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

2009 Tour of California - Stage 8 Team Comments
Parting Shots - Team & Rider Comments: Fränk Schleck, Levi Leipheimer, Rory Sutherland, Mike Tamayo of OUCH, and  Alex Sans Vega of Cervelo TestTeam...

“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.”  Mark Cavendish Columbia/Highroad

Saxo Bank
Fantastic Victory for Fränk Schleck

Fränk Schleck and Team Saxo Bank closed this year's edition of Amgen Tour of California with an impressive victory in the queen stage in the San Diego area.

The team launched a major attack early on in the mountainous stage from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido and from here on Fränk Schleck controlled events towards the finish line. After several attempts Liquigas' Vicenzo Nibali was the only one able to hang on and in spite of a fiercely chasing Astana crew the duo made it all the way.

Schleck sprinted his way to victory and concluded a successful week for Team Saxo Bank with a victory in the prologue for Cancellara and the mountain jersey for Jason McCartney. Jens Voigt finished best overall for the team in fourth place.

”I was extremely motivated today and this type of stage made it possible for me to go all the way. It was a great day for the team where we took a risk and it's fantastic to see our tactics pan out this way. I was worn at the end but luckily so was Nibali so I made it. It's still early in the season so I'm happy to get this victory already and hopefully I'll be able to maintain my form for the classics,” said a happy Fränk Schleck after the stage.

”It's been a fantastic week for us. First the prologue victory and generally during the week we've made our mark every single day. To be able to finish with such a great win for Fränk is the perfect outcome. Amgen Tour of California has grown into an important race and with this year's peloton this is a major achievement by Fränk. He was out there in the break all day and still managed to finish the job in the end, which takes guts and form,” said sports director Bradley McGee after the victory.

Frank Schleck (LUX), Saxo Bank Winner, Stage 8
On today’s race:
“Three days ago, the plan was to just to keep our energy early and just go for the last stage. Yesterday, I was in the break, but it was a very technical race and I was a bit disappointed. The riding was furious today and I said I’m just going to go for it again. The whole Saxo Bank team did a great job; the way we played it was great. I was really impressed with my brother (Andy Schleck) and Jason (McCartney) who have done really, really hard jobs the whole week. We put them out there and then I attacked from behind and we caught up. Without those guys, it never would have worked out.”

“On Palomar, that is where I attacked and got up to Andy, and then he set a really hard pace. I wanted him to slow down (laughing). But, I stayed with him and when we got to the last climb, that is when Nibali (Vincenzo) sped up and then I just had to keep going very hard to hold on. Really, for a guy like me, it took a big effort for me today for sure. I’m looking forward to having some wine tonight.”

Levi Leipheimer, Astana
Three time Champion of the Amgen Tour of California
On winning for the third time in a row:
“I’ve been trying to think about how to articulate this and it’s tough. To win it once, that was huge. To win it twice, that was almost a little bit of a surprise and almost felt like luck. But now, to have won the Amgen Tour of California three times, it’s the sweetest victory of all. It’s hard to describe, but to keep a streak like that going is difficult. I told Lance (Armstrong) that I don’t know how he won the Tour de France seven times in a row, because the pressure builds with each win. The expectations are higher. I think we proved that we were the best team in the race. There is no question about that.”

On Mt. Palomar:
“With the speed that we went up Palomar, and the riders that we were surrounded with, especially in the last kilometer, I had to remind myself that it was February in California because it felt like the Alps in July. Like Lance said, it (Mt. Palomar) is legit.”

On the crowds at the 2009 Amgen Tour of California overall:
“The Rose Bowl yesterday was unbelievable. It felt like Woodstock. No, actually, it was bigger than Woodstock. Coming through the circuit laps, it was like riding through a tunnel of noise; I couldn’t even hear Johan (team director). The crowds everywhere were amazing. In my hometown of Santa Rosa, the conditions were horrendous and I felt bad to see thousands of people suffering in the rain, and I knew we couldn’t let them down. It’s just this awesome environment in which to race. The riders feed off of it and race harder and more aggressively; everyone comes with their ‘A’ game. The crowds really motivate us a lot.”

On becoming a team leader:
“It has been a long, hard learning process to become the best that I can be and become a team leader. When the Amgen Tour of California came about in 2006, I knew I had evolved into a rider that could win this race. I have always been motivated for this race. This year, it was awesome because the team was so strong that we didn’t even need a lot of direction. Everyone is so experienced that we all know what each other are thinking. The riders can see each other and know when to take it easy or when we need to go. It has been a long, hard road to get to this point.

 I’ve trained really hard and when I was pushing myself and suffering, I dreamt of moments like the climb on Bonny Doon where it’s a long way to the finish, the conditions are horrendous, but at the spur of the moment, you feel inspired and great and you just go for it. You know that you’re fully committed to pulling it off and grabbing the yellow jersey, and to have Lance working for you the entire way, it’s like a life-long dream for me.”

Team OUCH/Maxxis
Sutherland takes 4th in Final Stage
Landis launches attacks on “home” turf.

