Tour of California stage 4: fast, wet and historic: Bettini!

Italian supercyclist Paolo Bettini proved his worth to local sponsor Specialized today, snagging the

Italian supercyclist Paolo Bettini proved his worth to local sponsor Specialized today, snagging the
PIC BY GARY J. BOULANGER Quick Step-Innergetic's current Olympic and world road champion Paolo Bettini (Ita), made cycling history when he edged out T-Mobile's Gerald Ciolek (Ger) in a dramatic photo finish to win Stage 4 of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. For the first time ever, a reigning Olympic and world road champion won a race held on U.S. soil. "Day by day, I'm discovering California on this course and it is beautiful," said Bettini, who coincidentally comes from La California in Italy. "Here in California the courses are good for me. They are difficult, but not too difficult; the fans here are incredible, just incredible." Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer finished the longest stage of the eight-day race (132.6 miles/213.4km), in 36th place, which was enough for the Santa Rosa, Calif., resident to retain the overall golden leader's jersey. "Today was the postcard of the Amgen Tour of California," Leipheimer said after the race. "Riding down Highway 1 through Big Sur was pretty amazing and very beautiful." The ride from Seaside to San Luis Obispo was punctuated by two brief rain showers and some of the most striking scenery yet, as the cyclists rode hard down the Highway 1 coastline. The average speed was 25.8mph (41.5km/h), with the leaders completing the course in 5:05:47. Leipheimer, the overall leader since the Prologue in San Francisco, was upbeat about keeping the Amgen leader's jersey until the finish in Long Beach. "I'm pretty confident; I feel good. I feel like I'm the best rider in the race," said Leipheimer at a post-race press conference. After a very active opening few miles today in which Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light's Alejandro Acton (Arg) launched repeated attacks, three riders broke away from the peloton after 18 miles, including Acton, T-Mobile's Aaron Olson (USA) and Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis' Kirk O'Bee (USA). Credit Agricole's Christophe Laurent (Fra) soon bridged the gap to join the breakaway and was followed two miles later by Navigators Insurance Cycling Team's Hilton Clarke (Aus), San Luis Obispo hometown favourite Lucas Euser of Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle, and Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team's Sean Sullivan (Aus). This group of seven stayed clear of the peloton until about ten miles from the finish. Fulfilling his declaration to claim the California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountains (KOM) competition after an 80-mile breakaway on Stage 2, Laurent pulled on the 'sunshine jersey' today as the race's most consistent climber after winning two of the three KOMs on offer. "The king of the mountains jersey was not in the front my mind before the race, but it is always in the back of my mind," said Laurent at the end of today's stage. "After the first day I had decided it would be my goal." In the Herbalife Sprint competition, Haedo leapfrogged Rabobank's Graeme Brown (Aus) to take the lead with 28 points. Predictor-Lotto's Matthew Lloyd (Aus) maintained his lead over Rabobank's Robert Gesink (Ned) as Union Bank's Best Young Rider by seven seconds. Colavita/Sutter Home's Alejandro Acton (Arg) was voted as the Adobe Most Aggressive Rider. Stage 4 Results 1 Paolo Bettini (Ita, Quick Step-Innergetic 5:05:47 2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger, T-Mobile) 3 Juan Jos Haedo (Arg, Team CSC) 4 Thor Hushovd (Nor, Crdit Agricole) 5 Graeme Brown (Aus, Rabobank) 6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 7 Henk Vogels (Aus, Toyota United) 8 Robert Frster (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 9 Mathew Hayman (Aus, Rabobank) 10 Fred Rodriguez (USA, Predictor-Lotto) General Classification after stage 4 1 Levi Leipheimer (USA, Discovery Channel) 17:52:12 2 Jens Voigt (Ger, Team CSC) 0:00:03 3 Rory Sutherland (Aus, Health Net-Maxxis) 0:00:15 4 Christopher Horner (USA, Predictor-Lotto) 0:00:16 5 Ardila Cano Mauricio Alberto (Col, Rabobank) 0:00:17 6 Ben Day (Aus, Navigators Insurance) 0:00:18 7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can, Health Net-Maxxis) 0:00:19 8 Michael Rogers (Aus, T-Mobile) 9 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb, Navigators Insurance) 0:00:20 10 Stuart O'Grady (Aus, Team CSC) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
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