You could see on the hills we would get close, but he kept going,” said Hincapie. “He was really tough. He had a very aggressive ride.”

As the end of the race drew near, Hincapie powered across the gap and caught Zirbel. Rory Sutherland (AUS) of HealthNet Presented by Maxxis soon followed. Others would join the breakaway as well, including Jason McCartney (USA) of Team CSC and Creed, but it would prove to be Hincapie’s stage. He blasted out of the sprint to score a huge win for Team High Road.

“As soon as we came into the circuits, everyone was attacking; the majority of the work that the breakaway did fell to me,” said Hincapie. “The last 30 kilometers was really difficult; I’m glad it worked out for me. As soon as we hit the circuit laps, the race was on and things got aggressive, so we warmed up pretty quick.”

Photos:
Vero Image

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 6

A trip back to the Midwest, back to the job that pays the bills, was inevitable. Unfortunately, that trip occurred after Stage 5 and a day before the finale of the Amgen Tour of California in Pasadena, CA.

The recaps are an amalgam of press releases and my own personal spin to the final two stages. I wish to thank Sean Weide with Elevation Sports & Entertainment [Rock Racing] and Erin Barrier of GolinHarris [Amgen Tour of California] for the copy and photos.

Luciano Doesn't Sleep With The Fishes
It looked like the newly California based Team High Road would claim its first vistory of the Amgen Tour of California, but an official ruling relegated Mark Cavendish and three other riders to the back of the field.

SANTA CLARITA, CALIF., February 23, 2008 – Fans in Santa Clarita lined the streets to witness the finish to Stage 6 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, which included an exciting bunch sprint to the finish line. After a review by race officials, Luciano Pagliarini (BRA) of Saunier Duval-Scott was determined to be the stage winner, followed closely by Juan Jose “J.J.” Haedo (ARG) of Team CSC and World Champion Paolo Bettini (ITA) of Quick Step. Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana retained the overall lead heading into the final stage of the race, which will take riders from Santa Clarita to Pasadena tomorrow.

Mark Cavendish (GBR) of High Road, who was originally declared the stage winner, recovered from a late crash during the first circuit lap and seemed to deliver a powerful sprint victory for High Road. However, officials would later relegate the sprinter for sheltering behind or falling into the slipstream of a vehicle. This decision gave the win to Pagliarini.

“I am so sorry about Cavendish,” said Pagliarini. “I won a stage. I’m very happy, but it’s not like a win with the hands up. I came in second, but I am the first.”

“Officials saw Mark (Cavendish) hang on to a car for an extended period of time,” said Jim Birrell, race director. “It’s unfortunate because he put in such a good effort today, but those are the rules.”

Despite the chaos and challenges that came late in the race, Astana managed to keep Leipheimer in the overall race lead, with an advantage of 49 seconds going into tomorrow’s race.

“It’s sweet to be near the prize, but it’s never over until we cross the finish line,” said Leipheimer. “The Amgen Tour of California is the best in the world right now and has the best riders. I feel privileged and proud to be the guy that has led the race for the past couple of years, but I’ve worked hard to earn it.”

In cloudy but dry conditions, the field rolled out of Santa Barbara for this 105-mile penultimate stage. The course featured several small climbs and many expected attacks from several teams. An early move on the second climb put six riders up the road.

This significant breakaway featured Steven Cozza (USA) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30, Rory Sutherland (AUS) of HealthNet Presented by Maxxis, Christophe Le Mevel (FRA) of Credit Agricole, Alexandre Pichot (FRA) of Bouygues Telecom, Karsten Kroon (NED) of Team CSC and David Canada (ESP) of Saunier Duval-Scott.

Riding smoothly, the break built up a lead of seven minutes over the field. After the final climb of the day, Astana gave the front to the teams of sprinters and allowed them to chase down a stage win.

As the breakaway reached the streets of Santa Clarita, the leaders only had a dwindling two minute advantage. At the front of the field rode a train of Quick Step riders, with its two sprinters, Bettini and Tom Boonen (USA), in tow. Following close behind was High Road with its aces, Cavendish and Gerald Ciolek (GER), and Rock Racing’s sprint duo of Mario Cipollini (ITA) and Fred Rodriguez (USA).

But in that fight for position, wheels touched and down went Cipollini, Rodriguez and Cavendish in a heap.


“Coming into the last two laps, I had Cipollini in front of me and Cavendish in front of him,” said Rodriguez. “Cavendish swerved and took out Mario. I had no where to go. I basically t-boned Mario and then went head first into the pavement.”


Cavendish and Cipollini both remounted and chased back up through the cars to the field and then advanced for the sprint.

Just as the breakaway dissolved, the rider sitting in second overall, David Millar (GBR) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30, countered off the front with Thomas Voeckler (FRA) of Bouygues Telecom and Saunier Duval rider Iker Camano (ESP).

“I was trying to look around for him and that’s when he went,” said Leipheimer. “My teammates Chris (Horner) and Chechu (Rubiero) got to the front - even in the midst of the Quick Step lead out - and brought him back.”

With that, the field prepared itself for a bunch sprint. As the riders leapt out of their saddles, Dominique Rollin (CAN) of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team pounced first and opened a margin.


He would be swarmed by the field, with Cavendish, bleeding from his crash, hitting the line first, followed by Pagliarini, Haedo and Bettini.

Photos: Vero Image

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Last One In, First One Out - An Easy Day At The Office

The Land of Levi
Solvang, CA (February 22, 2008) – A review of the overall standings going into Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California would have given the most ardent, let alone the most inexperienced, cycling fan the impression that the title was still in the balance.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) ended any speculation of who would claim the title In Pasadena with an incredible effort in the 15 mile Individual Time Trial that was redolent of the penultimate stage of last year’s Tour de France.

It was anything but easy for Leipheimer, however, as Slipstream’s Christian Vande Velde and then David Millar set the fastest marks while Levi was already on a course overflowing with enthusiastic fans and blessed by good weather.


Like most riders in this discipline, Levi went to his happy place where pain teeters precariously on its threshold. He quite literally “reached into his bag of pain,” as Phil Liggett might exclaim.


Leipheimer, although “a little cross-eyed” going into the final turn, bested David Millar’s mark by 29 seconds with an amazing 30:46.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm NOT Drinking Any F@#%ing Merlot!

Solvang, CA (February 22, 2008) – Here we are in Solvang, the town made famous by the movie Sideways. It’s about an hour before the official start to the 24.1 km Stage 5 Individual Time Trial (ITT).


The overall contenders most likely won’t kick-off their attempt to dethrone the reigning Amgen Tour of California champion and current yellow jersey wearer, Levi Leipheimer, till 1:30 pst.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) is only 13 seconds arrear, with David Millar and Dave Zabriskie (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) at around 21 seconds back.

The final 10 riders, staggered by 2 minutes are as follows in descending order:

Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step)
Victor Hugo Pena (Rock Racing)
Alexandre Moos (BMC)
Christian Van de Velde (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Chris Horner (Astana)
Dave Zabriskie (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Gusev Larsson (CSC)
David Millar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
Fabian Cancellara (CSC)
Levi Leipheimer (Astana)

As cycling PA announcer, Dave Towle, would say, “It’s ON, like Donkey Kong!”

Photo: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California - Stage 4

Ecstasy Through Misery
San Luis Obispo, CA (February 21, 2008) - For even the most passionate of cyclists, the conditions of today's Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California could be considered disheartening.

Welcome to Sun, er Rain-Drenched California!

With the difficult mountains behind and the definitive individual time trial (ITT) ahead, the ride from Seaside to San Luis Obispo along scenic Highway 1 was shaping up to be your classic "transition stage," where the peloton usually agrees to remain neutral up until the finale.

Transition stages are also a good time for the opportunist in the peloton to take their chances on a break getting away, as the contenders for the overall and their teams will not often expend the energy to chase down any breaks.

With temperatures that never got above 55 degrees, a headwind that was clocked at times at 30 mph, and with rains steady to heavy all day, a breakaway succeeded.

In a group that ranged from 11 to 7 riders, it was Toyota-United's Dominique Rollin who ultimately soloed to the victory in downtown San Luis Obispo.


