The 2008 Amgen Tour of California is in the bag after a serious example of guts and glory during Stage 7 into Pasadena. Bissell Pro Cycling rider Tom Zirbel's solo breakaway in the wind and rain didn't survive the final six circuits around the Rose Bowl.
After the trailing sprinters caught him, Big George Hincapie hammered home to take the stage.
Levi Leipheimer's Astana team protected the yellow jersey to prefection, solidifying his second Tour of California overall title in as many years.
And proving that there's more to the squad than just being "That Clean Team," Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O took the overall team classification by a scant 16 seconds over Astana.
Stage 7 Results
1. George Hincapie - High Road 3:50:57
2. Rory Sutherland - Health Net Presented by Maxxis 3:50:57
3. Jason McCartney - Team CSC 3:50:57
4. Michael Creed - Rock Racing 3:50:57
5. Tom Zirbel - Bissell Pro Cycling 3:50:57
Overall Individual Classification
1. Levi Leipheimer - Astana 29:24:32
2. David Millar - Slipstream Chipotle 29:25:21
3. Christian Vande Velde - Slipstream Chipotle 29:25:40
4. Fabian Cancellara - Team CSC 29:25:50
5. Gustav Larsson - Team CSC 29:25:51
Overall Team Standings
1. Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O - 88:17:05
2. Astana - 88:17:21
3. Team CSC - 88:25: 49
Best Young Rider
1. Robert Gesink - Rabobank 29:26:50
2. Thomas Peterson - Slipstream Chipotle 29:27:30
3. Kevin Seeldraeyers - Quick Step 29:28:12
Overall Sprint Classification
1. Dominique Rollin - Toyota-United 44 points
2. Juan Jose Haedo - Team CSC 42 points
3. Gerald Ciolek - High Road 32 points
King of the Mountain
1. Scott Nydam - BMC Rcing 26 points
2. Jurgen Vandewalle - Quick Step 19 points
3. Robert Gesink - Rabobank 17 points
Most Aggressive Rider's Jersey (awarded by the press)
Tuesday, September 11, is the beginning of the inaugural Tour of Missouri. It's also the final chance for American cycling fans to see the Discovery Channel team compete. The team, which announced earlier this year that they will be disbanding following the 2007 season, will include Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, U.S.A. Cycling National Championship winner Levi Leipheimer and runner-up George Hincapie, and Yaroslav Papovych, who finished eighth at this year's Tour de France.
The Tour of Missouri begins in Kansas City and will cover 600 miles before finishing in St. Louis on Sunday, September 16th. More info at www.tourofmissouri.com. Versus looks to be airing taped coverage on Saturday, September 22 and Wednesday, the 26th.
Despite cycling's recent struggles and scandals, it's still sad that a great team like Discovery can buckle under the pressure of securing sponsorship. While they are one of the more expensive teams competing, they're also one of the more visible. From Lance Armstrong to Contador, Discovery has claimed several Tour de France podium spots since taking over sponsorship of the team from the U.S. Postal Service. Currently, they're the only American team competing on the international tour.
It'll be a tough void to fill. The team earned its following through victories--largely due to Armstrong. Team Slipstream, which prides itself on a rigorous drug-testing policy, has since signed several top tier riders but may not compete in the Tour de France until 2009. The Toyota-United Cycling Team has a very visible presence in American cycling, but doesn't compete internationally.
I'm jealous of the lucky fans who will line the roads of Missouri in the next several days. This is, however, an inaugural race. Along with the young Tour of California, perhaps we're seeing a resurgence of stage racing in America. Maybe without the cycling landscape here dominated by how well Discovery will do, new faces and teams will emerge, bringing with them younger, more eager fans.