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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

10 Posts tagged with the michael_rogers tag

The 2010 Amgen Tour of California wrapped up on Sunday and as predicted, there was nothing ceremonial about the last stage. Michael Rogers was under constant attack on the final ascent of the Rock Store climb by Dave Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer who trailed the Australian by only nine and twenty five seconds respectively.

 

Adding to the drama, both Zabriskie and Leipheimer had teammates with them on that final ascent. Rogers, who found himself with no teammates, was definitely vulnerable, but the Aussie rallied to bring back every single attack. This was the type of action the race organizers were looking for when they selected this as their final stage and the three protagonists didn't disappoint.

 

What the spectators saw was undoubtedly some of the most exciting racing in the five year history of the AToC. Everything hung in the balance and Leipheimer and Zabriskie attacked at will hoping to gap Rogers. At one point, Leipheimer looked to have broken Rogers. Zabriskie quickly joined the Team Radio Shack rider in the move, but Rogers somehow found a way to claw his way back to the two.

 

Ahead of the fight for the overall championship, George Hincapie was leading the remnants of the day's major breakaway in hopes of salvaging his AToC with a stage win. Hincapie was clearly the crowd favorite and it would have been an emotional victory, but Ryder Hesjedal(Garmin-Transitions) spoiled the show with a late race move that put him in a sprint with Hincapie for the win.

 

The organizers couldn't have planned the finale any better, other than maybe having an American winner. The eight-day race was exciting from start to finish and should be back next year with even more competitive racing and unforgettable stages.

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Michael "Mick" Rogers was the big winner today in the Amgen Tour of California's stage 7 time trial. While his HTC-Columbia teammate, Tony Martin, won the 20-mile test, it was Rogers who beat his two chief rivals Dave Zabriskie and Levi
Leipheimer by five and eleven seconds respectively.

 

Going into tomorrow's final stage, Rogers leads Zabriskie by nine seconds and Leipheimer by twenty five seconds.  Normally, that would be enough to call it a wrap, but the AToC's final stage is deceptively difficult and could allow a late race challenge to succeed.

 

Sunday's stage is four laps of a 21-mile circuit in the Santa Monica mountains. The first 10 miles are flat and fast. The second half of each lap starts with the 2.5 mile Rock Store climb which is followed by another, less difficult, ascent and concludes with a very tricky downhill into the finish.

 

Because the first half of each lap is flat that will allow a concerted chase to peg back any significant moves. If Zabriskie or Leipheimer wants to gain time on Rogers, their best bet is to put everything into a last lap attack on the Rock Store climb and then hope they have the legs to drive it all the way to the line.

 

So, the race is far from over. Look for the Garmin-Transitions and Team Radio Shack to be putting pressure on HTC-Columbia from the gun in hopes of softening up Rogers and his mates for a late race attack.

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As three-time winner of the Amgen Tour of California(AToC), Levi Leipheimer, predicted the race for the overall title will once again come down to the time trial. With the move of the race from February to May, it was hoped that the longer and more difficult courses would provide some separation, but that was not the case with the top four riders separated by only 14 seconds after 29 hours of racing.

 

To uplevel the discussion a bit, the race really does need a mountain top finish if it wants to provide a bigger challenge. Leipheimer has been vocal about the lack of such a finish, luckily for him, he is a very good time trialist. But, with the move to May, difficulty means not just adding more climbing, but making that climbing relevant.  The fact that critical breakaways were chased down on both Stage 3 and Stage 6 demonstrates that it is not sufficient to put the final climb within 10-15 miles of the finish line.

 

So, without a mountain top finish, Saturday's time trial will be about as exciting as possible.  The three strongest riders, Michael Rogers(HTC-Columbia), Dave Zabriskie(Garmin-Transitions) and Levi Leipheimer(Team Radio Shack) are all excellent time trialists. Michael Rogers is a three-time World Time Trial Champion. Dave Zabriskie has won time trials at the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia and is a medalist at the World Championships. Levi Leipheimer has won time trials at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana and an Olympic bronze medal.