The former Canandian time trialing and road champion's win was the only bright spot in an otherwise dreary and miserable day, as multiple riders abandoned before the race, the effects of a virus that has been sweeping through the group, or dropped out during the race.

One such rider was the virtual King of the Mountains jersey wearer, Jackson Stewart (BMC). Having accumulated enough KOM points, taking all on the day, Stewart was certain to take the jersey from teammate, Scott Nydam. A case of hypothermia, however, ended his day.

Levi Leipheimer remains in the leader's jersey a mere 13 seconds above one of the most accomplished time trialist in recent memory, Fabian Cancellara (CSC). It should be an exciting, and let's hope dry, day in Solvang.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Circular Thoughts

Highway 101, CA (February 21, 2008) – Today’s Stage 4 from Seaside to San Luis Obispo takes in the scenery of Pacific Coast Highway 1, or simply PCH or 1. It is an incredible stretch of road that seems like one gigantic and meandering scenic vista. At least it is on a good day.

The rains began early today and have been more than just a little intermittent. The stage, your classic “transition” stage, looks to be a long, slow, and obviously wet affair for the riders.

For the caravan of media, staff, crew, and other support personnel for the Amgen Tour of California we took the more direct route of Highway 101, nestled between the Sierra de Salinas and Gabilan mountain ranges, down to San Luis Obispo.

Although considered less than scenic, Highway 101 feels like an old soft comfortable shoe. It was a highway my family traveled many times up from Anaheim to Salinas to visit a great aunt. My remembrances of it were often less than memorable, “too many cars,” “too long,” and “too boring,” were my frequent complaints to my more than patient parents.


But as I made my way down from Seaside, Highway 101 felt like my surrogate home. On the drive, images seemed to float and linger in my mind; of cattle grazing on the sides of foothills and mountains, of sinewy and barren trees, and farm lands that seem to stretch for miles, of pickups, irrigation pipes, and immigrant workers hoeing brown soil. It was as if the highway opened up to reveal a portion of my life’s story.

As I roared pass the black and neon green luxury bus of Rock Racing, I realized that I had literally come full circle; one based on two-wheels.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 3

Turnover
San Jose, CA (February 20, 2008) - The profile of Stage 3 from Modesto to San Jose certainly should have favored the climbers, with three Cat. 4, one Cat. 1, and an HC climb. But there they were, in the first chase group, time trialing specialist and Classics hard man, Fabian Cancellara (CSC) accompanied by David Millar and David Zabriskie of Team Slipstream/Chipotle [Millar a former time trialing World Champion, and Zabriskie the owner of the fastest ever clocked average speed in the Tour de France Prologue].

"It just goes to show you how well he's going right now," said a surprised Levi Leipheimer (Astana) of Cancellara, after the stage in which Levi placed second and took over the overall race lead.


The fact that so many big engines were close behind on the run in to San Jose wasn't lost on Leipheimer. and began his run in to San Jose. Apparently, it was news to breakaway companion Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who jokingly stated after the fact, "...that's information that the Director probably felt would not have helped me."

It ended up being a great motivating factor for Leipheimer as he proded his younger charge to increase their leg tunrover and work together once they cleared the final climb up Sierra Road.

But it also wasn't the only motivating factor for Leipheimer and his Astana teammates, who learned of the RCS's decision [organizer of such races at Tirreno-Adriatico; a race won last year by Astana's Andreas Kloden] to also exclude the team from their races [following a similar decision by ASO earlier this month].
"We're really frustrated as a team because we have no explanation. I think the arguments that the two tour organizers have given to exclude us are very vague, weak and inconsistent. We're left to just conjecture and trying to come to a conclusion and its very difficult to be in that position. We're just trying to keep our heads up and like I said we came out here [to the Tour of California] and we have something to prove, especially today. I think that's the best thing we can do, try to race our bikes the best way we can and fight back in that way."
At the line it was the 21-year-old Gesink who took the stage victory over Leipheimer. Although Leipheimer and his contemporaries still have a great deal of fight in their legs, Gesink's victory perhaps signaled the beginning of a turnover of the professional peloton to a new cycling generation as 4 of the 6 top finishers on HC category climb up Mount Hamilton were 25 years or younger.


Incidentally, the day's yellow jersey wearer, the 23-year-old Tyler Farrar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) abandoned during the stage with a stomach virus that has being working its way through the peloton.

Photos: Leonard Basobas (first, second, fourth), Al Hernandez (Fox News; third)

Tour of California - Stage 2

"Tornado" Touches Down In California Capital

Sacramento, CA (February, 19, 2008) - With rain the predominating weather condition, it only seemed appropriate that a rider nicknamed "Tornado" would win today's 116-mile Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California.


Coming off another successful Tour of Qatar, Tom Boonen [Quick Step], a former World Champion and last year's winner of the Maillot Vert, afterwards proclaimed today's sprint finish as "one of his best ever." Given the types and number of races Boonen has won over his career that statement may seem a bit erroneous, but given his positioning and the conditions it was hard to argue his point.
“Today was pretty hectic. It’s always hectic with weather like this, especially when you are doing circuits. During the last kilometer, I got in front and everything was a little bit of a mess, but then I saw everything open up so I started sprinting and got to the line just in time...Weather like this always affects the race. Nobody likes to race like this. It’s much more dangerous, which makes it more stressful. It doesn’t make it easy to stay safe. I like to win, but I don’t like the rain. I don’t like descending and I don’t like sprinting in it.”

The beginning of Stage 2 from Santa Rosa to Sacramento resembled the events of the previous day, with a BMC rider off the front. Scott Nydam attacked right out of the gate on the Trinity Road climb as the skies really began to open up. He was able to build up an 11 minute gap on the rain drenched and less than motivated peloton.


It looked like the perfect scenario for a break to stay away, but like his teammate, Jackson Stewart, the day before, Nydam was reeled back into the fold as the gruppo entered the finishing circuits.

On the circuits, it looked like yesterday's victor, Juan Jose Haedo (CSC) was going to be prevented from mixing it up with the other sprinters as he fell behind quickly after getting caught up in a mess of his own. But the CSC rider was able to come back from a distance to contest the finale. He ended up 5th on the day despite his travails.

Aside from Boonen's victory the highlight of the finale had to be the third place finish by Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing). It may seem particularly redundant, but the 41-year-old who was away from competion for three years managed to beat riders who Cipo proclaimed "could be my children." What is even more remarkable is the fact that during his retirement, Cipollini shattered a knee cap while skiing.


Since Rock Racing owner, Michael Ball, convinced Cipo to come out of retirement he has garnered a new perspective on the sport that he once viewed as a "profession." While training for his comeback with a local club in his native Italy, Cipo now considers cycling his "passion." Now there's scary thought for the sprinters across the professional peloton.

As a result of contesting the sprint time bonuses, Tyler Farrar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) claimed the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara (CSC).


An ecstatic Farrar stated,
“This win probably tops any win I’ve ever had; it’s a pretty big deal for me. I’m ecstatic to be racing in America, and to be wearing the Amgen Leader Jersey is a big deal for me and for the team; everyone is really happy.”

Photos: Al Hernandez (Fox News; first through third), Leonard Basobas (bottom)

Mountain Bike Pioneers Tip Their Glasses to Trips for Kids

Local mountain bike legends and Marin Community members gather to celebrate Trips for Kids and raise $3,000

San Rafael, Calif. - Feb. 19, 2008 - Mountain bike legends gathered to salute Trips for Kids (TFK) at the 10th Annual Brews, Bikes and Bucks fundraiser. Among those present at the Feb. 10 event were greats Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charles Kelly, Mert Lawwill, Jacquie Phelan, Ross Shafer, Michael Kelley and Chris Lang.


The annual fundraiser, held at the Broken Drum Brewery & Wood Grill in San Rafael, Calif., raised close to $3,000 for the program. The money raised is used to fund mountain biking adventures for at risk kids.

"Each year, Broken Drum owner Noah Berry not only opens his doors for the cause, but donates proceeds from the food and drink sales," said Marilyn Price, founder of Trips for Kids. "We are so fortunate and grateful for Noah's continued generosity. This would not be possible without him."

Outside the Broken Drum, admirers gawked at the rows of tricked-out mountain bikes lining the sidewalk; inside, pints in hand, the owners of these bikes tell tall tales of traveling on two wheels. TFK supporters had the opportunity to meet and socialize with the pioneers of the mountain bike industry, but the loot inside the bar was also a draw.

