Rinaldo Nocentini wins stage 7 and Levi Leipheimer has one more before he can claim his third Tour of California

Posted on 22. Feb, 2009 by in race

After attacks splintered the break, Italian Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) won a three-way sprint in front of a see of people at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to get the first win of the season for his team. Hayden Roulston (Cervelo) was second and Pieter Weening (Rabobank) was third.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) retained the overall lead heading into the final stage of the race, which will take riders into San Diego County for the first time, as they race from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido tomorrow.

Attacks after attacks were launched at the beginning of the stage but Astana would have none of it until the right combination of riders was found. Finally after an hour and half into the stage, a successful move was launched led by Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and George Hincapie (Team Columbia-Highroad) and riders bridged up to form a group of 10 riders. Joining the pair were Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Addy Engels (Quick Step), AG2R duo of Martin Elmiger and Nocentini, Markus Zberg (BMC), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream), Roulston, and Weening.

George Hincapie leads the break in the first lap of the final circuits

The group worked well together until the final five circuits in the Rose Bowl. After a series of attacks on the final two laps, Weening, Nocentini and Roulston opened up a gap that proved to be the winning move. The trio dueled to the finish with Nocentini beating out Roulston on the line.

Again, crashes marred the stage as KOM leader Francisco Mancebo was taken to the hospital. According to team spokesperson, it is believed that Mancebo has suffered a concussion as well as a broken hand and elbow.

A second crash took down other riders that included Tom Zirbel of Bissell and Svein Tuft and Trent Lowe of Garmin-Slipstream. The trio engaged in a heated chase but finished at over 8 minutes from the winner.

Leipheimer retained his overall lead with 36 seconds over David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) and 45 seconds over Mick Rogers (Columbia-High Road) heading in the final stage of the race tomorrow. With Mancebo crashing out, Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank) is the new KOM leader and Vande Velde was awarded the Most Courageous Rider jersey.

Tomorrow’s stage is a difficult 96.8 miles (155.8 km) road race that includes the Hors Categorie climb up Palomar. Will Zabriskie and/or Rogers risk their current podium to try and wrestle the yellow jersey off Leipheimer’s shoulders?

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