Rory Sutherland of the OUCH Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis narrowly missed out on a podium spot in Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California in Escondido Sunday. The Australian came 4th on the stage, finishing the width of a wheel behind George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad), his nemesis from the stage into Pasadena in the 2008 edition of the race.

“George and I seem to have gone against each other a bit lately,” Sutherland. “We talked a bit after the stage. We always keep an eye on each other in groups like this because it’s the type of group that we can win a sprint from. But I think he’s just a bit more of a pure sprinter than I am.”

The sprint for 3rd on the stage, 0:39 after stage winner Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) had crossed the line, was not part of the plan for today, noted OUCH P/by Maxxis team directeur sportif Mike Tamayo. Instead, the intent was to launch Floyd Landis on his home turf in the San Diego area.

“We set it up last night,”Tamayo said. “We wanted to be aggressive and go for the stage win, or blow up trying.”

So heading up the second climb going over the Category 3 Lake Wohlford Road, the team lined it up on the front and strung out, and then split the peloton. Karl (Menzies) went first, then Brad (White), TJ (Tim Johnson) and Cam (Evans),” Tamayo said. “Floyd got a gap and we broke up the field, but Astana had too much horsepower. But we did get them to burn a match or two.”

Landis attacked again on Palomar Mountain, one of his favorite climbs for training, but he still was unable to get away. On the descent, a group of 30 riders came together, including the race leaders, as well as Landis and Sutherland.

“When we came into town, we played the card we had for the finish,” Tamayo said.

That card turned out to be the unlikely site of Landis leading out Sutherland into the final left-hand turn onto Grand Avenue for the run to the line. When Landis dropped off Sutherland going into the final turn, the Australian came out with Hincapie glued to his wheel. In the final 50 meters, the Hincapie was able to just come around and pip Sutherland on the line.

“It would’ve been great to get 3rd today, but I’m happy with the result,” Sutherland said. “It’s a bit frustrating to ride so aggressively all week, with all of us getting in breaks just about every day, and not get the result we were after.

“This race seems to get more difficult every year,” Sutherland continued. “It was certainly much harder than last year. The weather didn’t help the first part of the week, but if you look at the quality of the field, it’s just incredible. Even BMC, which is a Continental Pro team and brought a quality squad, couldn’t really get anything going. It just demonstrates how big this race has gotten in such a short amount of time.”

Cervelo TestTeam
The final and toughest stage of the Tour of California finished today in Escondido, 30 miles northeast of San Diego. The stages highlight was the climb and descent of the 1.561 km summit of Mt. Palomar, which is above categorization. It was a quiet day for the Cervélo TestTeam, though Serge Pauwel was involved in the early stage of the breakaway that finally finished with two riders Frank Schleck (SAX) who won the stage and Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ).

Alex Sans Vega commented after the race, "It was a fast race today and Saxo Bank, Garmin-Slipstream and Liquigas pushed the pace to make it even faster. Serge Pauwels was able to open a 2 minute gap but when he hit Palomar they finally were able to pull him back. Íñigo Cuesta has been sick for the last two days and put in an amazing effort being the only TestTeam rider to stay with the front of the peloton to the end of the race."

Amgen Tour of California - Stage 8 Press Release
Defending Champion Levi Leipheimer Wins Third Consecutive Title

Two Million Fans Turned Out to Watch the Best Field Ever Assembled on U.S. Soil Cycle Across California
After nine challenging and epic days of cycling through more than 750-miles of scenic California roads, and a thrilling fight to the finish, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was crowned champion of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, solidifying a three-peat for the California resident. With a week-long total time of 31 hours, 28 minutes and 21 seconds, Leipheimer accepted the highly coveted title of race champion in front of massive cheering crowds in Escondido, which brought the race total to 2 million fans along the race route from Sacramento to Escondido. In a nine-day battle against the best field ever assembled to compete in the United States, which included Tour de France winners, Olympic medalists and World Champions, Frank Schleck (LUX) of Saxo Bank claimed the Stage 8 win.

“I’ve been trying to think about how to articulate this and it’s tough,” said Leipheimer. “To win it once, that was huge. To win it twice, that was almost a little bit of a surprise and almost felt like luck. But now, to have won the Amgen Tour of California three times, it’s the sweetest victory of all. I think we proved that we were the best team in the race. There is no question about that.”

David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Slipstream finished in second place overall at 36 seconds behind Leipheimer, and Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Columbia-Highroad finished third at 45 seconds behind.

In one of the most difficult stages of the 2009 race, the 96.8-mile route from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido included one sprint and four King of the Mountain (KOM) climbs, including the ‘above categorization’ ascent of Palomar Mountain, the highest point ever reached in the Amgen Tour of California at 5,123 feet. The ascent unfolded over 11.7 miles and included 21 switchbacks at an average gradient of seven percent.

The Queen stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California began with an early breakaway of nine riders, which was split up a half hour later. Soon after, a second breakaway formed, which included Schleck and inaugural Amgen Tour of California winner Floyd Landis (USA) of Ouch Presented by Maxxis. Chased and eventually caught by the top-three riders in the general classification, Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie, the breakaway included most of the top riders in the peloton.

