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2009 Tour of California - Stage 8 Team Comments 2
By Staff
Date: 2/23/2009
2009 Tour of California - Stage 8 Team Comments 2

2009 Tour of California - Stage 8 Team Comments 2
Parting Shots take 2 - Team & Rider Comments: David Zabriskie, Mick Rogers, Lance Armstrong,  Johann Bruyneel, Columbia's Mark Cavendish and Bob Stapleton, and Andrew Messick, President, AEG Sports

"The crowds were nothing short of amazing; Tour de France caliber. Lots of people have asked me what it’s like to ride in the Tour de France, and to that I say, ‘it’s not much different than this.’ You won’t see many more people at the Tour de France than you see here. The crowds just make this race that much more enjoyable for the riders.”  Michael Rogers Columbia High Road

David Zabriskie Garmin/Slipstream, 2nd on G.C.
On today’s race:
“Today’s stage included a lot of hills. I’ve done Palomar before, but it’s always a little easier when you’re not under pressure. The crowds were impressive. They were tripping over each other at the top and that made me a bit nervous, so I just kept my head up. But seriously, it was really nice to have them all along the course cheering. It looked like they were having a good time.”

Michael Rogers (AUS), Columbia/Highroad 3rd on G.C.
On placing third in the general classification:
“I’m stoked to have finished third overall in this race. The caliber of the field is pretty much like the Tour de France; there are only a few teams missing. Everyone is here. Looking back at the time trial in Solvang, you’ve got five or six of the world’s best time trialists. It was a star-studded field for sure, so I’m very happy with my position.”

“I don’t think there was anyone that directly attacked Levi. Jens (Voigt) and Saxo Bank gave a hard attack on the climb, so I just tried to cover my position. Astana had the race under tight control and it was difficult to break. I think a lot of people tried today, but they (Astana) were such a strong group; they showed that by winning the general classification. They were strong the whole week.”

On today’s race:
“Obviously today was a tough stage. The last climb was short and steep, and as you saw, the front group was down to 35 riders. It just goes to show how tough the stage was. The crowds were nothing short of amazing; Tour de France caliber. Lots of people have asked me what it’s like to ride in the Tour de France, and to that I say, ‘it’s not much different than this.’ You won’t see many more people at the Tour de France than you see here. The crowds just make this race that much more enjoyable for the riders.”

On his team’s future objectives:
“I think we have many objectives and not just in Europe, and we try to be a team that competes from January to the end of October. I think we showed that last year. Whether it’s a race in Europe or the Tour de France, they all are important to us. We just try to go in as a team that’s balanced and strong.”

Mark Cavendish (GBR), Herbalife Sprint Jersey Winner
Team Columbia-Highroad
“This race was extremely hard. Physically and mentally, I feel like I’ve done a Grand Tour. I think that we’ve shown that we have some great riders, but also that we have a great team overall; we have individuals that can win stages, but we also can do well in the general classification. We knew it was going to be tough to keep the sprint jersey, but everyone on my team worked so hard. Today, Michael Barry stayed with me and it was a great group to ride with between the climbs. I’m just glad we got to the finish okay.”

“I love racing in America. You see the crowds here; they were amazing. To win two stages in the Amgen Tour of California is quite special. We had a great time, not only racing, but on the team bus. It was enjoyable and we were all excited to be here.”

Bob Stapleton, Owner, Team Columbia-Highroad
On the Amgen Tour of California:
“I think this could become the world’s next Grand Tour. You saw the crowds throughout the race, and I’m sure the television and Internet audience is high as well. There was also a tremendous amount of international interest. The athletes love to come here, and I think this race has unlimited potential to be a major event that represents the U.S. and California. There are some great athletes here, but they need a great stage, and they have that in the Amgen Tour of California. I want to thank AEG and Amgen for, what I think, is one of the world’s best sporting events.”

On his team:
“One thing that is different is that we are truly a team. Everyone is committed to working hard to get results. The guys that make up this team are essential to helping set this team apart. The team isn’t built around one star, it’s built around everyone. The athletes work really well together, which helps them succeed together.”

Lance Armstrong (USA), Astana 6th on G.C.
On his impression of the Amgen Tour of California:
“I was very impressed with the event, and I think I speak on behalf of the other riders in the field when I say that everybody enjoyed the race. Obviously, we would have liked the weather to be a little different in the beginning of the race, but you can’t control that.”

“All-in-all this is a really great race. It’s really good to be back racing again. I’ve been here before in a car but it doesn’t feel the same. Most of these boys came ready to go and they got better as the race went on. We ended up getting tired because we were riding off the front for most of the stage. Hats off to the organizers, the state, and the people who came out to watch this race. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this was a great race. I’m excited to be back and I had a hell of a good time.”

“With Mt. Palomar, you have a climb that’s not exactly right down the street from people’s houses. It’s a remote climb and there were people camping out; it was very European-esque. The crowds all week have been amazing. From the start in Sacramento, to the finish of today’s stage in Escondido, I don’t think anyone can believe these crowds. It has been awesome.”

On the crowds during Stage 7:
“The crowds were simply amazing. Yesterday in Pasadena the crowds were really impressive. When we entered the circuit at the Rose Bowl, a legendary stadium, we saw hundreds of thousands of people lining the course.”

On the final day of the Amgen Tour of California:
“The final day of the Amgen Tour of California was tough. The Palomar Mountain climb was really tough; it is legit. It is twelve miles long with an elevation of 5,000 ft.; very similar to what we’d see in Europe. It’s steady, consistent. There aren’t a lot of climbs in the U.S. like that.”

