Stage 6 Results: JJ Haedo wins; Levi Holds Overall Lead
Overall Race Leader Levi Leipheimer And Stage Six Winner JJ Haedo Lead Peloton Of World's Best Cyclists Into Southern California For Sunday's Amgen Tour Of California Finale
105-mile Route from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita Attracts Biggest Crowd Yet
SANTA CLARITA, CALIF., February 24, 2007 – The biggest Amgen Tour of California crowd to date witnessed Team CSC's Juan Jose "J.J." Haedo (ARG) win a sprint to the finish line in Santa Clarita to take his second stage, with overall race leader, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer (USA) close behind, maintaining possession of the Amgen Leader Jersey going into Sunday's final stage in Long Beach, Calif.
Today's Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California saw the toughest racing, the warmest weather and the biggest crowds of the seven racing days so far, as the peloton of world-class cyclists competed along a hilly route from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita.
Haedo's (ARG) sprint effort at the finish overtook T-Mobile Team's Greg Henderson (NZL), Paolo Bettini (ITA), the world champion rider for Quick Step-Innergetic, Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd (NOR) and Predictor-Lotto's Freddie Rodriguez (USA).
“I had to go really deep the whole day. I think it was the hardest day in the Amgen Tour of California for sure," said Haedo. "It was a hard day for the sprinters to go over the climb; there was a lot of attacking. I made my way back to the big group before the third KOM [King of the Mountains], and then I tried to stay in the front with my team.”
Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer (USA), the general classification leader since the Prologue in San Francisco seven days ago, retained the Amgen Leader Jersey after a 65-mile (105 km) breakaway spearheaded by Team CSC's Stuart O’Grady (AUS), which earned him today's Adobe Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.
“I don’t have the words to describe what my team went through today. They threw everything they had at us. I’ll be honest, it was stressful,” said Leipheimer.
According to CHP estimates, the crowd was the biggest of any in the 15 stages of the Amgen Tour of California since the race debuted last year.
“It’s exciting, and people were curious how we would do in our sophomore year. The CHP told us today that point to point it was the biggest stage we’ve had in our two years," said Shawn Hunter, president of AEG Sports. "We’ve had some great racing out there. We’re very proud and more committed than ever. We love this sport.”
Pat McQuaid, president of Union Cycliste International (UCI), the international governing body of cycling, also was on hand for today's stage.
“This race is bigger than it was last year. There are more people on the sidelines," said McQuaid at a post-race press conference. "The organization has gotten bigger. I’m very happy with their [the organizers'] continued commitment to this event."
In an example of the aggressive riding today, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's George Hincapie (USA) and Tony Cruz (USA) touched wheels during an attack and crashed after only three miles (5 km) of racing. Hincapie, who won two stages in last year's Amgen Tour of California and fourth place overall, finished the stage, but the team released a statement that he has been diagnosed with a broken left radius and will not participate in tomorrow's final stage in Long Beach. Cruz came away with bruises and road rash, but no serious injuries.
Following the crash, the race continued to be marked by a succession of attacks from several teams to challenge Leipheimer, as well as other jersey holders. Credit Agricole's Christophe Laurent (FRA) and Quick Step-Innergetic's Jurgen Van de Walle (BEL) joined two other riders in an early breakaway to contest the California Tourism and Travel King of the Mountains (KOM) jersey in the final day of climbing. Van de Walle was slightly stronger today, but Laurent picked up enough points to retain the jersey.
“The climbing in this race was quite challenging, so it is very satisfying to win the King of the Mountains jersey," said Laurent in a press conference today. "I am very happy to take the (KOM) jersey in such an important race.”
O’Grady’s breakaway group of nine contained two former time trial world champions, T-Mobile Team's Michael Rogers (AUS) and Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle's Danny Pate (USA). The gap grew as wide as three minutes, but relentless chasing by Discovery Channel Pro brought it to 1:15 as the riders entered the three 3.5-mile (5.6 km) finishing circuits in Santa Clarita.
As the peloton worked to overtake the breakaway during the three circuits, Health Net presented by Maxxis riders came to the front and helped the Discovery Channel Pro team close the gap. The breakaway was caught with less than two miles to go, ensuring Leipheimer will ride into Long Beach tomorrow wearing the leader jersey for the final day of racing.
The Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey was awarded to Rabobank's Robert Gesink (NED). Haedo retained the Herbalife Sprint Jersey after today's race.
Title sponsor Amgen will celebrate awareness raised during the Breakaway from Cancer™ initiative this week.
“The Breakaway from Cancer™ initiative allows people to connect with others who are fighting this illness or those who have recovered from it. Hope, inspiration and a sense of well-being come from sharing experiences with one another,” said seven-time cancer survivor Heather Warrick of Santa Clarita.
Warrick was featured today in the ‘Breakaway Mile’ that took place at the finish line of the Amgen Tour of California, prior to the exciting conclusion of today’s professional race. The one-mile ride was led by Warrick who rode on a tandem bike paired with Amgen scientist Dr. Joe Miletick who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines. Following Warrick and Miletick was a peloton comprised of caregivers, family members and health care professionals who supported her during her win against cancer.
For the latest information on the Breakaway from Cancer initiative and ways to support those living with the illness, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.
STAGE 7 RACE FINALE TOMORROW:Sunday, Feb. 25 – Long Beach (77.5 mi/124.7 km)
Start Time: 1 p.m. PST
Estimated Finish Time: 3:45-4:15 p.m. PST
The 2007 Amgen Tour of California champion will be crowned in Long Beach tomorrow. Stage 7 is flat, fast and will be a favorite with spectators, who can watch the best cyclists in the world battle each other throughout 10 laps on the circuitous course. Views of San Pedro Bay and the Pacific Ocean will be visible for the entire stage, which is part of the famous Long Beach Grand Prix CART racecar course, meaning the roads are wide and fast. Like the Grand Tours of Europe, winning the final stage of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California is a coveted prize.
For full results, archived footage, GPS data, team and course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com
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