Lined with fans, some of which had camped out for two nights to secure their spot to watch the cyclists compete in the final day of the race, Mount Palomar made the final stage of the race an extremely challenging course. Schleck opened up a gap on the descent, but was then joined by three additional riders to make a group of four. With Lance Armstrong (USA) of Astana setting a fast pace at the front of the field, the gap began to close. After riding in the breakaway for most of the day, Schleck battled Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas up to the finish line to take the final stage with the roar of cheering fans in Escondido in the background.

“The riding was furious today and I said, ‘I’m just going to go for it again’,” said Schleck. “On Palomar, that is where I attacked and got up to Andy (Schleck), and then he set a really hard pace. Really, for a guy like me, it took a big effort today for sure.”

Today’s stage brought a close to the competition for the Amgen Tour of California jerseys. The Amgen Leader Jersey was awarded to Leipheimer for the third consecutive year. In addition to winning the final stage of the race, Schleck claimed Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer™ Most Courageous Rider Jersey. Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad retained the Herbalife Sprint Jersey and Rabobank’s Robert Gesink (NED) the Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey. Jason McCartney (USA) of Saxo Bank held onto the climbing lead to take the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey. With a celebratory champagne fight on the awards stage, Astana claimed the overall team classification for the first time.

In addition to increased programming on VERSUS, the Amgen Tour of California Web site saw a significant increase in traffic during the 2009 race. Total visitors to the Web site topped 1.3 million in the month of February, compared to 777,000 in February 2008, and total page impressions for this month exceeded 5.1 million.

“We are enormously satisfied with the race,” said Andrew Messick, president, AEG Sports, presenter of 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.”

San Diego cancer survivor Gary Miller was honored and celebrated today at the final Breakaway Mile, a one-mile honorary bicycle ride that crossed the finish line prior to the professional race conclusion. During the event, Miller was joined by his support team of family members and close friends, as well as Joe Miletich, Amgen’s senior vice president of Research & Development, who plays a crucial role in developing innovate medicines to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.

“When my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer it happened at a time when our health insurance was in transition and we were required to go on COBRA for several months,” explained Karen Miller, spouse of Breakaway Mile rider Gary Miller. “My first call was to Patient Advocate Foundation and they were an immediate source of support and expertise. They guided me through the maze and I felt a sense of relief and hope.”

Breakaway from Cancer™ nonprofit partners play leading roles in every aspect of cancer care to help people affected by the disease. The Escondido Breakaway Mile highlighted the Patient Advocate Foundation, which was established in 1996 as a national 501(c)3 organization with a mission of safeguarding patients with chronic, life threatening, and/or debilitating illnesses assuring access to care, maintenance of employment and preservation of their financial stability.

"Breakaway from Cancer is an initiative that captures the essence of every cancer patient's commitment as they face their fears and race to conquer cancer,” said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, founder and CEO, Patient Advocate Foundation. “We are so very honored to be a partner in this event with our fellow nonprofit colleagues and to join the survivors and their caregivers in celebrating with professional cyclists the thrill of victory as their ride calls out the importance of cancer research and survivorship for all patients and their loved ones in the United States.”

The Breakaway from Cancer initiative is designed to increase awareness of the important resources available to cancer patients from prevention to education, and patient care to advocacy and financial support. For the latest information on Breakaway from Cancer and ways to support those living with the illness, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.

“Amgen is proud of our sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California, a spectacular race that again this year saw the world’s best cyclists battle it out along California’s beautiful landscape,” said Miletich. In addition to riding in today’s Breakaway Mile, Miletich also presented the final Amgen Leader Jersey to 2009 Amgen Tour of California winner Leipheimer.
“As a company dedicated to tapping the power of pioneering science to fight serious illness, Amgen is passionate about helping people who are battling cancer, and Breakaway from Cancer is one of the ways that Amgen is fighting cancer on multiple fronts. The 17,000 staff members at Amgen come to work every day motivated by the chance to make a dramatic difference in the lives of people suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses.”

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About the Amgen Tour of California   The largest cycling event in America, the Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race, presented by AEG, that challenges the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course. Building on last year's third-annual stage race, which attracted 1.6 million spectators, the 2009 Amgen Tour of California will be expanded to cover more than 750 miles over nine days from February 14-22, 2009.

About Amgen  Amgen discovers, develops, manufactures and delivers innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen was one of the first companies to realize the new science's promise by bringing safe and effective medicines from lab, to manufacturing plant, to patient. Amgen therapeutics have changed the practice of medicine, helping millions of people around the world in the fight against cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious illnesses. With a deep and broad pipeline of potential new medicines, Amgen remains committed to advancing science to dramatically improve people's lives. To learn more about Amgen's pioneering science and vital medicines, visit www.amgen.com. To learn more about Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer initiative, visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.

About AEG AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Company, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, Sprint Center, The O2, NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE and NOKIA Theatre Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), two Major League Soccer franchises, a Major League Lacrosse team, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers, the ING Bay to Breakers foot race and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race; AEG LIVE, the organization’s live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring and a variety of programming and multi-media production. For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.

For full results, archived footage, team information and more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.


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