 

The one big unknown is the time trialing ability of Slovakian Peter Sagan. The 20 year old is the revelation of the 2010 season. He has shown he can sprint with two convincing stage wins at the AToC (as well as at Paris-Nice and Tour of Romandie) and that he can climb. But, can he go fast in the race against the clock?He is only fourteen seconds out of the lead and could take the jersey with an inspired ride.

 

Only time will tell :-)

 

Bruce

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It has been a pretty uneventful rest day at the Tour and after two and a half weeks, that is a good thing. Lance Armstrong has come out publicly and stated that his aspirations for the Tour's yellow jersey are over and that Contador is the best rider on the team. I am sure that was not what the Texan wanted to be saying, but it was a classy thing to do. He still sits in second place, but unless he can find a bit more climbing fitness, the podium might be a stretch. There is a 25-mile(40km) time trial in Annecy on Thursday, but that might not be enough to erase any deficits if he continues to struggle on the climbs.

 

I spent the rest day visiting several teams, Columbia-HTC and Saxo Bank and sittting down with some riders for interviews. Here are a few. Look for more to dribble in over the next few days.

 

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George Hincapie is the most popular rider in the US save that guy from Texas. He hold the American record for most Tour starts (14) and finishes (13).

 

Bruce: fourteen Tours de France. That is an incredible legacy. Did you finish every one?

 

George: I finished every one except my first one(1996). I was just a young kid and I was trying to get ready for the Olympics. I rode two weeks of it then had a bad crash and pulled out.

 

Bruce: what's in your future on the bike?

 

George: I am definitely going to keep racing. I don't know if I will do a couple more Tours.  I will probably do another couple of years. I don't know if I will be able to come back to the Tour or not. It is still undecided there.

 

Bruce: How are you feeling?

 

George: I feel good. I definitely had a very big disappointment the other day. I had a big chance to be in yellow. That seems to be standing out more than anything right now. But as far as my riding, I am going quite well. Hopefully, I can pull something out in the last week.

 

Bruce: Let's talk about that moment. It appeared to be a bit of a misunderstanding between you and the Astana guys. It didn't look like they were the ones who were really doing the work. It looks like you got some bad information at the finish line.

 

George: I don't know about that. I have my opinion and I know the facts. I don't really care to comment on what happened and who did what wrong. I have a strong opinion on that and I will keep that to myself.

 

Bruce: You had the yellow jersey for a day in 2006?

 

George: I know it would have been hard to keep it(yellow jersey) yesterday, but it would have been very special to get it.

 

Bruce: What is your role on the team?

 

George: I can pretty much do everything for the guys. I can help them in the mountains. I can represent them in the breakaways. And I can help Cavendish in the sprints. So, I think I have done a great job for the team. This team is amazing. It is the best team I have ever been on by far as far as the depth of the riders and the comaraderie. For sure.

 

Bruce: It almost looks automatic for you guys to win a bunch sprint. Take us through the final 2kms of a field sprint

 

George: That's the thing. That is why I say this team is so good. People watching just think it is automatic.  They see us all lined up, all together, but they don't see how hard it is to stay together and how much fighting that is going on and all the bumping. There are people trying to cut inside you on the corners. It is just real chaos.  But, this team is so good at staying together. We never get complacent. We are always 100% focused and 100% motivated to get Cav to the final 200 meters.

 

Bruce: what's the lineup for the leadout train and how does it function?

 

George: Bernie (Eisel) and (Bert) Grabsch are doing most of the work the whole day. With 5-10km to go Kim (Kirchen) and Maxime (Monfort) take over. Michael Rogers has been taking over with 2km to go. Tony Martin takes over with 1500m to go then I take over with about 1km to go and then Renshaw takes over with 500m to go.

 

Bruce: Obviously, your stage win in 2005 at Pla d'Adet was a huge moment in your career. But, are there any other Tour moments which stand out in your career?

