SANTA CRUZ (February 16, 2009)
The second stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California brought excitement to the finish in Santa Cruz, as two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was propelled to take second in the stage and also a 24-second overall lead. Fellow American Thomas Peterson of Garmin-Slipstream, best young rider overall in the 2006 Amgen Tour of California, sprinted to the finish to take the stage victory. Stage 2, which took cyclists from Sausalito to Santa Cruz, a new city for the race, finished in front of record crowds.
"I had it in my head that I was going to try to win today," said Leipheimer. "I looked around and saw that people were at their limit, but I felt really strong and inspired at that moment, so I went for it."
After an enthusiastic start in Sausalito, Stage 2 began by taking the riders over one of the most iconic structures in the country, the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite, or perhaps because of, the weather conditions, an early breakaway of 10 riders was established less than 10 miles from the start, which included Santa Cruz native Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) of BISSELL Pro Cycling.
Riding in support of race leader Francisco Mancebo (ESP), who took Stage 1 yesterday after a truly epic and heroic 100-mile breakaway, Rock Racing kept a steady tempo at the front of the peloton; the gap fluctuated but never exceeded five minutes.
The first King of the Mountains (KOM) climb of the day came at 46.7 miles on Tunitas Creek Road, a category 2 climb of just over six miles that rises 1,562 feet. Carlos Barredo (ESP) of Quick Step set the tempo of the break on this climb, as they rode past the giant Redwood trees lining the street.
At about 95 miles into the race Barredo jumped ahead of the breakaway, but was soon caught and passed by Peterson and Jason McCartney (USA) of Saxo Bank. At the same time, Leipheimer pulled away from the peloton to launch a solo attack on the breakaway group.
The second KOM of the day on Bonny Doon Road (category 3) came at the 102.6-mile mark. It was at this point that the breakaway splintered for good and Leipheimer really sprang clear from the chasing field. The Santa Rosa native quickly caught, passed and dropped all but Peterson, keeping the pressure on to gain maximum time before the Santa Cruz finish.
"The crowds today and yesterday, in my hometown of Santa Rosa, were amazing," added Leipheimer. "The conditions out there were bad, yet you still see thousands of die-hard fans just cheering us on; that definitely motivates us. We really appreciate the support of the fans, and this race is obviously doing really well."
Though none of the other cyclists were able to close the gap on the sprint to the finish, there are still 16 riders within a minute of the overall lead, making the upcoming days of the race even more exciting and competitive.
The rainy weather claimed a few victims of mechanicals and flat tires in the first half of the race, including a flat tire for Leipheimer about 25 miles into the race and a 15-rider crash, which included Lance Armstrong (USA) of Astana and Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) of BISSELL Pro Cycling Team. All of the riders recovered from the crash, with the exception of Jacques-Maynes, who had to drop out of the race to seek medical attention.
After a long, hard day of racing, Leipheimer claimed the Amgen Leader Jersey. Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer™ Most Courageous Rider Jersey was awarded to local resident Ben Jacques-Maynes, to recognize his strong performance in the breakaway. Mancebo retained the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey. Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank held onto the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey.
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Leipheimer in first, Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Columbia-High Road in second and David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Slipstream in third.
"Beginning with our first-ever ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, and ending for the first time in Santa Cruz, this was certainly a great showcase for two iconic locations in the state of California," said Andrew Messick, president, AEG Sports. "But what also made this an historic day for the Amgen Tour of California was the great finish by two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer, who rode through adverse conditions to reclaim the Amgen Leader jersey, which he continues to insist belongs to him this time of year."
"For nearly 30 years, Amgen has tapped the power of pioneering science and innovation to discover and develop vital medicines," said David Lacey, senior vice president, head of Research, Amgen. "That's why Amgen is proud to sponsor the Amgen Tour of California in its fourth year and to continue the Breakaway from Cancer initiative as a vehicle to raise awareness of the comprehensive continuum of resources available to cancer patients and their caregivers from prevention to education, patient care to advocacy and financial support."
Amgen created the national Breakaway from Cancer™ initiative in 2005 as a complementary component to its sponsorship of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California. Through the Breakaway from Cancer initiative, Amgen strives to empower patients and their caregivers by connecting them to education, resources and hope.
Today's activities featured cancer survivor Blaine Mauldin who fired the official start gun to begin the ride from Sausalito to Santa Cruz, and cancer survivor Karen Card had the honor of awarding Jacques-Maynes with Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
For access to resources and details about Breakaway from Cancer activities during the race, visit breakawayfromcancer.com