On his performance in the Amgen Tour of California:
“I think there are a couple of factors that play into my performance. This only being my second race back is a factor. The team riding in the front for the entire race really takes a toll, and you can’t recover the same a rider who is sitting on someone else’s wheel. Having said that, being up front gives you the added advantage of being in a jersey, so the team morale goes up. I can’t complain. I wouldn’t say that I’m 100 percent, but I felt better today than I did yesterday. I’m glad we’re not racing tomorrow (laughing). The early weather made it hard for everyone to recover; it’s hard to prepare for bad weather.”

On the importance of athletes with interesting stories to help keep interest in cycling strong:
“Any time you want to create a movement, it needs to start with one person. You look at the personalities that we’ve had over the years, and the sport has ebbed and flowed with them. For athletes, it’s almost a part of our job. That is why we have to develop our young guys that can keep people interested in cycling. You have to have an interesting story, so that people will pay attention. People know Levi now, so they are going to go out and cheer for him. Ultimately, people will follow the story. If you don’t have people that have interesting stories, the sport will go away.”

“We have a history of having good races in the U.S., great events that get started and tons of people get involved, and then they just fall away. We can’t have that happen here. The momentum is too strong, and in four or five years, this race needs to be even bigger.”

On riding as a domestique for Levi Leipheimer:
“I saw Levi a couple of times this winter, and then of course at training camp, so I knew he was focused and motivated. Nobody came in here with any expectation to ride for Levi. As long as I can continue to achieve my goals from the cancer perspective, if I ride all year as a domestique, it’s still a win-win for me. It might be good for me personally too. I’ve spent 15 years sitting on people’s wheels, so it felt good to be up front and pulling weight. I was just excited to be here. We don’t mind working for Levi; there was no doubt in our minds that he was going to be strong.”

Johan Bruyneel, Team Director, Astana
On the 2009 Amgen Tour of California:
“We won this race the last three years with Levi, and we all know that, for Levi, this was an important race. From the past years, I saw that this race had great organization and that everyone comes to this race with the best possible line-up. This is probably one of the most competitive races compared to the Grand Tours. There were more than nine days of difficult riding. It was hard on the team and hard on Levi. He was strong, but he needed a strong team around him. We are very happy with his win. It was definitely the first big goal of the year, so to have Levi win, and for the team to take the team classification, is a great feeling.”

On today’s race:
“There was a moment today when Levi was in front with three riders from Saxo Bank and three riders from Garmin-Slipstream, but it wasn’t like we had to race out of control. I felt pretty secure with where everyone was, even with no teammates on Mt. Palomar, I still felt okay, but you know it’s never over until you cross the finish line. It felt like we had the race under control.”

On Levi leading the team to victory in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California:
“Levi is the kind of guy that when he really knows when he is going to lead, everyone on the team knows he’s ready. That is what it takes to be a team leader; to give 100 percent. We saw that this week and last year; he was ready physically. He works very hard. Even when he knows he is one of the fastest time trialists in the peloton, he still went back to fine tune his position. Everyone has seen that he was focused on the goal, and that is an ability a team leader needs to have. The guys ultimately have to suffer for him, but he’ll deliver. When he has to be there, he always delivers. It’s not easy to do this three times in a row. It becomes harder and more difficult and you have to be able to deal with that pressure, but he has always been there when expected.”

Andrew Messick, President, AEG Sports
On the 2009 Amgen Tour of California:
“We are enormously satisfied with the race. We’ve had some epic racing, beautiful terrain and enormous crowds. The ratings for our television broadcast were up about 70 percent, we were broadcasting for twice as many hours and we were broadcast live all over the world. I think people have gotten a much closer and better perspective of the race and we hope they will return as fans next year.”

“We were optimistic when we started talking a year ago about the course and how we wanted it to play out and unfold. We’ve never been to San Diego County, or to the foothills of the Sierras or to Santa Cruz, and I think each of those three stages were remarkable in different ways.”

“, (and Daily reported traffic levels similar to that of the Tour de France, so people are paying attention to cycling and Levi and what he is trying to accomplish. Given the field that we had , what he did is a remarkable achievement. The teams that were here and the amount of pressure on Astana and Levi, at every turn, they answered. It was pretty amazing to watch.”

“I think that, for the first time, people in the U.S. were treated to a race that felt just like the races in Europe. Between the racing, the crowds, the media, it was amazing. For what we think this race can be, we have to have great athletes. Cycling needs to have great races outside of Europe, and it felt a little bit like Europe throughout this week. That is a good thing.”

On the possibility of changing the date of the Amgen Tour of California:
“We spend a lot of time trying to balance the field that we have and the weather that we know we’d like. We’re mindful that the most important part of this race is having the best teams and the best riders, and this year’s field is the best example of that. What also is important to this race is to showcase California, and the weather plays a big role in that. February is one of the most rainy months here, and we spend a lot of time thinking about that.”

Jim Birrell, Race Director, Amgen Tour of California
On the 2009 Amgen Tour of California:
“Today has to go down as one of the most emotional days for me. I have been a part of the sport of cycling for 25 years and have traveled the world, but we had a milestone day today that will resonate deep within me forever. I'm so pleased with such a storybook conclusion of a three-peat with Levi.”

“I have never seen crowds on any other day of bike racing on U.S. soil like the size of the crowds we saw today.”

“I’m happy for all of our 16 host cities. We worked hard to get them on board this year, before we even knew who was in the race. I also want to thank each of the riders who helped spread the world about how incredible this event is.”

“Again, we were very fortunate to have this level of competition. The level of competition and the course is what made it has hard as it was the past nine days.”

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