 

George: Winning team time trials. Anytime you get to the Champs Elysees no matter what you have done is a huge accomplishment just to get there. Those are definitely moments which stand out.

 

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Mark Cavendish is the best field sprinter in the business, bar none. Even with all his successes he has been criticized for not getting over the mountains and finishing the Tour.

 

Bruce: You are finally going to try and make it to Paris.  How do you feel about your climbing?

 

Mark: I am not suffering in the grupetto. I am just sitting in there. I don't ned to try and climb with the front riders. What I need to do is save as much energy when I am not climbing with the front riders. I was never going to get dropped from the grupetto, anyway. At least now I can recover and save energy rather than having to go full gas to try and stay in the grupetto.

 

Bruce: are there any opportunities to try and get back the green jersey?

 

Mark: It's not happening. The green jersey is gone now. Eighteen points on Thor is too much.

 

Bruce: let's talk about the rest of your Tour. You won four stages.

 

Mark: I said "if I don't win a stage I have failed." So, you have to be content with one stage at the Tour. It is the Tour de France. I set two goals, one to win a stage, the other goal was to reach Paris. I won a stage. I am close to reaching Paris. That is successful. Getting to wear green for the first time in my career. Tony to wear white. We still have all nine guys in the race. It has gone perfect for us, actually.

 

Bruce: let's talk about your new book 'Boy Racer'. What is the part of your personality that you haven't shown publicly that is in the book.

 

Mark: If you buy the book it explains why I am emotional after a stage. If I wina race I am elated. If I lose a race I am destroyed, angry, aggressive. It is easy to sum up a person fifteen seconds straight after a race when all that emotion that is pent up has spilled out. That's fifteen seconds where you can make the right or wrong decision about a person. If you read the book it shows that there is much more to me than just this Jekyl and Hyde a$$hole, really.

 

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Jens Voigt is on the powerful Saxo Bank team which has two riders in contention for high placings in the overall classification.

 

Bruce: What will the plan be for Saxo Bank be for the Alps with Andy Schleck riding so well.

 

Jens: Andy sits in fifth place overall so there is room to improve on that. He got the white jersey which was his first objective achieved, but of course we aim high and we would like to have one of the Schleck brothers on the podiium. It looks like things are pretty simple from the way I see it. We gotta move. We got to try and make the race hard and give Frank and Andy a chance to shine in the mountains. We gotta get past Wiggins. We have to drop and gain more time on people like Tony Martin, on Kloden, on Armstrong, the good time trialists.

 

In the ideal scenario we would, two days from now, start the time trial with Andy being comfortably ahead of the good time trialists, especially Wiggins who is an awesome time trialer. We have to look into getting him(Wiggins) into trouble

.  Our strength is that we have two really good, strong climbers and we have to work with that.

 

Bruce: what will your role be in the Alps?

 

Jens: to just make life hard for the others. It is probably the best for me to create chaos. That's good. That's what I am best at. Just make people suffer and have tactics such that they never know if you go now or go later. To put constant pressure on the others (rivals).

 

Bruce: pleast fill us in on what happened when you flatted out of that breakaway on stage 14 to Besancon. That was a Jens Voigt-type breakaway.

 

Jens: I am sure that the poor fellow tried (to change his wheel) as quick as he could. It is just complicated to change the back wheel. Then there were the whole circumstances. They had to come running to me to see, first of all, do we have a front wheel or back wheel. By the time we got the bike changed it was too late.

 

Then you have this rule that you are actually allowed to go behind the group with the yellow car to get back to the group where you had the puncture because you didn't puncture because it was funny. You have been punished enough by that (getting a wheel change).  I tried to talk to them, but the commissaire quickly said "No, no. This isn't going to happen here. There is no helping."

 

So, I was out there all by myself and quickly calculated my chances. Twelve strong riders swapping off in the front and me alone and I figured out that is next to zero that I am going to see them again.

 

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Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished third behind Alberto Contador in Verbier. His is a young rider with a lot of potential. Italian is my fourth language after English, Spanish and French, but I managed to get several questions out to the Liquigas rider at the team bus yesterday at the finish.

