Nocentini Wins Stage 7 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California
Fans in Pasadena came out in droves to witness the finish to Stage 7 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, which included five, five-mile laps on a very demanding circuit through the area surrounding the Rose Bowl. After a challenging day of cycling, Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) of Team AG2R-La Mondiale crossed the finish line to take the stage, followed closely by Hayden Roulston (NZL) of Cervelo Test Team and Pieter Weening (NED) of Team Rabobank. Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Astana retained the overall lead heading into the final stage of the race, which will take riders into San Diego County for the first time, as they race from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido tomorrow.
“The Rose Bowl had a ton of people on the floor today,” Leipheimer commented after today's stage. “When we rode in, there was so much noise from the crowd. All of the guys were really motivated by that.”
Hollywood celebrities, including actor Luke Wilson, who is an ambassador for Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer initiative and Stand Up To Cancer, came out to support the Los Angeles leg of the race.
“I’m in awe of the professional cyclists who are taking part in the Amgen Tour of California,” said Wilson.
The penultimate day of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California featured the same difficult, hilly and technical terrain that was used in the final day of the 2008 race. The stage opened with a gradual 25-mile climb out of Santa Clarita, through Acton, to the intersection of Angeles Forest Road. Showcasing the breathtaking beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains, the course continued uphill to the massive Millcreek Summit, which at 4,906 ft. is the second-highest elevation ever reached in the race. The riders then headed down a 15-mile trek to Angeles Crest Highway before dropping precipitously to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Surrounded by mountains and the legendary stadium, the field concluded the stage with five challenging laps on a rolling five-mile circuit around the picturesque Rose Bowl.
Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California began with the launch of several attacks and counter-attacks to try and get a break going. It was a day characterized by very aggressive riding that left 16 riders behind the peloton. An hour and a half into the stage, a successful attack was launched led by Saxo Bank rider Frank Schleck (LUX) and George Hincapie (USA) of Team Columbia-Highroad, along five additional riders, with Astana at the front of the peloton setting the pace for the chase.
As the riders approached the only King of the Mountain (KOM) of the stage Millcreek Summit, team managers were urged to warn their riders about the enormous crowds lining the turns on the descent. A similar warning was issued as the pack headed into the finishing circuits at the Rose Bowl, a testament to the huge crowds that have turned out to watch the race throughout the past eight days.
At 48 miles into the race, three more riders joined the break to make it 10 strong, including Chris Baldwin (USA) of Rock Racing, Pieter Weening (NED) of Team Rabobank, Addy Engels (NED) of Team Quick Step, Martin Elmiger (SUI) of Team AG2R-La Mondiale, Markus Zberg (SUI) of Team BMC, Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream, Schleck, Roulston, Hincapie and Nocentini.
After a series of attacks on the final two laps, Weening, Nocentini and Roulston opened up a gap that proved to be the winning move. The trio dueled to the finish with Nocentini beating out Roulston on the line. Leipheimer retained his overall lead with 36 seconds over David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream heading in the final stage of the race tomorrow.
“This was a hard stage in the beginning,” Leipheimer said after the stage. “There were a lot of attacks with riders dangerous for the overall general classification. It took a while before there was a breakaway with which we could agree.”
“Today was the same stage as last year so we knew the stage, but luckily it wasn’t the same weather. It was freezing cold last year, but this year it was beautiful, so we knew it was going to be aggressive. We just wanted to keep someone in the breakaway since we knew it was going to snap at one point,” Christian Vande Velde told Roadcycling.com after the stage.
“It was a super hard race; it took almost 40 miles until the breakaway was established. It wasn’t fun getting into it, but once we got away, it was good. Then, when we came into the circuits, it was warm and the fans were unbelievable,” Vande Velde commented.
Vande Velde added that “Astana is a strong team, and they are doing good at controlling the race, but you saw a lot of aggressive racing today. Everyone is getting tired, but that’s what’s so great about cycling, nobody is just going to roll over and let them have it. It’s going to be a great race.” Remember to check out Roadcycling.com's recent interview with Christian Vande Velde.
Stage 8 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California will feature a KOM competition up Mount Palomar, the highest point ever reached in the Amgen Tour of California. Floyd Landis (USA) of Team Ouch Presented by Maxxis trains on the mountain and provided a glimpse into what the riders can expect tomorrow.
“The climb is pretty consistent and it goes from a five or six percent grade to an eight percent grade,” said Landis. “It’s as hard of a climb as you’ll find anywhere, especially at this stage in the race. After a week-long stage race, a lot of guys are tired, so the peloton will probably split up easier.”
Commenting on the state of his hip Landis told Roadcycling.com that “After my surgery, my hip is a lot less affected by temperature. Sometimes the pain would change with the pressure or the weather, but that’s gone now. I’m quite pleased that I can race now without having to think about that.”
Francisco Mancebo (ESP) of Team Rock Racing who was previously the KOM leader crashed late in the stage and had to abandon due to medical needs.
Stage 7 brought only two changes to the jersey leaders. Vande Velde was awarded Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey. Jason McCartney (USA) of Team Saxo Bank claimed the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey. Leipheimer will retain the Amgen Leader Jersey, Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and Robert Gesink (NED) of Team Rabobank the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey.