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2nd Amgen Tour of California - Stage 4 Report
By Staff
Date: 2/22/2007
2nd Amgen Tour of California - Stage 4 Report

2nd Amgen Tour of California - Stage 4  Report
The Cricket Roars! Vittoria Paolo!!  Bettini opens his account for the year with California Gold. The Magnificent 7 are denied their goal of reaching the Mission of San Luis Obispo alone.

By Bart Hazen

World Champion Paolo Bettini took a close victory against the super sprinters Thor Hushvod (Credit Agricole) and Gerald Ciolek of T-Mobile.

Paolo smiles as he receives some California tribute for the stage winner and World Champion no doubt a magnum of the excellent champagne produced in the Golden State. T-Mobile's Gerald Ciolek, second today smiles in the background. Photo copyright Celia Cole

The race was animated by the a day long break of 7 riders - Aussie Hilton Clarke of Navigators, serial attacker of in two stages Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole),  Aaron Olsen (T-Mobile) Alejandro Acton (Colavita'Sutter Home Wines), Sean Sullivan (Toyota/United Pro) Vaughter's Slipstream lad, Lucas Euser, and Kirk O'Bee of HealthNet/Maxxis, who worked well together during the day and gained a max advantage of 5 minutes.

The escapees defiantly held the lions at bay until they were absorbed by the sprinters teams, (but not without Hilton Clarke making several attempts to avoid capture) when the teams closed in for the kill only 5 kms from the finish.

Tour of California Stage 4:
Seaside – San Luis Obispo, 213.4 km

Stage 4 in the Tour of California is the longest stage from Seaside to San Luis Obispo over 213.4 km. Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) started the race in the leader jersey. The other jerseys are being worn by Jens Voigt (points), Thomas Peterson (Mountains) and Matthew Lloyd (Young rider), Christophe Laurent (Most Aggressive riders) and Team CSC is leading the team ranking.

The stage started in bad weather, with the winter rains typical for California at this time of year giving the state some needed rain but wetting the roads for the riders. 

From the gun several riders tried to attack in spite of the downpour after the neutralized parade out of Seaside; Ben Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health), Jonathan Garcia and Mike Sayers of BMC, and Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance) were the first to try to give the peloton the slip. William Frischkorn (Slipstream/Chipotle), Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole), Timothy Johnson (Health Net/Maxxis), Jackson Stewart (BMC) and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) tried to go across but some kilometers later all where caught by the peloton discouraging an early escape in these conditions.

After 32 km of racing Aaron Olson (T-Mobile), Kirk O'Bee (Health Net/Maxxis), Alejandro Acton (Colavita/Sutter Home) and this weeks serial attacker Christophe Laurent of Credit Agricole launched an attack getting a good gap on the field. This looked to be the break of the day because the riders were not dangerous to Discovery's black and blue raiders and their capitan Levi Leipheimer and his Golden Fleece jersey of the race leader.

It’s another case of 'all the usual suspects' with some of the riders who have proved to be among the most aggressive riders in this 2nd edition of California tour. Christophe Laurent is the most aggressive rider, but the other three riders we have seen a few times in front as well during the stages. About 10 km later Hilton Clarke (Navigators), Lucas Euser (Team Slipstream/Chipotle) and Sean Sullivan (Toyota/United Pro) joined the break, as the riders wend their way south along the scenic Pacific Ocean and approach the first King of the Mountains contest at Big Sur. The now, "Magnificent 7" pressed on growing the gap to 2 minutes an unconcerned Discovery led peloton. Apparently at this point the other teams were happy to let Levi's boys drive the bus as they suffered in the wind and Californian 'liquid' sun.

On the first KOM, Christophe Laurent flew the blanc & vert maillot of Credit Agricole over the line first to take  the maximum points. Laurent is hunting for the KOM jersey currently being worn by one of the young guns of Slipstream, Thomas Peterson. With two more KoM's to come Christoph can seal the deal on the climbers jersey if the break stays away. Breakmate and local lad Lucas Euser is riding into his home territory as a student of Cal Poly at the finish in San Luis Obispo. So the rider of the team of sport director Jonathan Vaughters, must have a lot of fans on the road today.

Discovery Channel rider Tony Cruz led the tempo while the gap grew for the "Magnificent 7" who set about the task, working well together. A chance encounter with some of Big Sur's more famous residents? Is it Clint Eastwood or one of the screen stars of the magic coast? No it was a few hundred California Sea Lions basking on the beach enjoying a nap or watching the race, some look and wave their tails and flippers cheering the riders who pass on the highway only feet away from their new cycling crazy fans. Now that's something you don't see along the Riviera in France.

The highest ranked rider in the break is Ed Beamon's Navigator fast man Hilton Clarke. "Hilti" is  3:14 away from the golden fleece, and his current gap 3:20, making him the virtual leader on the road. But, there are still 135 wet kilometers on his Colnago bike to put that fleece on his shoulders.  The first intermediate sprint was won by Tom Schuler's Colavita rider Alejandro Acton, ahead of Laurent and Jeff Corbett's Kirk O’Bee.

