Boonen wins stage two of 2008 Tour of California
The second stage of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California saw the emergence of a young star in Tyler Farrar (USA) of Team Slipstream/Chipotle Presented by H30 and the return of an old warrior in Mario Cipollini (ITA) of Team Rock Racing. But the wet and slippery streets of the State Capitol belonged to 2005 World Champion and Belgian superstar Tom Boonen (BEL, QuickStep), who claimed today's stage victory. Stage 2, which took cyclists from Santa Rosa to Sacramento, finished in front of record crowds, taking the total attendance number for the first three days of the race to 425,000, with five days left to go. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was on hand at the official post-race ceremonies to help award the jerseys.
?The Amgen Tour of California is a wonderful experience for California and is great for our tourism,? declared Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after Stage 2, where he helped present leader jerseys. ?The Amgen Tour of California showcases the state, which has some of the most beautiful places in the world. Thank you to the enthusiastic crowd for being here and being such great fans.?
Having spent most of the nearly 116-mile race chasing one rider, Scott Nydam (USA) of Team BMC, the field roared into Sacramento resigned to settle the matter in a bunch sprint. As the peloton poured around the final corner, Gerald Ciolek (GER) of High Road, wearing the Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey, fired off the front and opened a massive gap. Reigning World Champion Paolo Bettini (ITA) of QuickStep charged after Ciolek with Boonen in tow. When Boonen finally broke loose, he focused on the legendary Cipollini, who came out of a three-year retirement to race for the American Rock Racing team.
?Racing in America seems less stressful; people approach the race differently,? said Boonen. ?I think we?ll be coming back to the Amgen Tour of California for the next couple of years.?
Despite Boonen?s impressive win, it was U.S. riders Farrar and Nydam that took the limelight on today?s stage. Local rider Nydam, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., provided a bright spot on a rainy day for the enthusiastic fans who braved the weather to come out and cheer.
Imitating the Stage 1 performance of his teammate Jackson Stewart (USA), Nydam broke away from the field and rode solo after only 10 miles, gaining a lead that grew to as much as 15 minutes. Yet, as the peloton went into the final flats of the stage, he was reeled in and finally caught 15 miles from the finish after a brave 90-mile bid for victory.
Then, the rush began as the cyclists started on the three finishing circuit laps in downtown Sacramento. The roar of spectators, which were ten deep at points along the route, seemed to notch up the speed of the field. With two laps to go, Team CSC, which had riders that won each of the first two days and held the overall lead, suffered a catastrophe when its sprinter J.J. Haedo (ARG), who won Stage 2 in 2007 and captured the first stage in Santa Rosa this year, punctured a tire. Unselfishly, overall race leader Fabian Cancellara (SUI) of Team CSC gave his wheel to Haedo, and remarkably Haedo caught up and surged to the front to contest the sprint, finishing in an impressive fifth place, just behind Mark Cavendish (GBR) of High Road.
Farrar, who finished third in Sunday?s Prologue, moved up the general classification rankings into the Amgen Leader Jersey, replacing Cancellara.
?This win probably tops any win I?ve ever had; it?s a pretty big deal for me,? said Farrar. ?I?m ecstatic to be racing in America, and to be wearing the Amgen Leader Jersey is a big deal for me and for the team.?
Stewart held onto the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey for a second day; however he turned over the Tachyon Most Aggressive Jersey to Nydam. The Herbalife Sprint Jersey went to Heinrich Haussler (GER) of Gerolsteiner. Ciolek will continue to wear the Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey for a second day. Team High Road took the overall team classification lead.
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Farrar in first, Cancellara in second and Boonen in third.
?All of the stages thus far on the Amgen Tour of California have been packed with spectators, and we are delighted with the overall response to the race and athletes,? said Andrew Messick, president, AEG Sports. ?As the race progresses, we are seeing everything we hoped for, including the emergence of new, young American talent like Farrar; seeing cyclists who are in their prime like Leipheimer and Boonen; and world-renowned cyclists showing us what the best of the best looks like, like Cipollini. It?s all happening at our race and that is fantastic."