Rock Racing's Francisco Mancebo crashed out of Stage 7, causing the King of the Mountains jersey to be awarded to Team Saxo Bank's Jason McCartney. McCartney leads Rock Racing's Tyler Hamilton in KOM points 29 to 22. Sunday's Stage 8 from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido includes four opportunities to earn KOM points, including a ride up the Palomar Mountain featuring a seven-percent average grade and 4,200 feet of climbing.
From Michael Ball, Rock Racing Team Owner
Regarding Francisco Mancebo
Pasadena, Calif. (February 21, 2009) - "Following his unfortunate crash during today's stage, Francisco Mancebo is currently receiving medical attention at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. While we are still awaiting confirmation, we believe he has suffered a concussion as well as a broken hand and elbow. The fact he is unable to continue the race does not in any way diminish his accomplishments or those of the team. Attrition took its toll and we lost two incredible riders in Paco today and Victor Hugo Pena after Stage 4, but that's bike racing. This is such an exciting team and I am incredibly proud of everything we've achieved this week."
Levi Leipheimer's time trial performance yesterday was the kind of statement cycling fans have come to expect from him in Solvang. In his past two Tour of California victories, Leipheimer cemented his hold on the yellow jersey after a dominating ride in the time trial. As Odessa Gunn, Levi's wife, told our own Bruce Hildenbrand, "This is one of his favorite days. Certainly in the race, but in general. He loves this stage. He loves this town. He loves time trialing."
But in the past there has only been one stage to follow the TT. Never two. And both Stage 7 and 8 have significant climbs. With Garmin-Slipstream's David Zabriskie only 36 seconds back and Columbia-Highroad's Michael Rogers 46 seconds back in third, will either attack for the yellow jersey?
In yesterday's press conference, Zabriskie was mildy pessimistic at his chances: "It would take a lot of screwing up on their (Astana's) part. With the experience that they have and the depth of the team, they know what theyre doing. Like I said, it would take a huge screw up."
His assessment of today and tomorrow left some hope, though: "Tomorrow's stage is the same as last year. It's not crazy. It's fairly gradual, so it's probably going to be a field sprint. Everyone knows that stage. We did go down and checkout the last stage; it's very challenging and things could happen. It will be interesting."
But for "things to happen", Zabriskie would most likely have to take out a sizable chunk of time from Levi today.
As for Michael Rogers, he was a bit more optimistic in his St. 6 press conference quotes: "I think the race is not over until Sunday. You've got some tough mountains coming up. I'm sure it's going to be tough. I think maybe the general classification is starting to open up a little bit more, but anything can happen.
"There are some hard climbs coming. I haven't been over the last two stages, but I have a few teammates that have been over the course, so I'm sure they'll keep me well informed. With the experience that Levi and his team has, it is going to be hard to do something, but we never say never. We are just going to take each stage as it comes. We're always on the lookout to do something, so if the opportunity arises, we'll do it."
The climbs up Palomar Mt. and Cole Grand Road during Stage 8 are in the first half of the stage, early enough to cause many to say they won't be much of a factor. But if someone has the legs? Is it too early in the season to hope for some final-stage fireworks?
Astana is beast of a team. Zabriskie hit the nail on the head when he said "they" would have to screw up. It's not likely Lance, Levi, Chris Horner, et al are all going to have a significant lapse in judgement and tactics. But never say never. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in any of the Astana, Garmin-Slipstream or Columbia-Highroad buses as they plan their strategy. What wild cards will they have stashed in their jersey pockets?
It's been a rough road for Lance Armstrong in his return to American bike racing. The seven-time Tour de France winner hasn't found his first Tour of California to be a walk on the beach (not that such a walk in California would be all that fun right now anyway).
After learning that his time trial bike had been stolen in Sacramento, Lance embarked on the rainy, cold slog called Stage 1. Following the finish, Armstrong updated his Twitter with this: "Holy hell. That was terrible. Maybe one of the toughest days I've had on a bike, purely based on the conditions. I'm still freezing."
It can't get much worse than that, right? Well, Stage 2 from Sausalito to Santa Cruz wasn't much drier, warmer or safer. Lance's updated LIVESTRONG page revealed he had a crash with a photographer's motorcycle.
Yet despite all this, Lance sits just 30 seconds back in the overall standings. Levi Leipheimer has quite the domestique! Tomorrow's stage, from San Jose to Modesto, opens with the nearly 2,000-ft. climb up Sierra Road within the first five miles of the start.
By mile-60, however, the stage becomes flat with few turns. After watching on Versus as Lance put on a clinic on how to take off a jacket and put on a vest while riding next to a team car, I think this part of Stage 3 could be the perfect time for him to demonstrate how to Twitter while riding a bike. Lance is so proficient at the social networking phenomenon he's attracted over 100,000 followers and growing.
I think Bike Snob NYC put it best: "Lance Armstrong is a prodigious Twitterer. In fact, he's sort of the Lance Armstrong of Twitterers."
So I'll be keeping my eyes on the Texan whenever he's near his team car, hoping someone hands him a phone. Hopefully the photographer's motorcycles stay out of his way.
If anyone thought they'd wait until Solvang before paying close attention to the 2009 Tour of California, they might want to start tuning in. After only the Prologue and Stage 1, the story lines are starting to develop.
Fabian Cancellara wins the Prologue just two seconds ahead of defending champ Levi Leipheimer, then fails to start Stage 1 due to an illness. The absence of Cancellara, a strong contender for the overall, means there's more room at the top for someone to slip onto the podium.
The race rolls out from Davis under inclement weather, bad enough to delay the Versus cameras from showing actual racing for about an hour. Cycling fans get pretty familiar with the network's bull-riding promos.
As we finally get to watch Francisco Mancebo makes his break, a chase pack starts revving its engines. Mancebo manages to hold them off to take the win and the overall lead. Will Rock Racing keep their man in the yellow jersey? Will they be allowed to?
Monday's Stage 2 across the Golden Gate Bridge and to Santa Cruz could be a doozy.
In the meantime, I'm going to rewatch Lance Armstrong's Friday press conference exchange with journalist Paul Kimmage. "You are not worth the chair that you are sitting on with a statement like that."
Lance is back. So is Floyd Landis and Ivan Basso. Tyler Hamilton is ready to suit up in his new National Champion kit and ride in a race that banned him just days before the start last year. And don't forget two-time winner Levi Leipheimer, looking to make it three in a row.
Then there's the slugfest that could ensue between the teams of Saxo Bank, Astana and Garmin-Slipstream. The Argyle boys won the team overall last year, just 16 seconds ahead of a Lance-less Astana.
For those with jobs (and internet connections), Cycling.tv is showing the race for free! Not sure what feed they'll use, so if you need your daily dose of Phil and Paul, you may have to stick with Versus.
VeloNews.TV will have behind-the-scenes video, features and stage highlights.
For those of you who like the metric system, Eurosport will be showing live broadcasts of the race. You can also listen to their live audio feed, found under the Related Video box on their cycling page .
And when the race is over but you're still finding it hard to concentrate without knowing where a pelotonany pelotonis, head over to Steephill.tv, which has listings for coverage options for the entire season of racing.
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