Impressive bikes and accessories generously donated by the bike industry were raffled throughout the afternoon. The most sought-after prize was a 2007 Jamis Dragon Comp mountain bike. A silent auction was also held for a Muirwoods 29er mountain bike donated by Marin Bikes.

For more than twenty years, Trips for Kids has given over 37,000 at-risk youth an opportunity to explore the outdoors on a mountain bike. With the guidance of Founding Director and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, Marilyn Price, these rides give disadvantaged youth a chance to experience the challenge and joy of mountain biking. There are now fifty eight Trips for Kids coast to coast in the United States and Canada, with more on the way.

For more information about Trips for Kids visit http://www.tripsforkids.org or call (415) 458-2986. The Trips for Kids Re-Cyclery Bike Thrift Shop is located at 610 Fourth Street, San Rafael, Calif. The shop is open every Tuesday through Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

About Trips for Kids
Trips for Kids is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit based in San Rafael, California. Trips for Kids started in 1988 as a grass roots effort by avid mountain biker, environmentalist, and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee, Marilyn Price. Its programs give underserved youth a chance to experience the joy and challenge of mountain biking, while learning valuable life skills and an appreciation for the outdoors. There are currently 57 Trips for Kids chapters across the United Stated and Canada, with more on the way.

Rocking the Cure

Some of you [maybe a lot of you] may not necesarily agree with Rock Racing owner Michael Ball's methods or his personality, but it's hard to argue his passion. Although one of the events already transpired, you still have an opportunity to help Rock the Cure this Friday, February 22nd.

ROCK THE CURE FOUNDATION TEAMS UP WITH ROCK RACING FOR TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

What: Rock the Cure and Rock Racing are providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to underprivileged children at this year’s Tour of California. Hosted by two of the sport’s brightest stars, Rashaan Bahati and Kevin Kline, these children will experience the intense competition, be part of the action, and feel the camaraderie with the Rock Racing team of young, fearless, world-class cyclists. In Sacramento and Solvang, two separate groups of children will get an up-close view of the race, experience the special festivities, meet the cyclists and receive exclusive Rock Racing & Rock the Cure products. As part of each day, Rock the Cure is donating $10,000 to after school programs in both cities on behalf of Rock the Cure and Rock Racing.

When: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008 Finish of Stage 2 (Estimated time of arrival: 2:13 p.m-2:54 p.m.) Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 Stage 5 Individual Time Trial (Start: Noon to 2:50 p.m.)

Where: The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA (Stage 2), Mission Drive at First Street, Solvang, CA (Stage 5)

About Rock Racing: Rock Racing is an eclectic team of powerful, world-class athletes who are redefining professional cycling through incredible teamwork and a flamboyant flair never before seen in the pro peloton. Created in 2007 and sponsored by Rock & Republic CEO and Head Designer Michael Ball, the team rapidly became a fan favorite through its thrilling racing action, cunning tactics and winning tradition. It also redefined the look of the pro cycling team uniform with jerseys and shorts that seemingly changed from race to race. In 2008, Rock Racing hits the road with a singular vision: to be the No. 1 cycling team in the United States. The team competes in UCI and USA Cycling-sanctioned races on both the road and track and will be represented at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Additionally, Rock Racing sponsors successful women’s and junior racing teams that are making headlines on a local level and paving the way for a bright future for the sport.

About Rock the Cure: Rock the Cure is the philanthropic division of Rock & Republic and the realization of a charitable giving model that can make a genuine difference. Exemplifying the way corporations should give back, CEO & Creative Director Michael Ball has created specialty items from each collection, everything from shoes to denim, to directly support Rock the Cure. One hundred percent of profits generated from these specialty items directly benefit deserving charities making this endeavor a continuous journey with amazing effects.

About Rock & Republic: Rock & Republic is a premium luxury lifestyle brand. Every piece in the collection is constructed from the highest quality fabrics and tailored with perfected signature cuts. The brand is infamous for its progressive, edgy rock movement style – a modern homage to the great sounds and feel of Rock. Emphasis on modern, sexy silhouettes and custom fits garners Rock & Republic the coveted accomplishment of hitting key trends while staying true to classic styles.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 1

A Bit of Redemption

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – The decision to stay in professional cycling must have been a difficult one for the owner of BMC Racing, Andy Rihs. His initial attempt in the professional peloton with Team Phonak took him to its very pinnacle [winning the Tour de France] to its subterranean depths [brow beat by synchronous waves of doping allegations, positives, and suspensions].

But like most of us in this profession, sport, lifestyle, it is mostly an all-in proposition. Rihs' statement on the BMC Racing website substantiates this sentiment,
“I love cycling, that is why I am back. It is my passion. The best ideas for my personal life and business come to me on a bike. Professional cycling offers a high quality of life and gives me much pleasure. The repercussions for Phonak as a brand at the time of sponsorship were huge. Of any hearing aid manufacturer out there, Phonak is the only name people recognize. BMC sees the US as the most important market to crack; consequently, we have christened this new team BMC Racing.”
After Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, Andy Rihs must surely be smiling as Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing) covered nearly all of the 155.7 km from Sausalito to Santa Rosa solo.

Although he once doubled for Lance Armstrong in some Nike commercials, by the time he hit the Coleman Valley Road climb he was no longer "dancing" on his pedals. Pedaling squares by the time he reached Santa Rosa's city limits, the newly animated peloton, looking to deliver their sprinters, easily overtook Stewart who would lay claim to the Most Aggressive Rider and King of the Mountains jerseys on the day for his efforts.

Once the peloton entered the finishing circuit, Team Slipstream/Chipotle and Team CSC came to the front in an effort to deliver the yellow jersey to Tyler Farrar (Slipstream/Chipotle) or a sprint victory for Juan Jose Haedo (CSC), respectively. With two [laps] to go, it looked as if the Quick-Step boys had organized well on the front for their leader Tom Boonen. But a touch of wheels, which would also bring down George Hincapie (Team High Road Sports), ended any chance of Tornado Tom from claiming the victory.


In the end it was JJ Haedo delivering a victory salute, with Gerald Ciolek (Team High Road) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) close behind.


In working for his teammate, Fabian Cancellara retained his lead and remained in the yellow jersey.

Although hometown hero, Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was brought up to speak before the podium ceremony, Haedo may soon be considered a local favorite [despite his Argentinian roots] by adding another Santa Rosa victory to his already burgeoning Tour of California palmares.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California - Women's Criterium

Overflowing & Overjoyed

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – Brooks often carry the literary description of “babbling,” as in “the babbling brook,” but anyone in attendance for the Inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium would have trouble using that turn-of-phrase for its winner, Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO).

The words “flowing,” “fast,” and even “dominating” come to mind when describing this Brooke who originally hails from Huntington Beach, CA. Upon commenting to her teammate, Amber Rais, that “Brooke is really on fire this year,” [making reference to Brooke’s win in the Cherry Pie criterium two weeks prior] Amber replied “Brooke’s ALWAYS on fire.” After this historic victory, it is hard to argue the point.

An aggressive Team Vanderkitten seized the race immediately. With the objective of claiming primes and looking to get into any breaks, various members of the first year team based out of Berkeley, CA could be found consistently at or near the head of the race.

At a little over the halfway point, it looked as if a break of three might get clear, but the presence of Cheerwine’s Laura Van Gilder in that break perhaps made it doomed from the start. The break, however, served as a harbinger for the finish with a rider from Cheerwine, Team TIBCO and Team High Road all in the mix.


With approximately three [laps] to go, Kelly Benjamin and the rest of the Cheerwine train began to organize upfront. The tactic that had proven so successful in delivering Van Gilder last year came apart over the last lap and a half.

With no true organization at the front, Brooke Miller jumped at the line, followed closely by Van Gilder, and Team High Road’s Emilia Fahlin. In the end, the rider whose distinctive pigtails once made her one of the most easily recognizable in the women’s peloton pulled away from the field.


Having captured ten top-10 international finishes in her first season participating in the European races, stunning the field with a win at the Tour of Ardeche in France, and becoming the first U.S. woman to win a sprint jersey in Europe at the Novilon Internationale Damesronde van Drenthe in Holland, Brooke Miller can now add the golden fleece of the Amgen Tour of California to her palmares.