 

Bruce: It was a good day for you?

 

Vincenzo: Yes, it was a good day, but Contador was much better. He was so much faster than the rest of us. But, yes, it was a good day for me and my team.

 

Bruce: is it possible to finish top 5 in the Tour?

 

Vincenzo: yes, I hope it is possible for me to finish high in the general classification. I feel good and I feel very strong.

 

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This was a work of art just on the retaining wall just as the riders entered the town of Verbier. Pretty cool!

 

I don't know if you can tell by this photo, but former yellow jersey rider Rinaldo Nocentini (87) has his saddle pointed slightly downward.

 

Ah, the joys of getting something from the publicity caravan.

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Stage 8: More Musings

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 11, 2009

There is way too much going on at the Tour at the moment for one posting a day so I am going to add an additional posting to catch some of the other story lines.

 

First off, for those of you following the Lance and Alberto saga, the headline this morning in France's leading sports newspaper l'Equipe was "Contador is the Boss." Clearly, l'Equipe felt that Alberto seized control by attacking in the final kilometers of stage 7 to Arcalis-Andorra. Lance remarked to the press after the stage that Contador's attack had not been part of the plan for that stage which further emphasizes l'Equipe's point that Contador took the initiative.

 

This is a very interesting situation made even more so by the fact that both Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden are also riding very strongly. While people are focusing on Lance and Alberto, if either one or both of them have a bad day, Levi or Andreas could assume the leadership role. It is a bit of a long shot, but the possibility is there. I am hoping that the Lance/Alberto affair doesn't end up causing the whole team to crumble. They are clearly the strongest team. Does Johan need to step in and lay down some ground rules?

 

Adding to the suspense, both Alberto and Lance were randomly picked for doping control at the end of stage 8. Because of this, they had to sit around together in the medical trailer for about and hour after the stage giving biological samples, usually just urine, sometimes blood. I wonder what they talked about?

 

Each day a team has a plan for the stage. They look at the stage profile and the capabilities of their riders and try to strategize for an optimum output. On stage 8, the game plan for Team Columbia-HTC was to get George Hincapie up the road in the latter half of the stage and then have Kim Kirchen come up on the ascent of the final climb. Hopefully those two would be part of a small breakaway where either Kim could solo off the front in the closing kilometers or if he was brought back, George could win in a sprint. Unfortunately, George covered the Evans attack on the first climb(Port d'Envalira) so that strategy did not play out.

 

You might be wondering what is happening to Michael Rogers. He is becoming the 'Hard Luck Kid'. Two years ago Rogers crashed on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend and had to withdraw with a broken elbow. This year, he crashed on the run in to Barcelona in the rain and while the medical staff at Columbia-HTC were initially concerned with his elbow, it appears that he severely bruised his hip. I was at the team bus when he rolled up at the end of today's stage and it was painful for me to watch him try and climb off his bike. He is one tough Aussie and the medical staff hope that in about two days he will be back at close to full strength. Being hurt in the mountains rather on the flats is back luck.

 

If you are wondering why the cycling pundits are talking more about Andy Schleck rather than his older brother Frank, it can be explained that Frank crashed this spring and hurt his knee. The knee has not really healed and the wisdom in the press room is that Frank might not make it to Paris.

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Even though there are two more stages to go in the 2009 Giro d'Italia the race is all but over as Danilo Di Luca was unable to drop overall leader, Denis Menchov, and gain any significant time before Sunday's concluding stage, a 9-mile individual time trial. Barring any sort of mechanical mishap or a crash, Menchov will undoubtedly best Di Luca in the race against the watch and wear the final pink jersey in Rome.

 

The last major climb of the Giro, Monte Vesuvio, showed once again that Carlos Sastre was the best climber in the race as he notched his second stage win in three mountain top finishes. The defending Tour de France champion on the newly formed Cervelo Test Team had been unable to produce the goods on the Blockhaus stage, but on the 6-mile, 2500 foot climb of the volcano he was unbeatable.

