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Navigators Insurance Tour of California Stage 2 Report
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 2/22/2006
Navigators Insurance Tour of California Stage 2 Report
 

 

Navigators Insurance Tour of California Report Stage 2
"Beamon's task was relatively easy when compared to what the riders would be doing. Speak, motivate, plan, and coordinate. He did not have to face the Sierra grade, an eight-mile climb that starts at 18 percent...  He did not have to endure the pain."

By Chris G. Baldwin

The Navigators began their day in the sun, parked in downtown Martinez next to the old jail, their chairs arranged in a semi-circle as Director Sportif Ed Beamon described the race plan for the stage.

"At this point you need to concentrate on the leaders and bring up the G.C. guys for the climb," said Beamon, pointing to a laminated road map no larger than a bookmark. On it was the elevation profile of the second stage of the Amgen Tour Of California, and Beamon had his finger on the final climb, a thick golden smudge in a field of white. The riders looked at him from behind sunglasses and nodded.

The Navigators are the only Continental Pro cycling team in the United States with an international racing calendar and an international racing line-up. At this morning's start in Martinez two Russians, two Australians, a Ukrainian, a Canadian, the Irish National Champion, and an American rolled out on the Colnago Cristallo team bikes of the Navigators.

Beamon's task was relatively easy when compared to what the riders would be doing. Speak, motivate, plan, and coordinate. He did not have to face the Sierra grade, an eight-mile climb just outside of San Jose that starts at an unforgiving 18 percent and only levels to a more humane 10 percent after the first half mile. He did not have to endure the pain.

"The key to this race is the climb, but there's four lanes of big, long boulevard leading into it, so we have to get ready for that left turn and take care of Phil," said Beamon.
American Phil Zajicek, sitting in 28th place on G.C. at the start, 19 seconds back from leader Levi Leipheimer, was the most well-positioned Navigators rider and was one of several who said he felt good enough to try his legs on the day. Sergey Lagutin, Valeriy Kobzarenko and David O'Laughlin were all mentioned in the same breath by Beamon when he unfolded their game plan before them.

The early trio of riders who broke away, none of whom were Navigators, had at one time a six-minute lead over the peloton, led by a prowling Gerolsteiner squad content to allow such a gap. Two intermediate climbs were taken with in this manner before the Discovery Channel squad came up and started a methodical pursuit of the leaders, taking large chunks out of their time advantage as the final climb approached.

"Discovery was setting this very fast tempo and I was just cross-eyed from the get-go," said Zajicek. He was well shepherded by teammates through the windy boulevard and had an excellent position coming on to the Sierra Grade. The final selection was being made and soon the breakaway would come into sight, along with the looming summit.

"I was able to get really good position coming in to the bottom, which was everything because it was super steep. I felt really good and about 2k into the climb we came around a corner and could see the summit towering above us. I started to crack a little bit, started to lose contact with the group, but I just settled into a really nice rhythm and caught back after a little bit. With about a kilometer to go I lost contact again and just rode tempo over the top and was able to catch over the rollers," said Zajicek.

Three different riders, chased by two more, and then followed by two packs of about six riders each, had all made their way over the top of a very crowded and sunny hilltop overlooking San Jose for the day. What lay ahead was a chance to reunite as a group somewhere along the descent, and Zajicek took his time to recover and then regroup.

"There were just about ten guys ahead of us, with Discovery setting a really fast tempo, and then it all rejoined in a group of about 20. Zabriskie got off the front for a little bit, but Discovery was all over that and shut it down," said Zajicek.

He swung into the streets of this south bay city in the company of 21 others. The roads were closed to traffic and the finish line was crowded with bell-ringing fans. On the balconies of office buildings, tech workers from Silicon Valley stood by the hundreds, taking a break from their jobs to watch a flying pack of athletes come hurtling in.

"I kind of got tangled up with a Lotto guy with about 500 meters to go," said Zajicek. "At least I think it was 500 meters to go." He finished 13th on the day, one of only two non ProTour riders in the final group. A remarkable distinction and a sure sign that he is on form and riding well. His teammates Kobzarenko and Glen Chadwick, having done their job well by bringing him in to the final climb, finished in the second group.

"I'm 24 seconds down, so I've got to put in a big time trial tomorrow. It should be a good one," said Zajicek.


Phil Zajicek c. Navigators Ins. Pro Cycling

Stage Result:
1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 4.01.26
2 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
3 Josep Jufre Pou (Spa) Davitamon-Lotto

Overall GC:
1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 7.20.28
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.04
3 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.09
13 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.24
14 Phil Zajicek (USA) Navigators Insurance

 
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