Juan Jose Haedo wins stage one of the 2008 Tour of California
Celebrated local cyclist Levi Leipheimer welcomed home to Santa Rosa by record crowds.
Record crowds were on-site for Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California to watch the world?s best cyclists travel over some of California?s most scenic highways, from Sausalito to Santa Rosa, culminating with a climactic finish in downtown Santa Rosa as Juan Jose ?J.J.? Haedo (ARG), of Team CSC, sprinted to an impressive win, his fifth stage win in the Amgen Tour of California (2006-2008), ahead of Gerald Ciolek (GER), of Team High Road, and Heinrich Haussler (GER) of Gerolsteiner.
?The final 60 km of the race were very fast; I barely made it to the finish. That was a really hard part for me,? said Haedo, Stage 1 winner. ?Everyone was really fast today, but when you see the last 200 meters, you go as hard as you can and don?t look back. We have a lot of good sprinters in the Amgen Tour of California, really a good level of competition.?
?First of all I wanna thank my team-mates, who lined me up perfectly for the sprint. At first I was jammed in a bit, but I managed to shake loose and open up the sprint as planned. This is my fifth victory, but it?s not exactly something you grow tired off. The support from the fans along the roads here in California is absolutely fantastic and it was great to be able to follow up on Fabian?s victory with another triumph for myself and the team,? a happy Haedo told Roadcycling.com following the stage.
Haedo?s teammate Fabian Cancellara (SUI), the overall race leader after yesterday?s Prologue, retained the Amgen Leader's Jersey after an exciting day of racing.
The 98.6-mile stage from Sausalito to Santa Rosa took the scenic coastal route along Highway 1 before turning inland for a difficult ascent up the 827-ft. Coleman Valley Road climb, 64 miles into the race. After about 10 miles, Jackson Stewart (USA) of Team BMC, who lives in nearby Los Gatos, Calif., found himself in a solo lead after attempting a breakaway move with three other riders.
?Suddenly I was a minute ahead of the field and I thought I?ll just keep it going and try for the KOM (King of the Mountains jersey),? said Stewart.
Stewart achieved this goal by remaining clear of the field over the summit of Coleman Valley Road, where he backed off as the field raced up to reabsorb him about 20 miles before the Santa Rosa finish. Stewart also claimed the three intermediate Herbalife sprint prizes, at Point Reyes Station, Tomales and Bodega Bay.
With 40 miles covered, Stewart?s lead over the peloton had grown to as much as 13 minutes, but as the field approached the steep Coleman Valley climb, with gradients up to 15 percent, the pace intensified and Stewart started to come back.
The peloton fragmented as it powered up Coleman Valley Road, and Jens Voigt (GER) of Team CSC showed strong form by following Kevin Seeldraeyers (BEL) of Saunier Duval ? Scott over the top, second in the peloton.
In the undulations following the summit, more attacks came and the group