 

Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer were in the lead group chasing Sastre with five kilometers remaining. Lance, who suffered a scary-looking crash early in the stage faded a bit at the end, but his condition is definitely improving.

 

Here are a few photos from the day. The first photo shows Carlos Sastre dropping Ivan Basso halfway up the climb.

 

I have posted a number of photos of Armstrong and Leipheimer, here is a shot of Michael Rogers of the Columbia-Highroad squad. He was the team's leader, but has faded over the last week. Jani Brajkovic is over his right shoulder.

 

Dave Zabriskie(Garmin-Slipstream), who won a stage of the Giro in 2005, has had a pretty quiet race. Here is a photo of him in the grupetto. As he came by I asked him how he was doing. "Eh, OK," was the reply.

 

Franco Pellizotti won the big Blockhaus stage. I snapped this photo him at the team busses after the race.

 

Tom Danielson(Garmin-Slipstream) has also had a quiet Giro. On Vesuvio, he climbed well and was close to the leaders at the finish. It is good to see Tommy D up at the front.

 

Bruce

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Giro TT Dissected

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand May 21, 2009

The much anticipated 61km time trial(TT) at the Giro d'Italia produced a few surprises, some good, some bad proving, once again, that Italy's grand tour is never predictable. At the end of the day, Rabobank's Denis Menchov proved that his two overall wins at the Vuelta a Espana were no fluke as he time-trialed himself past Danilo Di Luca and into the maglia rosa, the pink leader's jersey.

 

For Americans, all eyes were on Levi Leipheimer who had the potential to not only win the stage, but take the maglia rosa. While the quiet Californian came up short in both the stage and the overall leads his second place, only 20 seconds back of Menchov, must be considered a success. Leipheimer also moved up to third overall and is clearly within striking distance of the race lead.

 

What I take from Levi's performance is that the Giro is not the same race as the Tour. Leiphemier has repeatedly remarked that he feels nervous when racing on the tight roads and tricky descents of the Giro which has already cost him time in the race for the overall. Not every race is for every rider. Hopefully, Levi will feel more comfortable as the race progresses.

 

Of course, a lot of attention was given to Levi's teammate, Lance Armstrong, who finished 13th about 2:30 back of Menchov. While some might be close to writing Lance off, I think this is another indication that Lance is finding the form he will need to be a factor at the Tour. It must be remembered that in 2004, Lance lost 2 minutes to Iban Mayo at the Mont Ventoux time trial in the Dauphine Libere. He came back to win the Tour, dominating the TT's, and winning by over six minutes.

 

So what's going to happen in the final week? Clearly, if Di Luca is going to have a chance to win his second Giro, he is going to have to go on the attack on Monte Petrano, the Blockhaus or Monte Vesuvio. Leipheimer is going to have to make Di Luca pay for all his aggression in the first week by putting pressure on the front of the climbs. Menchov is going to have to keep doing what he has been doing; ride "steady eddy" and avoid one bad day in the mountains that seems to plague him in some grand tours.

 

Remember that the final stage is a 15km TT around Rome's famous landmarks. Go watch "Angels and Daemons" and you will get a pretty good idea of what the rider's will see. I think Levi is a better flat time trialist than either Menchov or Di Luca so if the gaps remain about the same, Levi could ended winning it all. I haven't mentioned either Ivan Basso or Michael Rogers. These two guys are going to need an exceptional day to put themselves back into contention.

 

Bruce

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Team Columbia-Highroad has been putting on a Bike Racing 101 clinic at the Giro.The squad has won four stages in the first nine days and they are doing it in classic racing fashion. The Giro is known for lots of crashes which sometimes produce lucky winners, but Columbia-Highroad's success has nothing to do with luck.

 

Columbia-Highroad's first win, on the opening day's team time trial, was the picture of perfection.  There didn't appear to be any strategy other than to have each rider give his all.  There were no sacrificial lambs, everybody just rode their hearts out.

