Francisco Mancebo Rocks California Racing Winning Stage 1 of 2009 Amgen Tour of California
Record crowds were, once again - and in spite of lousy weather, on hand for stage 1 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California to watch the world’s top cyclists travel from Davis to Santa Rosa, California, culminating with a climactic finish in downtown Santa Rosa.
Francisco Mancebo (ESP) of Rock Racing took an early lead and ended up with the stage win, the team’s first in the Amgen Tour of California, ahead of Jurgen Van de Walle (BEL), of Quick Step, and Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas.
“This win is very important for me and of course for my team,” said Mancebo. “The Amgen Tour of California is an important race because it’s a home race for my team, so starting off with a victory is good.”
The 173 kilometer stage from Davis to Santa Rosa took the riders through the scenic settings of Lake Berryessa and Napa Valley before heading into downtown Santa Rosa.
Motivated to attack by weather conditions, Mancebo left the field behind in the in the first half-hour of the race, a move that eventually brought him the stage victory. After the first feed zone, prologue winner and race leader Fabian Cancellara (SUI) of Team Saxo Bank had to abandon the race due to illness, leaving the Amgen Leader Jersey open for the taking.
After his initial attack, Mancebo was joined by Aaron Kemp (AUS) of Team Fly V Australia powered by Successful Living Foundation and Tim Johnson (USA) of Team OUCH presented by Maxxis on the descent following the first King of the Mountain (KOM) competition of the stage, and the race overall, on Highway 128. The riders formed a hard-working trio, eventually building a lead of more than 12 minutes over the pack. Mancebo left the breakaway group behind to take the lead on Howell Mountain, the second KOM, at 44 miles to go.
With approximately 30 miles left in the stage, an all-star chase group of more than 20 riders, led by and clearly dominated by Team Astana, including both two-time defending race champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) and Lance Armstrong (USA), formed behind. Despite the chase group’s concerted efforts, Mancebo held on to the lead to cross the line and take the stage win in Santa Rosa.
“When I attacked, I just wanted to keep going and stay ahead because the cold was hard for me, and slowly after I started speeding up, I started feeling more comfortable,” Mancebo commented. “Five kilometers before the finish, I just wanted to keep going. I kept telling myself that I had to keep going and I was going to win.”
The tight Santa Rosa finishing circuits have gained a reputation in the short history of the Amgen Tour of California. This year, due to the poor weather conditions and for the safety of the riders, officials decided to call the general classification time when the first rider crossed the finish line for the first time and before the first of three finishing circuits.
“The decision was made about kilometers into the race and was made solely for the safety of the riders,” said Jim Birrell, race director. “This will not be protocol for the rest of the race; if we have blue skies we will race as it’s written in the rule book.”
In an amazing sweep of the jerseys, Mancebo claimed not only the Amgen Leader Jersey, but also the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey. Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey went to Ivan Basso (ITA) of Liquigas and the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey was awarded to last year’s overall Best Young Rider Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank.
“So far, the race has been fantastic; exceeding expectations,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race. “We are just two days into the race and already we’ve seen an amazing degree of competition from these world-class cyclists.”
The top-three general classification leaders after today are Mancebo, Leipheimer in second and David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream in third.
Two-time defending champion, Leipheimer rode into a hometown welcome from the cheering crowds lining the roads in Santa Rosa. Leipheimer heads into Stage 2 with high hopes for his team’s performance over the rest of the week.
After the stage Mancebo told Roadcycling.com that "After today, my legs are going to be dead, but I’m going to try and maintain and hold off until the end; just maintain the jersey as long as I possibly can."
Additionally, the second day of competition in the 2009 race also featured the second-annual Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium. Using portions of the Stage 1 men’s finishing circuit in Santa Rosa, the category Pro 1,2 Women’s Criterium was enthusiastically welcomed by the fans lining the course. Emilia Fahlin (SWE) from Team Columbia-Highroad was part of an early breakaway and won the race. Congrats.
Emilia told Roadcycling.com that "When I was here last year, I finished third. I really enjoyed the race last year with the big crowds, so I wanted to do better. Getting to win here was really fun and great way to start the season; very motivating. I think I tried to ride up front from the beginning of the race. It’s a technical course, and with the rain, I wanted to ride in front. After a few laps, some of the riders caught up to us, and then we were a little group riding up front."