For a team that was truly racing together for the first time, once Team TIBCO "works out the kinks" and the riders "learn each other" this Brooke may well be overflowing in the near future.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Animated

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – I grew up as a fan of Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. Although he passed eight years ago, his presence is still felt in this hometown of Santa Rosa. In the downtown area, statues commemorating his various characters can be seen seemingly around every corner.

It may be a bit old-fashioned or puristic in thinking, but I never grew to love the animated versions of his characters. Nevertheless, I have grown to appreciate movies like “A Boy Named Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

As such, the setting of Santa Rosa could not have been more fitting for both the Inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium and the finish of Stage 1 of the Men’s race, as both definitely could be described as animated.

V is for Vanderkitten
Although many of the top European names were not present for the Inaugural Tour of California Women's Criterium, the field could still be classified as a world class with the likes of Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine), Brooke Miller and Amber Rais (Team TIBCO), Shelley Olds (PROMAN/Paradigm), and Mara Abbott (Team High Road), to name a few.

The view that the peloton saw most of the day

However, from the opening gun it was first year team, Vanderkitten that could be found at the head of the race with Liz Hatch leading the field. Though the conclusion was not to Liz’s expectations, owners Dave Verricchia and Mark Zefeldt could not be prouder of their chargers as they were either at or near the front animating the peloton throughout the course of the 60 minute race.

Jenny Trew has a dig


Body Double
For those who have not followed the career of Jackson Stewart (BMC) the 27-year-old's greatest claim to fame was as a body double for Lance Armstrong in two 2004 Nike commercials [oh, the sheer vanity of maintaining perceptions; or at this point in Our Boy Lance’s career, too busy training to maintain his Tour form].

On Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, however, the BMC rider took center stage. Stewart launched himself over the mountainous terrain of Stage 1 in a suicidal effort to claim the day. With a lead that swelled to over 13 minutes at times, Stewart was finally overwhelmed just minutes before entering the finishing circuit in downtown Santa Rosa.

For his efforts, Stewart claimed the Most Aggressive Rider jersey [given daily to the rider who attacks the most or is most animated] and the King of the Mountains jersey.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California on Versus

We all can't be as fortunate as Granny, who is covering the Amgen Tour of Calfornia through Sunday.

But Versus is being good to the rest of us, with coverage that begins at 11 p.m. ET through Friday and at 2 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Today's second stage
takes the riders from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.
Wednesday: Modesto to San Jose.
Thursday: Seaside to San Luis Obispo.
Friday: Solvang (ITT)
Saturday: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita
Sunday: Santa Clarita to Pasadena

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fabulous Fabian

Palo Alto, CA (February 17, 2008) - The current World Time Trial Champion, Fabian Cancellara [Team CSC], provided ample evidence of his early season form in winning the Amgen Tour of California Prologue. The change of venue from the hill top finish of Telegraph Hill to the hard flat course in Palo Alto most likely contributed to Cancellara’s opening day success. But, in the way that the former Tour de France Maillot Jaune wearer rode the 3.3 km, any type of course profile may not have deterred him.

All the turns-of-phrase [shot out of a cannon, a human missile, etc] were applicable to the Swiss freight train's effort on Sunday. Cancellara came over the top of every time standard set on the day by nearly 10 seconds.

For those men of the Spring Classics, the former Paris-Roubaix winner has just served your notice.






Photos: Leonard Basobas

Friday, February 29, 2008

On Tap...

The Return of Gent [Ghent] & The Revenge
Because of its weather, the month of March has been said to "come in like a lion, and leave like a lamb." In cycling parlance, that lion must be a Flemish one as March kicks off the Spring Classics campaign with the semi-classics Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, or simply K-B-K, on Sunday.

This year's Het Volk returns to its roots, once referred to as Gent-Gent, as the 2008 edition will start and finish in the town of Gent. Started in 1945 by the newspaper Het Volk, the race uses much of the same route as its legendary and monumental counterpart the Ronde van Vlaanderen [which strangely enough was started by the competing newspaper Het Niewsblad].

The lesser known, but equally demanding K-B-K, is known as "The Revenge" for helping to take the sting away from those who missed out on victory the day before.

Each race favors the Belgians, as 52 of 59 editions of Het Volk, and 49 of 60 editions of K-B-K have gone to the locals.

Start List for Het Volk
Start List for K-B-K


Catch it all on Cycling.tv. If you are crazy for the Classics, its a small price to pay.

Harder Than It Looks, Wish You Were Here

Since returning from the Amgen Tour of California, my health has been dodgy at best. As a result, it’s been rather difficult to recount the events of the week with any clarity. But as the fog in my head has lifted, it has all come back into focus.

If there is one thing that can be said from my experience in California its that I have a healthier respect for those who cover such an event, whether writer, photographer, or videographer.

Admittedly, I felt greatly out of sorts for the first few days. Although being credentialed for our first major race was quite an achievement, the logistics of covering such an event proved to be a completely different animal than doing likewise for a trade show like Interbike.

Right out of the gate, I felt as if I was at a severe disadvantage from the other media outlets present, as I attempted to cover the event solo. My passion for cycling, my fandom, and my jack-of-all-trades mentality left me scatter-brained wanting to take it ALL in. I was literally like that kid in a candy store, but one who was allowed to get on the other side of the glass.

There were many times that I had to remind that little kid in me that though some of these riders were presently or would someday go down as giants of the sport, they were nonetheless people, and as my friend Liz might point out people who “ride a bike for a living.”

Not knowing exactly where to be or exactly what I wanted to do, I headed for the finish line of the Prologue. Through a bit of happenstance I was able to secure a photographer’s vest, which let me inside the barricades and left me [and a select few] on the actual course one-on-one with the riders bearing down on the finish line. It was precarious at times, especially with those riders who rode that side of the course and had to quickly veer off to miss the lot of us.

After the Prologue, I found myself walking next to the winner, Fabian Cancellara [he on bike], and a host of CSC personnel, among them Director Sportif, Bjarne Riis, as they headed to the press conference room. For a brief moment, I was Riis’ personal photographer as fans would kindly ask me to take their photo with the former Tour de France winner.

In the recounting, if it all seems a little surreal, it was. But not how you would imagine.

The remainder of the Tour of California was a blur of similar occurrences; running into the likes of Tom Boonen, Mario Cipollini, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Jonathan Vaughters, and Vladislav Ekimov, to name a few.

But as a media type, and one who admires those who write or visually capture these riders and events, it was equally fantastic being in the same press room as a Cathy Mehl [currently writing for Astana; top], Neal Rogers [Velonews], Bonnie Ford [Desimone], and Kirsten Robbins [Cyclingnews], or in the same photographers’ pen as a Graham Watson [inset], Jonathan Devich, and Kurt Jambretz, to name a few.

Observing those individuals work their craft day-in and day-out was mind numbing and inspiring as the press room was at times as active a hornets’ nest as the peloton it was there to cover.

Kirsten Robbins chatting with Rock Racing owner Michael Ball

Ironically, once I finally felt like I somewhat belonged in their ranks, I was on a plane back to the Midwest. C'est la vie, oui? Another day [week] in the life of a blogger.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Twitter Armada

On the heels of a successful Amgen Tour of California that saw the team claim its first yellow jersey along with 2nd and 3rd in the final overall, Team Slipstream-Chipotle presented by H3O is continuing its live team update service for its fans. Nearly 300 of you have signed up already.

TEAM SLIPSTREAM-CHIPOTLE PRESENTED BY H30 NOW OFFERING FANS LIVE UPDATES ON TWITTER


For the first time ever, fans get instant text/SMS updates, live from the team, car as races unfold.

BOULDER, CO – February 28, 2008 – Fans of Team Slipstream-Chipotle presented by H30 can now receive live updates on the team on Twitter, a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates to other users who have signed up to receive them. For the first time ever, fans will be able to receive instant Text/SMS updates as races unfold.

“We love our fans, and we are excited that for the first time we can connect with them from anywhere in the world in real time,” said Doug Ellis, Chairman, Slipstream Sports. “This is an exciting race season, and we are happy to give our fans such great access to the team.”

To subscribe to receive the latest updates:

1) Go to TeamSlipstream on Twitter (http://twitter.com//TeamSlipstream)
2) Sign up for a Twitter account, register, and login
3) Go back to TeamSlipstream page on Twitter and click the grey “Follow Me” box

Michael Plays Ball

Rock Racing To Launch Aggressive Internal Anti-Doping Program

Los Angeles, Calif. (Feb. 26, 2008)
– Continuing its commitment to the sport of cycling and clean competition, Rock Racing today announced plans for an aggressive internal team anti-doping program. This internal anti-doping initiative underscores Rock Racing's, and Team Owner Michael Ball's, willingness to take every measure to ensure that its members race clean and fair.

Rock Racing has not yet selected a consultant for its internal anti-doping program, but is proud to announce that it will make its formal selection within three days. The selection process will involve discussions with leading internal anti-doping consultants. The program will include testing for performance enhancing substances known to be used in the sport of professional cycling, including EPO, blood doping and steroids.

Although Rock Racing is not disclosing the exact dollar figure of the program’s cost, it is a significant investment and one Ball says is necessary.

“The responsibility to change this sport for the better has to come from within – from the riders and team owners,” Ball said. “For Rock Racing, the investment in such a comprehensive anti-doping program is really an investment in the future of the sport and we hope our example will encourage more teams to adopt similar programs. The selection process will be led by Maurice Suh of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with assistance from the team and its management."

The implementation of Rock Racing’s testing program follows the conclusion of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California where three of the team’s riders – American Tyler Hamilton, Colombian Santiago Botero and Spaniard Oscar Sevilla ­– were barred from competition in a controversial decision by race organizer, AEG, citing open doping investigations as the basis. All three had previously received clearance from their respective national federations confirming they were not the subject of any current investigations and were free and clear to race.

"Hopefully, by announcing this internal anti-doping program, we will continue to show the world that Tyler, Santiago and Oscar should be eligible to race in the future, and have earned that right," said Michael Ball.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tour of Calfornia - Stage 7

Patriot's Day
In its three short years, the Amgen Tour of California has become arguably the signature bicycle race in the United States. It only seemed appropriate then that riders from the United States would play such a pivotal and dominant role in the final stage.

There they were, Michael Creed and Doug Ollerenshaw [Rock Racing] leading the break, George Hincapie [Team High Road] winning the stage, Levi Leipheimer [Astana] winning the overall and Christian Vande Velde [Team Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O] placing third overall.

PASADENA, CALIF., February 24, 2008 – After eight challenging days of cycling through 650-miles of scenic California highways, roadways and coastline drives, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was crowned as champion of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California for the second consecutive year, with a weeklong total time of 29 hours, 24 minutes and 32 seconds of cycling across California. A resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., Leipheimer battled against the best field ever assembled to compete in the United States, which included Olympic medalists and World Champions, among others. George Hincapie (USA) of High Road claimed the Stage 7 win.


Despite rainy weather on the race’s final day, fans turned out in record numbers to cheer on the cyclists throughout the week, bringing the overall total attendance for the duration of the race to more than 1.6 million.

“I think this win is more special now because of the caliber of the field,” said Leipheimer. “For me, this win is unbelievable because of the amount of cycling stars that we had here in California. Winning the Amgen Tour of California has been a goal of mine from the beginning. This has always been a top priority for me.”

Tens of thousands of spectators awaited the arrival of the cyclists in Pasadena to see the final 30 miles of the 650-mile stage race. The race’s final day, which included the highest elevation ever reached by the Amgen Tour of California on the towering Millcreek Summit (4,906 feet), would prove to be full of excitement for the fans and cyclists alike, with Hincapie winning an all-out sprint tot the finish.

The third annual Amgen tour of California featured a new generation of American cyclists. Although still in the shadows of their Armstrong-era veterans, this crop showcased young, hungry new talent.

This became evident during the final stage, as right from the gun, a wet squall of attacks broke out with Michael Creed (USA; inset) and Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), both of Rock Racing, at the front. This battle drew the attention of Hincapie. Having crashed at nearly 40 mph on Stage 1; attacking both climbs on Stage 3, the most difficult stage of the race; and then riding a 90-mile breakaway in the epic rain and wind of the race’s longest stage, only to finish second to Dominique Rollin (CAN) of Toyota-United Pro Cycling, Hincapie roared across the gap and hit the break.

They drove hard for 50 miles as a break, but as they closed in on Pasadena, Tom Zirbel (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling launched a solo break. In just his second year as a professional cyclist, Zirbel, known as a powerful time trialist, broke loose and carried a 15-second lead into the final six circuits on the five-mile loop around the Rose Bowl.

“You could see on the hills we would get close, but he kept going,” said Hincapie. “He was really tough. He had a very aggressive ride.”

As the end of the race drew near, Hincapie powered across the gap and caught Zirbel. Rory Sutherland (AUS) of HealthNet Presented by Maxxis soon followed. Others would join the breakaway as well, including Jason McCartney (USA) of Team CSC and Creed, but it would prove to be Hincapie’s stage. He blasted out of the sprint to score a huge win for Team High Road.

“As soon as we came into the circuits, everyone was attacking; the majority of the work that the breakaway did fell to me,” said Hincapie. “The last 30 kilometers was really difficult; I’m glad it worked out for me. As soon as we hit the circuit laps, the race was on and things got aggressive, so we warmed up pretty quick.”

Photos:
Vero Image

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 6

A trip back to the Midwest, back to the job that pays the bills, was inevitable. Unfortunately, that trip occurred after Stage 5 and a day before the finale of the Amgen Tour of California in Pasadena, CA.

The recaps are an amalgam of press releases and my own personal spin to the final two stages. I wish to thank Sean Weide with Elevation Sports & Entertainment [Rock Racing] and Erin Barrier of GolinHarris [Amgen Tour of California] for the copy and photos.

Luciano Doesn't Sleep With The Fishes
It looked like the newly California based Team High Road would claim its first vistory of the Amgen Tour of California, but an official ruling relegated Mark Cavendish and three other riders to the back of the field.

SANTA CLARITA, CALIF., February 23, 2008 – Fans in Santa Clarita lined the streets to witness the finish to Stage 6 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, which included an exciting bunch sprint to the finish line. After a review by race officials, Luciano Pagliarini (BRA) of Saunier Duval-Scott was determined to be the stage winner, followed closely by Juan Jose “J.J.” Haedo (ARG) of Team CSC and World Champion Paolo Bettini (ITA) of Quick Step. Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana retained the overall lead heading into the final stage of the race, which will take riders from Santa Clarita to Pasadena tomorrow.

Mark Cavendish (GBR) of High Road, who was originally declared the stage winner, recovered from a late crash during the first circuit lap and seemed to deliver a powerful sprint victory for High Road. However, officials would later relegate the sprinter for sheltering behind or falling into the slipstream of a vehicle. This decision gave the win to Pagliarini.

“I am so sorry about Cavendish,” said Pagliarini. “I won a stage. I’m very happy, but it’s not like a win with the hands up. I came in second, but I am the first.”

“Officials saw Mark (Cavendish) hang on to a car for an extended period of time,” said Jim Birrell, race director. “It’s unfortunate because he put in such a good effort today, but those are the rules.”

Despite the chaos and challenges that came late in the race, Astana managed to keep Leipheimer in the overall race lead, with an advantage of 49 seconds going into tomorrow’s race.

“It’s sweet to be near the prize, but it’s never over until we cross the finish line,” said Leipheimer. “The Amgen Tour of California is the best in the world right now and has the best riders. I feel privileged and proud to be the guy that has led the race for the past couple of years, but I’ve worked hard to earn it.”

In cloudy but dry conditions, the field rolled out of Santa Barbara for this 105-mile penultimate stage. The course featured several small climbs and many expected attacks from several teams. An early move on the second climb put six riders up the road.

This significant breakaway featured Steven Cozza (USA) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30, Rory Sutherland (AUS) of HealthNet Presented by Maxxis, Christophe Le Mevel (FRA) of Credit Agricole, Alexandre Pichot (FRA) of Bouygues Telecom, Karsten Kroon (NED) of Team CSC and David Canada (ESP) of Saunier Duval-Scott.

Riding smoothly, the break built up a lead of seven minutes over the field. After the final climb of the day, Astana gave the front to the teams of sprinters and allowed them to chase down a stage win.

As the breakaway reached the streets of Santa Clarita, the leaders only had a dwindling two minute advantage. At the front of the field rode a train of Quick Step riders, with its two sprinters, Bettini and Tom Boonen (USA), in tow. Following close behind was High Road with its aces, Cavendish and Gerald Ciolek (GER), and Rock Racing’s sprint duo of Mario Cipollini (ITA) and Fred Rodriguez (USA).

But in that fight for position, wheels touched and down went Cipollini, Rodriguez and Cavendish in a heap.


“Coming into the last two laps, I had Cipollini in front of me and Cavendish in front of him,” said Rodriguez. “Cavendish swerved and took out Mario. I had no where to go. I basically t-boned Mario and then went head first into the pavement.”


Cavendish and Cipollini both remounted and chased back up through the cars to the field and then advanced for the sprint.

Just as the breakaway dissolved, the rider sitting in second overall, David Millar (GBR) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30, countered off the front with Thomas Voeckler (FRA) of Bouygues Telecom and Saunier Duval rider Iker Camano (ESP).

“I was trying to look around for him and that’s when he went,” said Leipheimer. “My teammates Chris (Horner) and Chechu (Rubiero) got to the front - even in the midst of the Quick Step lead out - and brought him back.”

With that, the field prepared itself for a bunch sprint. As the riders leapt out of their saddles, Dominique Rollin (CAN) of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team pounced first and opened a margin.


He would be swarmed by the field, with Cavendish, bleeding from his crash, hitting the line first, followed by Pagliarini, Haedo and Bettini.

Photos: Vero Image

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Last One In, First One Out - An Easy Day At The Office

The Land of Levi
Solvang, CA (February 22, 2008) – A review of the overall standings going into Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California would have given the most ardent, let alone the most inexperienced, cycling fan the impression that the title was still in the balance.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) ended any speculation of who would claim the title In Pasadena with an incredible effort in the 15 mile Individual Time Trial that was redolent of the penultimate stage of last year’s Tour de France.

It was anything but easy for Leipheimer, however, as Slipstream’s Christian Vande Velde and then David Millar set the fastest marks while Levi was already on a course overflowing with enthusiastic fans and blessed by good weather.


Like most riders in this discipline, Levi went to his happy place where pain teeters precariously on its threshold. He quite literally “reached into his bag of pain,” as Phil Liggett might exclaim.


Leipheimer, although “a little cross-eyed” going into the final turn, bested David Millar’s mark by 29 seconds with an amazing 30:46.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm NOT Drinking Any F@#%ing Merlot!

Solvang, CA (February 22, 2008) – Here we are in Solvang, the town made famous by the movie Sideways. It’s about an hour before the official start to the 24.1 km Stage 5 Individual Time Trial (ITT).


The overall contenders most likely won’t kick-off their attempt to dethrone the reigning Amgen Tour of California champion and current yellow jersey wearer, Levi Leipheimer, till 1:30 pst.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) is only 13 seconds arrear, with David Millar and Dave Zabriskie (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) at around 21 seconds back.

The final 10 riders, staggered by 2 minutes are as follows in descending order:

Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step)
Victor Hugo Pena (Rock Racing)
Alexandre Moos (BMC)
Christian Van de Velde (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Chris Horner (Astana)
Dave Zabriskie (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Gusev Larsson (CSC)
David Millar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle)
Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
Fabian Cancellara (CSC)
Levi Leipheimer (Astana)

As cycling PA announcer, Dave Towle, would say, “It’s ON, like Donkey Kong!”

Photo: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California - Stage 4

Ecstasy Through Misery
San Luis Obispo, CA (February 21, 2008) - For even the most passionate of cyclists, the conditions of today's Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California could be considered disheartening.

Welcome to Sun, er Rain-Drenched California!

With the difficult mountains behind and the definitive individual time trial (ITT) ahead, the ride from Seaside to San Luis Obispo along scenic Highway 1 was shaping up to be your classic "transition stage," where the peloton usually agrees to remain neutral up until the finale.

Transition stages are also a good time for the opportunist in the peloton to take their chances on a break getting away, as the contenders for the overall and their teams will not often expend the energy to chase down any breaks.

With temperatures that never got above 55 degrees, a headwind that was clocked at times at 30 mph, and with rains steady to heavy all day, a breakaway succeeded.

In a group that ranged from 11 to 7 riders, it was Toyota-United's Dominique Rollin who ultimately soloed to the victory in downtown San Luis Obispo.


The former Canandian time trialing and road champion's win was the only bright spot in an otherwise dreary and miserable day, as multiple riders abandoned before the race, the effects of a virus that has been sweeping through the group, or dropped out during the race.

One such rider was the virtual King of the Mountains jersey wearer, Jackson Stewart (BMC). Having accumulated enough KOM points, taking all on the day, Stewart was certain to take the jersey from teammate, Scott Nydam. A case of hypothermia, however, ended his day.

Levi Leipheimer remains in the leader's jersey a mere 13 seconds above one of the most accomplished time trialist in recent memory, Fabian Cancellara (CSC). It should be an exciting, and let's hope dry, day in Solvang.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Circular Thoughts

Highway 101, CA (February 21, 2008) – Today’s Stage 4 from Seaside to San Luis Obispo takes in the scenery of Pacific Coast Highway 1, or simply PCH or 1. It is an incredible stretch of road that seems like one gigantic and meandering scenic vista. At least it is on a good day.

The rains began early today and have been more than just a little intermittent. The stage, your classic “transition” stage, looks to be a long, slow, and obviously wet affair for the riders.

For the caravan of media, staff, crew, and other support personnel for the Amgen Tour of California we took the more direct route of Highway 101, nestled between the Sierra de Salinas and Gabilan mountain ranges, down to San Luis Obispo.

Although considered less than scenic, Highway 101 feels like an old soft comfortable shoe. It was a highway my family traveled many times up from Anaheim to Salinas to visit a great aunt. My remembrances of it were often less than memorable, “too many cars,” “too long,” and “too boring,” were my frequent complaints to my more than patient parents.


But as I made my way down from Seaside, Highway 101 felt like my surrogate home. On the drive, images seemed to float and linger in my mind; of cattle grazing on the sides of foothills and mountains, of sinewy and barren trees, and farm lands that seem to stretch for miles, of pickups, irrigation pipes, and immigrant workers hoeing brown soil. It was as if the highway opened up to reveal a portion of my life’s story.

As I roared pass the black and neon green luxury bus of Rock Racing, I realized that I had literally come full circle; one based on two-wheels.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 3

Turnover
San Jose, CA (February 20, 2008) - The profile of Stage 3 from Modesto to San Jose certainly should have favored the climbers, with three Cat. 4, one Cat. 1, and an HC climb. But there they were, in the first chase group, time trialing specialist and Classics hard man, Fabian Cancellara (CSC) accompanied by David Millar and David Zabriskie of Team Slipstream/Chipotle [Millar a former time trialing World Champion, and Zabriskie the owner of the fastest ever clocked average speed in the Tour de France Prologue].

"It just goes to show you how well he's going right now," said a surprised Levi Leipheimer (Astana) of Cancellara, after the stage in which Levi placed second and took over the overall race lead.


The fact that so many big engines were close behind on the run in to San Jose wasn't lost on Leipheimer. and began his run in to San Jose. Apparently, it was news to breakaway companion Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who jokingly stated after the fact, "...that's information that the Director probably felt would not have helped me."

It ended up being a great motivating factor for Leipheimer as he proded his younger charge to increase their leg tunrover and work together once they cleared the final climb up Sierra Road.

But it also wasn't the only motivating factor for Leipheimer and his Astana teammates, who learned of the RCS's decision [organizer of such races at Tirreno-Adriatico; a race won last year by Astana's Andreas Kloden] to also exclude the team from their races [following a similar decision by ASO earlier this month].
"We're really frustrated as a team because we have no explanation. I think the arguments that the two tour organizers have given to exclude us are very vague, weak and inconsistent. We're left to just conjecture and trying to come to a conclusion and its very difficult to be in that position. We're just trying to keep our heads up and like I said we came out here [to the Tour of California] and we have something to prove, especially today. I think that's the best thing we can do, try to race our bikes the best way we can and fight back in that way."
At the line it was the 21-year-old Gesink who took the stage victory over Leipheimer. Although Leipheimer and his contemporaries still have a great deal of fight in their legs, Gesink's victory perhaps signaled the beginning of a turnover of the professional peloton to a new cycling generation as 4 of the 6 top finishers on HC category climb up Mount Hamilton were 25 years or younger.