 

Norwegian Edvald Boasen-Hagen has recorded a second-first-second in stages 6-8; his win into Chiavenna on stage 7 was won on rain-slickened roads, but he didn't appear to be taking unnecessary risks.

 

Constantin Siutsov's victory into Bergamo was probably the best demonstration of classic bike racing tactics. Columbia-Highroad sent their GC man Michael Rogers up the road on the stage's final climb forcing overal racer leader Danilo Diluca's LPR Brakes team to initiate a furious chase. As soon as Rogers and his breakaway companions, which included Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner, were reeled in, Siutsov counter-attacked.

 

It was clear that the LPR riders were tired from chasing Rogers and Leipheimer and Siutsov quickly built a sufficient lead to take him all the way to the finish line. That is how you win a bike race.

 

The final chapter in team Columbia Highroad's racing primer was written in Milan when a near perfect leadout train in the final kilometers delivered uber-sprinter Mark Cavendish first across the line.  Thus endeth the lesson, but I am guessing that Columbia-Highroad has a few more chapters to write before the end of the race.

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A few more speculations on what will happen with Team Astana and the rollout with Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel's new team.  It must be remembered that one of the strategies that Bruyneel and Armstrong used to help engineer Lance's seven tour wins was to acquire the competition.

 

Along that line of thinking, it would be better for Bruyneel and Armstrong to try and keep Team Astana together through the Tour so that they would have Contador on their squad. That's not to say that Bruyneel and Armstrong would try to keep Contador from winning. It just means that they would have more control over the situation.  Only time will tell what happens.

 

Bruce

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The 2009 Amgen Tour of California ended today and Levi Leipheimer locked up his three-peat.  Leipheimer was clearly the strongest rider in the race, he proved it on the climbs and in the TT's which is where stage races are won. It was a great event, race organizer AEG estimated that two million people watched the spectacle live, obviously countless more viewed it on TV as the feed went out to 60 countries across the globe. It is safe to say that in just four year, this race has grown exponentially in size and stature and is truly one of the best events on the pro cycling calendar. Yes, there are some issues such as whether the race should move to a more weather-friendly date and if it should become a Pro Tour event, but there is no doubt the 2009 edition was an unqualified success.

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Race notes:

 

In my report from yesterday, I noted that the final stage would be difficult, but not decisive. That was indeed the case, but there was one incident high on the slopes of Palomar Mountain that deserves some discussion.  About three miles from the top of the massive 4200' climb, Jens Voigt, who was placed fourth overall about one minute behind Levi, broke away from the peloton and took a group of riders with him. Because Jens had a teammate in the group and the group was about five riders, there was a real chance that if they could work together, they might threaten to stay away to the finish and change the overall outcome of the race.

 

What happened next is the interesting part.  The rider who initiated the chase of Voigt and who ultimately drove the chase group to catch Jens and his crew was Michael Rogers of team Columbia High Road who was in third place overall.  Also in the chase group was Dave Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream who was in second place overall. With those two guys in the chase group, Levi jumped up there as well. Unfortunately, Levi didn't have any teammates in the chase group while both Rogers and Zabriskie had one each.

 

This may seem like a huge tactical error by Levi and his Team Astana because they allowed Levi to be isolated in a group with his closest rivals. However, it was really a very big tactical error by Michael Rogers. Because the time gaps between the first five riders were so small, if Jens Voigt and his group succeeded in staying away, Voigt, who was in fourth place, threatened not only Michael Rogers' third place and Dave Zabriskie's second place, but he also threatened Levi's race lead. That means that it was really the responsibility of Leipheimer's Team Astana to chase down Voigt and not Michael Rogers.

 

Looking at the bigger picture, Roger's should have seen Voigt's escape not as a need to defend his third place position, but as an opportunity to attack the race lead of Leipheimer. Instead of initiating the chase and driving the group up to Voigt, he should have sat at the front of the peloton and forced Team Astana to chase Voigt. Then, once that chase and catch has been performed and Team Astana was tired from the effort, he then could launch a counter-attack and try to get away.

