SANTA ROSA, CALIF. (February 15, 2009)
Record crowds were, once again, on hand for Stage 1 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California to watch the world's top cyclists travel from Davis to Santa Rosa, culminating with a climactic finish in downtown Santa Rosa. Francisco Mancebo (ESP) of Rock Racing took an early lead and ended up with the stage win, the team's first in the Amgen Tour of California, ahead of Jurgen Van de Walle (BEL), of Quick Step, and Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas.
"This win is very important for me and of course for my team," said Mancebo. "The Amgen Tour of California is an important race because it's a home race for my team, so starting off with a victory is good."
The 107.6-mile stage from Davis to Santa Rosa took the riders through the scenic settings of Lake Berryessa and Napa Valley before heading into downtown Santa Rosa.
Motivated to attack by weather conditions, Mancebo left the field behind in the in the first half-hour of the race, a move that eventually brought him the stage victory. After the first feed zone, Prologue winner and race leader Fabian Cancellara (SUI) of Saxo Bank had to abandon the race due to illness, leaving the Amgen Leader Jersey open for the taking.
After his initial attack, Mancebo was joined by Aaron Kemp (AUS) of Fly V Australia powered by Successful Living Foundation and Tim Johnson (USA) of OUCH presented by Maxxis on the descent following the first King of the Mountain (KOM) competition of the stage, and the race overall, on Highway 128. The riders formed a hard-working trio, eventually building a lead of more than 12 minutes over the pack. Mancebo left the breakaway group behind to take the lead on Howell Mountain, the second KOM, at 44 miles to go.
With approximately 30 miles left in the stage, an all-star chase group of more than 20 riders, led by Astana, including both two-time defending race champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) and Lance Armstrong (USA), formed behind. Despite the chase group's concerted efforts, Mancebo held on to the lead to cross the line and take the stage win in Santa Rosa.
"When I attacked, I just wanted to keep going and stay ahead because the cold was hard for me, and slowly after I started speeding up, I started feeling more comfortable," added Mancebo. "Five kilometers before the finish, I just wanted to keep going. I kept telling myself that I had to keep going and I was going to win."
The tight Santa Rosa finishing circuits have gained a reputation in the short history of the Amgen Tour of California. This year, due to weather conditions and for the safety of the riders, officials decided to call the general classification time when the first rider crossed the finish line for the first time (before the first of three circuits).
"The decision was made about 80 miles into the race and was made solely for the safety of the riders," said Jim Birrell, race director. "This will not be protocol for the rest of the race; if we have blue skies we will race as it's written in the rule book."
In an amazing sweep of the jerseys, Mancebo claimed not only the Amgen Leader Jersey, but also the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey. Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer™ Most Courageous Rider Jersey went to Ivan Basso (ITA) of Liquigas and the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey was awarded to last year's overall Best Young Rider Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank.
"So far, the race has been fantastic; exceeding expectations," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race. "We are just two days into the race and already we've seen an amazing degree of competition from these world-class cyclists."
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Mancebo, Leipheimer in second and David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Slipstream in third.
Two-time defending champion, Leipheimer rode into a hometown welcome from the cheering crowds lining the roads in Santa Rosa. Leipheimer heads into Stage 2 with high hopes for his team's performance over the rest of the week.
Additionally, the second day of competition in the 2009 race also featured the second-annual Amgen Tour of California Women's Criterium. Using portions of the Stage 1 men's finishing circuit in Santa Rosa, the category Pro 1,2 Women's Criterium was enthusiastically welcomed by the fans lining the course. Emilia Fahlin (SWE) from Team Columbia-Highroad was part of an early breakaway and won the race.
In addition to the exciting race finish, today's event included a special ride by local cancer survivors who cycled the final mile before the peloton came into the final circuits.
In honor of cancer survivors everywhere, today the spotlight shone on 28-year-old cancer survivor Rob Read prior to the conclusion of the professional race in Santa Rosa. At the finish line, Santa Rosa resident Rob Read was celebrated and honored during Amgen's Breakaway Mile an honorary one-mile ride that celebrates cancer survivors. During the event, Read was joined by his support team of family members and close friends, as well as Steve Elliott, Amgen scientific executive director, who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.
"I'm proud that I was able to participate in the Breakaway Mile ride with my friends and family at my side," said Rob Read. "The ride was a great way for me to show my network of supporters how much their help has meant to me as I overcame my battle with cancer."
Today's Breakaway Mile was the first of four Breakaway Miles that will take place during the Amgen Tour of California in support of Amgen's national Breakaway from Cancer™ initiative, which was created in 2005 as a complementary component to its sponsorship of the inaugural race. The Breakaway from Cancer initiative is designed to empower patients by connecting them to education, resources and hope. Modesto, Paso Robles and Escondido will also host Breakaway Miles.
Breakaway from Cancer nonprofit partners play leading roles in every aspect of cancer care to help people affected by the disease. The Santa Rosa Breakaway Mile highlighted the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, a leading cancer advocacy organization founded by and for cancer survivors more than 20 years ago. Its priorities are to advocate for quality cancer care for all Americans and to empower people with cancer to advocate for themselves.
"The Breakaway Mile event illustrates how important and valuable it is for cancer survivors to have a network of support throughout their cancer journey," said Ellen Stovall, acting president and chief executive officer (and a 37-year, three time cancer survivor), National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. "At NCCS we believe that access to credible and accurate patient information is fundamental to understanding and receiving quality cancer care, and we provide tools and information for people to become strong advocates for their own care or the care of others."
For access to resources and details about Breakaway from Cancer activities during the race, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com