Incidentally, the day's yellow jersey wearer, the 23-year-old Tyler Farrar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) abandoned during the stage with a stomach virus that has being working its way through the peloton.

Photos: Leonard Basobas (first, second, fourth), Al Hernandez (Fox News; third)

Tour of California - Stage 2

"Tornado" Touches Down In California Capital

Sacramento, CA (February, 19, 2008) - With rain the predominating weather condition, it only seemed appropriate that a rider nicknamed "Tornado" would win today's 116-mile Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California.


Coming off another successful Tour of Qatar, Tom Boonen [Quick Step], a former World Champion and last year's winner of the Maillot Vert, afterwards proclaimed today's sprint finish as "one of his best ever." Given the types and number of races Boonen has won over his career that statement may seem a bit erroneous, but given his positioning and the conditions it was hard to argue his point.
“Today was pretty hectic. It’s always hectic with weather like this, especially when you are doing circuits. During the last kilometer, I got in front and everything was a little bit of a mess, but then I saw everything open up so I started sprinting and got to the line just in time...Weather like this always affects the race. Nobody likes to race like this. It’s much more dangerous, which makes it more stressful. It doesn’t make it easy to stay safe. I like to win, but I don’t like the rain. I don’t like descending and I don’t like sprinting in it.”

The beginning of Stage 2 from Santa Rosa to Sacramento resembled the events of the previous day, with a BMC rider off the front. Scott Nydam attacked right out of the gate on the Trinity Road climb as the skies really began to open up. He was able to build up an 11 minute gap on the rain drenched and less than motivated peloton.


It looked like the perfect scenario for a break to stay away, but like his teammate, Jackson Stewart, the day before, Nydam was reeled back into the fold as the gruppo entered the finishing circuits.

On the circuits, it looked like yesterday's victor, Juan Jose Haedo (CSC) was going to be prevented from mixing it up with the other sprinters as he fell behind quickly after getting caught up in a mess of his own. But the CSC rider was able to come back from a distance to contest the finale. He ended up 5th on the day despite his travails.

Aside from Boonen's victory the highlight of the finale had to be the third place finish by Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing). It may seem particularly redundant, but the 41-year-old who was away from competion for three years managed to beat riders who Cipo proclaimed "could be my children." What is even more remarkable is the fact that during his retirement, Cipollini shattered a knee cap while skiing.


Since Rock Racing owner, Michael Ball, convinced Cipo to come out of retirement he has garnered a new perspective on the sport that he once viewed as a "profession." While training for his comeback with a local club in his native Italy, Cipo now considers cycling his "passion." Now there's scary thought for the sprinters across the professional peloton.

As a result of contesting the sprint time bonuses, Tyler Farrar (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) claimed the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara (CSC).


An ecstatic Farrar stated,
“This win probably tops any win I’ve ever had; it’s a pretty big deal for me. I’m ecstatic to be racing in America, and to be wearing the Amgen Leader Jersey is a big deal for me and for the team; everyone is really happy.”

Photos: Al Hernandez (Fox News; first through third), Leonard Basobas (bottom)

Mountain Bike Pioneers Tip Their Glasses to Trips for Kids

Local mountain bike legends and Marin Community members gather to celebrate Trips for Kids and raise $3,000

San Rafael, Calif. - Feb. 19, 2008 - Mountain bike legends gathered to salute Trips for Kids (TFK) at the 10th Annual Brews, Bikes and Bucks fundraiser. Among those present at the Feb. 10 event were greats Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charles Kelly, Mert Lawwill, Jacquie Phelan, Ross Shafer, Michael Kelley and Chris Lang.


The annual fundraiser, held at the Broken Drum Brewery & Wood Grill in San Rafael, Calif., raised close to $3,000 for the program. The money raised is used to fund mountain biking adventures for at risk kids.

"Each year, Broken Drum owner Noah Berry not only opens his doors for the cause, but donates proceeds from the food and drink sales," said Marilyn Price, founder of Trips for Kids. "We are so fortunate and grateful for Noah's continued generosity. This would not be possible without him."

Outside the Broken Drum, admirers gawked at the rows of tricked-out mountain bikes lining the sidewalk; inside, pints in hand, the owners of these bikes tell tall tales of traveling on two wheels. TFK supporters had the opportunity to meet and socialize with the pioneers of the mountain bike industry, but the loot inside the bar was also a draw.

Impressive bikes and accessories generously donated by the bike industry were raffled throughout the afternoon. The most sought-after prize was a 2007 Jamis Dragon Comp mountain bike. A silent auction was also held for a Muirwoods 29er mountain bike donated by Marin Bikes.

For more than twenty years, Trips for Kids has given over 37,000 at-risk youth an opportunity to explore the outdoors on a mountain bike. With the guidance of Founding Director and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, Marilyn Price, these rides give disadvantaged youth a chance to experience the challenge and joy of mountain biking. There are now fifty eight Trips for Kids coast to coast in the United States and Canada, with more on the way.

For more information about Trips for Kids visit http://www.tripsforkids.org or call (415) 458-2986. The Trips for Kids Re-Cyclery Bike Thrift Shop is located at 610 Fourth Street, San Rafael, Calif. The shop is open every Tuesday through Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

About Trips for Kids
Trips for Kids is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit based in San Rafael, California. Trips for Kids started in 1988 as a grass roots effort by avid mountain biker, environmentalist, and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee, Marilyn Price. Its programs give underserved youth a chance to experience the joy and challenge of mountain biking, while learning valuable life skills and an appreciation for the outdoors. There are currently 57 Trips for Kids chapters across the United Stated and Canada, with more on the way.

Rocking the Cure

Some of you [maybe a lot of you] may not necesarily agree with Rock Racing owner Michael Ball's methods or his personality, but it's hard to argue his passion. Although one of the events already transpired, you still have an opportunity to help Rock the Cure this Friday, February 22nd.

ROCK THE CURE FOUNDATION TEAMS UP WITH ROCK RACING FOR TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

What: Rock the Cure and Rock Racing are providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to underprivileged children at this year’s Tour of California. Hosted by two of the sport’s brightest stars, Rashaan Bahati and Kevin Kline, these children will experience the intense competition, be part of the action, and feel the camaraderie with the Rock Racing team of young, fearless, world-class cyclists. In Sacramento and Solvang, two separate groups of children will get an up-close view of the race, experience the special festivities, meet the cyclists and receive exclusive Rock Racing & Rock the Cure products. As part of each day, Rock the Cure is donating $10,000 to after school programs in both cities on behalf of Rock the Cure and Rock Racing.

When: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008 Finish of Stage 2 (Estimated time of arrival: 2:13 p.m-2:54 p.m.) Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 Stage 5 Individual Time Trial (Start: Noon to 2:50 p.m.)

Where: The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA (Stage 2), Mission Drive at First Street, Solvang, CA (Stage 5)

About Rock Racing: Rock Racing is an eclectic team of powerful, world-class athletes who are redefining professional cycling through incredible teamwork and a flamboyant flair never before seen in the pro peloton. Created in 2007 and sponsored by Rock & Republic CEO and Head Designer Michael Ball, the team rapidly became a fan favorite through its thrilling racing action, cunning tactics and winning tradition. It also redefined the look of the pro cycling team uniform with jerseys and shorts that seemingly changed from race to race. In 2008, Rock Racing hits the road with a singular vision: to be the No. 1 cycling team in the United States. The team competes in UCI and USA Cycling-sanctioned races on both the road and track and will be represented at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Additionally, Rock Racing sponsors successful women’s and junior racing teams that are making headlines on a local level and paving the way for a bright future for the sport.