The Second KOM and Lucas Euser sprints ahead of Laurent and Acton for the max points no doubt trying to deny Laurent the points in deference to his team mate Thomas Peterson who started in the jersey of mountain king. 4 km Laurent trades places with Euser gaining the max points with Acton in third. Laurent secured the mountains jersey for today, which is a well deserved present for the French rider. Back in the field it’s still Discovery pounding out the pace, the black and blue riders working to steal the victory from this small group of bike gunslingers on the road to the ancient mission Padre  Junipero Serra established during the colonial period of Spain.

With 80 km to go the the riders passed the Castle of William Randolph Hearst perched high upon a hill over looking the Pacific Ocean. Orson Welles profiled the publisher and his castle as "Xanadu" in the film he co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in, Citizen Kane, most often chosen in polls of film critics as the greatest film ever made. Upon its release, Hearst's newspapers viciously attacked the film; apparently hitting way to close to home for the billionaire.

Of course these tidbits of California history were not on the escapees minds as passed. All their efforts were focused on staying away from the dark mass of riders chasing them led by the black and blue jerseys hungry to collect  the our  heroes the "Magnificent 7" as they pushed forward on their attack. In the meantime with 60 km to go the leaders have extend there lead to 4:30 on the maw of the chasing beast, as Acton picks up another intermediate sprint ahead of Laurent and Clarke our leader on the road.

With 50 km to go the gap is shrinks to 3:30, and with 40 km to go it’s down to 2:35 all due to the work of Discovery Channel led peloton Antonio Cruz, a few more kms and Liquigas and Rabobank riders tentatively join the American team at the front. The hunters sense some weakness as gap lessens to there target bit by bit and anticipation of victory approaching. With 30 km to go the gap was down to 2.25 which mean that Hilton Clarke is no longer the virtual leader. But that doesn't stop Clarke from attacking the break every time it slags off on the effort, each time he does the six fight to regain his wheel with renewed effort. Clarke looks to be the strongest in the bunch, but with some180 kilometers in their legs the lads brave effort might prove daunting at this point.

Clarke, O'Bee, Euser, Olson, Sullivan and the other guys are still working together, trying to stay ahead of the pack, while the gap is drops to 1:30 now. The peloton have not unleashed the full blood lust of the hounds to chase down 7 ahead... the hunters will soon cry out "unleash the hounds of war" as actor Russell Crowe did in the movie Gladiator... but like the character he played the 7 gladiators on the road ahead continued to fight to the chase behind.

Rabobank and Liquigas hammer the front as a Clarke makes one last attempt as one by the one the magnificent 7 finally surrender and were swept up by the charging beast with 5 km to go.

T-Mobile, CSC and Discovery moved to the front, Quickstep and Liquigas join and the colors vibrate and change as the team prepared the final charge. Yesterday’s stage winner and CSC strongman Jens Voigt jumps to the front and leaves the peloton behind... not what Jens had in mind, but the peloton seems unable to match his power... and he slips off the front again and sits up and waits to position himself for the teams sprint lead out for J.J. Haedo.

Going into the final km, CSC is still leading with Voigt and Julich driving the front as other teams position their lead outs. Into the final turn Rabobank took over, starting the sprint with Hayman and Brown. But it’s the World Champion of Salzburg, Paolo Bettini who grabs the stage just ahead of young German Gerald Ciolek (T-Mobile) and JJ Haedo (CSC).

Paolo Bettini, Il Grillo or the cricket, takes his first victory of the year. It’s also his first victory on American soil.

Now that's California Gold!

Leipheimer remains in the "Golden Fleece" with about 3 seconds on Jens Voigt.

Stage 4 Podium: Juan Jose Haedo, World Champion Paolo Bettini and Gerald Ciolek. Photo copyright Celia Cole

Provisional Results
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 5:05:47
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) T-mobile
3 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team CSC

4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
5 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Henk Vogels (Aus) Toyota United Pro
8 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
9 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
10 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Predictor-Lotto

Levi Leipheimer on the Podium after Stage 4 Photo copyright Celia Cole

General Classification after Stage 4
Official Result Top 15
1. 21 USA 19731024 LEIPHEIMER Levi DSC 17.52'12"
2. 8 GER 19710917 VOIGT Jens CSC 17.52'15" 3"
3. 108 AUS 19820208 SUTHERLAND Rory HNM 17.52'27" 15"
4. 81 USA 19711023 HORNER Christopher PRL 17.52'28" 16"
5. 12 COL 19790521 ARDILA CANO Mauricio Alberto RAB 17.52'29" 17"

6. 94 AUS 19781211 DAY Ben NIC 17.52'30" 18"
7. 101 CAN 19801209 HESJEDAL Ryder HNM 17.52'31" 19"
8. 41 AUS 19791220 ROGERS Michael TMO 17.52'31" ...
9. 96 UZB 19810114 LAGUTIN Sergey NIC 17.52'32" 20"
10. 6 AUS 19730806 O'GRADY Stuart CSC 17.52'32" ...
11. 71 ITA 19780115 PELLIZOTTI Franco LIQ 17.52'35" 23"
12. 95 UKR 19770205 KOBZARENKO Veleriy NIC 17.52'35" ...
13. 2 USA 19711118 JULICH Bobby CSC 17.52'36" 24"
14. 121 USA 19751015 BALDWIN Christopher TUP 17.52'36" ...
15. 45 LUX 19780703 KIRCHEN Kim TMO 17.52'37" 25"

Full Official results and more photos to come...

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2nd Amgen Tour of California - Stage 3 Report & Photos
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