The rain, throroughly unexpected for California in May, turned the Trinity descent into a slip’n slide in stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California. Leadout man Brett Lancaster (Cervélo TestTeam), left without a man to leadout and no other teammates, took the win in the 109.5 miles (176.2 km) stage from Davis to Santa Rosa. With the time bonus, Lancaster is the new overall leader going into another tough stage, from San Francisco to Santa Cruz on Tuesday.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) was second on the stage, moves into second on GC and now wears the Rabobank Best Young Rider. Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) finished third on stage and sits in third on GC.
The weather and tough roads took its toll bringing riders down left and right, some for more than one kiss of the pavement. The lead group was down to 27 riders by the time it came to the finish line, after the break of the day merged with a select chase group coming into a very wet finish. The narrowing of the contenders for the overall win has started, with 25 riders at 10 seconds or less from the leader. Most of the pre-race favorites made it into that first group including defending champion Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Mick Rodgers (HTC-Columbia), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank). Missing from the move today was George Hincapie (BMC) who is 1’27: down along with 15 other riders.
After spending most of the day in the break, Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and his teammates Rory Sutherland and Marc de Maar also finished in the first group moving them up on GC. Along with Francois Parisien (Spidertech p/b Planet Energy), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Paul Mach (BISSELL) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies).
Craashes took their toll. It might be easier to list the riders that did not crash as opposed to who went down. Andrew Pinfold (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), who got caught up in a crash in stage one, went down coming off the third climb of the day and was forced to abandon. While he didn’t sustain any breaks, he did suffer “road rash on top of road rash,” he said. (see graphic photo of Pinfold’s after crash)
The stage began with a series of attacks with little result until mile 12 when the first break formed and included Menzies, Jay Robert Thomson (Fly V Australia), Andrew Randell (SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda). With the break of five riders, which would end up leading the race for the majority of the day, pulling away to create a minute-and-a-half gap over the pack, Menzies took the first sprint in Winters, followed by Rabou and Randell.
After 20 miles of flat roads while building a six-minute gap, the break headed into the first KOM climb of the day, a short, but steep section leading to the Monticello Dam on Highway 128, and Rabou emerged victorious. Another long, flat section along Lake Berryessa, and the official feed zone, took the riders to their second climb up Howell Mountain Rd. (Cat. 2). Seizing the opportunity, Rabou attacked the break as Thomson and Friedman fell behind, but was soon caught by Menzies and Randell and the group of three crested the climb four minutes ahead of the peloton, with Rabou taking the KOM. Shortly after, the original breakaway of five reformed on the fast descent into Napa Valley.
“It didn’t get cold at all today. There were many crowds, especially on the climbs, and that made me feel warm inside,” said Rabou.
As the riders steadily approached the Oakville Grade (Cat. 3), the third KOM of the day, at 84.1miles/135.4 km and 1.9 miles long, Friedman once again dropped off the pace, leaving four riders to lead the breakaway. With weather conditions working against them, this proved to be a decisive climb for the riders, splitting apart the bunch with challenging circumstances and several crashes. With the end of the stage drawing near, a group of 12 riders, including Leipheimer, pulled away from the pack to form a chase group. After tackling the final KOM of the day, Trinity Grade (Cat. 2), the original break, the chase group and additional riders came together to form a lead group of approximately 25 riders, led by Team RadioShack. In a competition that came down to a very close finish in Santa Rosa, Lancaster took the stage win to the cheers of thousands of fans.
“In the rain, there are times when you just have to close your eyes and go for it. You just have to watch out for the white lines and the cat eyes on the road,” said Lancaster. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would be in the Amgen Leader Jersey, but today I felt fantastic. It was my special day.”
After a long, hard day of racing, Lancaster claimed the Amgen Race Leader Jersey and the Herbalife Sprint Jersey. The Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey went to Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo). Rabou, whose mother is currently battling cancer, took Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey and the California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) Jersey.
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Lancaster in first, Sagan in second and Menzies in third.