About Rock the Cure: Rock the Cure is the philanthropic division of Rock & Republic and the realization of a charitable giving model that can make a genuine difference. Exemplifying the way corporations should give back, CEO & Creative Director Michael Ball has created specialty items from each collection, everything from shoes to denim, to directly support Rock the Cure. One hundred percent of profits generated from these specialty items directly benefit deserving charities making this endeavor a continuous journey with amazing effects.

About Rock & Republic: Rock & Republic is a premium luxury lifestyle brand. Every piece in the collection is constructed from the highest quality fabrics and tailored with perfected signature cuts. The brand is infamous for its progressive, edgy rock movement style – a modern homage to the great sounds and feel of Rock. Emphasis on modern, sexy silhouettes and custom fits garners Rock & Republic the coveted accomplishment of hitting key trends while staying true to classic styles.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tour of California - Stage 1

A Bit of Redemption

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – The decision to stay in professional cycling must have been a difficult one for the owner of BMC Racing, Andy Rihs. His initial attempt in the professional peloton with Team Phonak took him to its very pinnacle [winning the Tour de France] to its subterranean depths [brow beat by synchronous waves of doping allegations, positives, and suspensions].

But like most of us in this profession, sport, lifestyle, it is mostly an all-in proposition. Rihs' statement on the BMC Racing website substantiates this sentiment,
“I love cycling, that is why I am back. It is my passion. The best ideas for my personal life and business come to me on a bike. Professional cycling offers a high quality of life and gives me much pleasure. The repercussions for Phonak as a brand at the time of sponsorship were huge. Of any hearing aid manufacturer out there, Phonak is the only name people recognize. BMC sees the US as the most important market to crack; consequently, we have christened this new team BMC Racing.”
After Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, Andy Rihs must surely be smiling as Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing) covered nearly all of the 155.7 km from Sausalito to Santa Rosa solo.

Although he once doubled for Lance Armstrong in some Nike commercials, by the time he hit the Coleman Valley Road climb he was no longer "dancing" on his pedals. Pedaling squares by the time he reached Santa Rosa's city limits, the newly animated peloton, looking to deliver their sprinters, easily overtook Stewart who would lay claim to the Most Aggressive Rider and King of the Mountains jerseys on the day for his efforts.

Once the peloton entered the finishing circuit, Team Slipstream/Chipotle and Team CSC came to the front in an effort to deliver the yellow jersey to Tyler Farrar (Slipstream/Chipotle) or a sprint victory for Juan Jose Haedo (CSC), respectively. With two [laps] to go, it looked as if the Quick-Step boys had organized well on the front for their leader Tom Boonen. But a touch of wheels, which would also bring down George Hincapie (Team High Road Sports), ended any chance of Tornado Tom from claiming the victory.


In the end it was JJ Haedo delivering a victory salute, with Gerald Ciolek (Team High Road) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) close behind.


In working for his teammate, Fabian Cancellara retained his lead and remained in the yellow jersey.

Although hometown hero, Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was brought up to speak before the podium ceremony, Haedo may soon be considered a local favorite [despite his Argentinian roots] by adding another Santa Rosa victory to his already burgeoning Tour of California palmares.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California - Women's Criterium

Overflowing & Overjoyed

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – Brooks often carry the literary description of “babbling,” as in “the babbling brook,” but anyone in attendance for the Inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium would have trouble using that turn-of-phrase for its winner, Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO).

The words “flowing,” “fast,” and even “dominating” come to mind when describing this Brooke who originally hails from Huntington Beach, CA. Upon commenting to her teammate, Amber Rais, that “Brooke is really on fire this year,” [making reference to Brooke’s win in the Cherry Pie criterium two weeks prior] Amber replied “Brooke’s ALWAYS on fire.” After this historic victory, it is hard to argue the point.

An aggressive Team Vanderkitten seized the race immediately. With the objective of claiming primes and looking to get into any breaks, various members of the first year team based out of Berkeley, CA could be found consistently at or near the head of the race.

At a little over the halfway point, it looked as if a break of three might get clear, but the presence of Cheerwine’s Laura Van Gilder in that break perhaps made it doomed from the start. The break, however, served as a harbinger for the finish with a rider from Cheerwine, Team TIBCO and Team High Road all in the mix.


With approximately three [laps] to go, Kelly Benjamin and the rest of the Cheerwine train began to organize upfront. The tactic that had proven so successful in delivering Van Gilder last year came apart over the last lap and a half.

With no true organization at the front, Brooke Miller jumped at the line, followed closely by Van Gilder, and Team High Road’s Emilia Fahlin. In the end, the rider whose distinctive pigtails once made her one of the most easily recognizable in the women’s peloton pulled away from the field.


Having captured ten top-10 international finishes in her first season participating in the European races, stunning the field with a win at the Tour of Ardeche in France, and becoming the first U.S. woman to win a sprint jersey in Europe at the Novilon Internationale Damesronde van Drenthe in Holland, Brooke Miller can now add the golden fleece of the Amgen Tour of California to her palmares.


For a team that was truly racing together for the first time, once Team TIBCO "works out the kinks" and the riders "learn each other" this Brooke may well be overflowing in the near future.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Animated

Santa Rosa, CA (February 18, 2008) – I grew up as a fan of Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. Although he passed eight years ago, his presence is still felt in this hometown of Santa Rosa. In the downtown area, statues commemorating his various characters can be seen seemingly around every corner.

It may be a bit old-fashioned or puristic in thinking, but I never grew to love the animated versions of his characters. Nevertheless, I have grown to appreciate movies like “A Boy Named Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

As such, the setting of Santa Rosa could not have been more fitting for both the Inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium and the finish of Stage 1 of the Men’s race, as both definitely could be described as animated.

V is for Vanderkitten
Although many of the top European names were not present for the Inaugural Tour of California Women's Criterium, the field could still be classified as a world class with the likes of Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine), Brooke Miller and Amber Rais (Team TIBCO), Shelley Olds (PROMAN/Paradigm), and Mara Abbott (Team High Road), to name a few.

The view that the peloton saw most of the day

However, from the opening gun it was first year team, Vanderkitten that could be found at the head of the race with Liz Hatch leading the field. Though the conclusion was not to Liz’s expectations, owners Dave Verricchia and Mark Zefeldt could not be prouder of their chargers as they were either at or near the front animating the peloton throughout the course of the 60 minute race.

Jenny Trew has a dig


Body Double
For those who have not followed the career of Jackson Stewart (BMC) the 27-year-old's greatest claim to fame was as a body double for Lance Armstrong in two 2004 Nike commercials [oh, the sheer vanity of maintaining perceptions; or at this point in Our Boy Lance’s career, too busy training to maintain his Tour form].

On Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, however, the BMC rider took center stage. Stewart launched himself over the mountainous terrain of Stage 1 in a suicidal effort to claim the day. With a lead that swelled to over 13 minutes at times, Stewart was finally overwhelmed just minutes before entering the finishing circuit in downtown Santa Rosa.

For his efforts, Stewart claimed the Most Aggressive Rider jersey [given daily to the rider who attacks the most or is most animated] and the King of the Mountains jersey.

Photos: Leonard Basobas

Tour of California on Versus

We all can't be as fortunate as Granny, who is covering the Amgen Tour of Calfornia through Sunday.

But Versus is being good to the rest of us, with coverage that begins at 11 p.m. ET through Friday and at 2 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Today's second stage
takes the riders from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.
Wednesday: Modesto to San Jose.
Thursday: Seaside to San Luis Obispo.
Friday: Solvang (ITT)
Saturday: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita
Sunday: Santa Clarita to Pasadena

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fabulous Fabian

Palo Alto, CA (February 17, 2008) - The current World Time Trial Champion, Fabian Cancellara [Team CSC], provided ample evidence of his early season form in winning the Amgen Tour of California Prologue. The change of venue from the hill top finish of Telegraph Hill to the hard flat course in Palo Alto most likely contributed to Cancellara’s opening day success. But, in the way that the former Tour de France Maillot Jaune wearer rode the 3.3 km, any type of course profile may not have deterred him.

All the turns-of-phrase [shot out of a cannon, a human missile, etc] were applicable to the Swiss freight train's effort on Sunday. Cancellara came over the top of every time standard set on the day by nearly 10 seconds.

For those men of the Spring Classics, the former Paris-Roubaix winner has just served your notice.






Photos: Leonard Basobas