 

The fact that Rogers decided to defend his third place and not attempt to go for the win might indicate that he felt Levi was too strong to be beaten, but in any case, he should have left the chasing up to Team Astana.

 

Dave Zabriskie rode tactically correct when he was in the chase group. He sat on Levi's wheel looking for any weakness and if Leipheimer had faultered, it would have been a perfect scenario for Dave to attack him and go for the overall win. Dave Z did it right, Michael Rogers didn't. Well, that's the way I saw it.

 

Bruce

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The rain continued to fall on the second road stage of the Amgen Tour of California(AToC), but that didn't deter the 135 riders from taking to some of the prettiest roads in Northern California. Bicycles crossed the main road of the Golden Gate Bridge for only the second time in history (the first time was in the first Tour of California in 1971) then headed south along Highway 1 toward Santa Cruz.  By the first of the day's two major climbs a group of ten riders had broken away from the pack and established a three-minute lead. At the head of affairs was Bissell Pro Cycling rider Ben Jacques-Maynes who went to college near the finish at UC Santa Cruz and knows the roads of the race route like the back of his hand.

 

Yesterday, I asked Ben if he thought the big boys would be firing on the last climb of the day, Bonny Doon Road.  "I am not going to wait around to try to get to the line with them . So we will see what happens." True to his word, he seemed to be the leader of the breakaway, bringing his group to the base of Bonny Doon Road with their three-minute lead intact. But, Team Astana, who is clearly the strongest squad in the race took charge launching Levi Leipheimer in pursuit of the escapees. The two-time overall race winner rocketed passed all the early leaders like he was on a motorbike and only Garmin-Slipstream rider Thomas Peterson could gain his wheel.

 

Leipheimer and Peterson kept their advantage all the way to the finish line where Peterson took the win and Levi gained 31 seconds over his rivals throwing a Tiger Woods fist pump in the air as he crossed the finish line.  I asked Levi if his attack was motivated by the time he lost on yesterday's stage into Santa Rosa. "It was payback for what Mancebo did to us yesterday," replied Leipheimer

 

Michael Rogers of Team Columbia-High Road finished third on the day. The three-time World Time Trial champion led the chase to catch Levi.  "We had to.  We were just trying to limit our losses to Levi." The team's hard work paid off as Rogers moved into second place overall, only 21 seconds behind Leipheimer.

 

The day's big loser was overnight race leader Fancisco Mancebo who finished 1'52" behind Leipheimer and dropped to 16th overall. I asked him what happened to him on the stage.  "I am dead, dead, dead.  I went very hard yesterday. Today I was tired and not able to go hard."

 

Even though Ben Jacques-Maynes didn't win the stage, he was awarded the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider's Jersey for his day's efforts.  He recounted how it all unfolded. "We wanted to animate the race and my move was the one that went.  Andy was in a move and Frank was in a move before that.  I had the luck of the draw. I was cramping a bit by that point.  It was just so cold and wet.  The cold just takes it out of your legs so when it is time to push hard it is very difficult."

 

Race Notes

 

Lance Armstrong got knocked down on Highway 1 by a photo motorcycle driven by his personal photographer. He was unhurt and got back into the peloton without incident.

 

Ben Jacques-Maynes brother Andy crashed and was taken to hospital.  Ben knew his brother had crashed and was in the ambulance when it passed his breakaway heading to the hospital, but there was nothing he could do about it at that time.

 

With all the rain at both this year's and last year's race, there is some serious discussion about moving the race to the April dates vacated by the recently defunct Tour de Georgia.  Clearly, certain top-name pro riders would not be able to attend as it is the height of the one-day-classic season, but the weather should be better, in theory.

 

Lance Armstrong continues to impress.  He finished in the chase group behind Levi and is now in fourth place, only 30 seconds behind Leipheimer.

 

The weather for Tuesday still show rain, but Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday look dry.  Sunday might be a little wet, but the accuracy of the forecast models that far out is pretty poor.

 

Bruce

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