Tour of California stage 6: Here Comes Haedo!

The sky was blue, the racing intense, and the crowds were thick as Team CSC's Argentinean freight tr

The sky was blue, the racing intense, and the crowds were thick as Team CSC's Argentinean freight tr
PIC BY GARY J. BOULANGER Argentinean sprinter JJ Haedo (Team CSC) finished off yet another exciting field sprint to take the victory from Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic) and Greg Henderson (T-Mobile) in the second to last stage of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California under blue skies in Santa Clarita. It was Haedo's second victory this week, with overall race leader, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer close behind, maintaining possession of the Amgen leader jersey going into Sunday's final stage in Long Beach, CA. Today's stage 6 saw the toughest racing, the warmest weather and the biggest crowds of the seven racing days so far, as the peloton of world-class cyclists competed along a hilly route from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. "I had to go really deep the whole day," said Haedo. "I think it was the hardest day in the Tour of California for sure. It was a hard day for the sprinters to go over the climb; there was a lot of attacking. I made my way back to the big group before the third KOM [King of the Mountains], and then I tried to stay in the front with my team." Leipheimer, the general classification leader since the prologue time trial in San Francisco seven days ago, retained the Amgen leader's jersey after a 65-mile (105 km) breakaway spearheaded by Team CSC's Stuart O'Grady (Aus), which earned him today's Adobe Most Aggressive Rider Jersey. "I initiated the breakaway," O'Grady said at the post-race press conference. "The objective was to put pressure on the Discovery Channel team and see if we could get the leader's jersey. We had some very good riders in the group, including two former time trial world champions, and I thought we had a pretty good chance of success. At one point the chase started to gain ground on us and we worked hard to pull away again. We were working very well together; when they finally absorbed us in the final laps I went back to try and help JJ in the sprint, but there was nothing left in my legs. It wasn't a question of mind over matter!" According to California Highway Patrol estimates, the crowd was the biggest of any in the 15 stages of the Amgen Tour of California since the race debuted last year. Pat McQuaid, president of Union Cycliste International (UCI), the international governing body of cycling, also was on hand for today's stage. "This race is bigger than it was last year," said McQuaid at a post-race press conference. "The organization has gotten bigger. I'm very happy with their [the organizers'] continued commitment to this event. There are more people on the sidelines than last year's race." In an example of the aggressive riding today, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's American duo George Hincapie and Tony Cruz touched wheels during an attack and crashed after only three miles (5km) of racing. Hincapie, who won two stages in last year's Tour of California and fourth place overall, finished the stage, but the team released a statement that he has been diagnosed with a broken left wrist and will not participate in tomorrow's final stage in Long Beach. Cruz came away with bruises and road rash, but no serious injuries. Following the crash, the race continued to be marked by a succession of attacks from several teams to challenge Leipheimer, as well as other jersey holders. Credit Agricole's Christophe Laurent (Fra) and Quick Step-Innergetic's Jurgen Van de Walle (Bel) joined two other riders in an early breakaway to contest the California Tourism and Travel King of the Mountains (KOM) jersey in the final day of climbing. Van de Walle was slightly stronger today, but Laurent picked up enough points to retain the jersey. "The climbing in this race was quite challenging, so it is very satisfying to win the King of the Mountains jersey," said Laurent in a press conference today. "I am very happy to take the (KOM) jersey in such an important race." O'Grady's breakaway group of nine contained two former time trial world champions, T-Mobile Team's Michael Rogers (Aus) and Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle's Danny Pate (USA). The gap grew as wide as three minutes, but relentless chasing by Discovery Channel Pro brought it to 1:15 as the riders entered the three 3.5-mile (5.6 km) finishing circuits in Santa Clarita. As the peloton worked to overtake the breakaway during the three circuits, Health Net presented by Maxxis riders came to the front and helped the Discovery Channel Pro team close the gap. The breakaway was caught with less than two miles to go, ensuring Leipheimer will ride into Long Beach tomorrow wearing the leader jersey for the final day of racing. The Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey was awarded to Rabobank's Robert Gesink (Ned). Haedo retained the Herbalife Sprint Jersey after today's race. Stage 6 Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita results 1 Jos Juan Haedo (Arg, Team CSC) 3:56:04 2 Greg Henderson (Nzl, T-Mobile) 3 Paolo Bettini (Ita, Quick Step-Innergetic) 4 Thor Hushovd (Nor, Crdit Agricole) 5 Fred Rodriguez (USA, Predictor-Lotto) 6 Robert Frster (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 7 Luca Paolini (Ita, Liquigas-Bianchi) 8 Alexander Candelario (USA, Jelly Belly) 9 Alejandro Acton (Arg, Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home) 10 Russell Downing (GBr, Health Net-Maxxis) General classification after stage 6 1 Levi Leipheimer (USA, Discovery Channel) 22:17:56 2 Jens Voigt (Ger, Team CSC) 0:00:21 3 Jason McCartney (USA, Discovery Channel) 0:00:54 4 Bobby Julich (USA, Team CSC) 0:01:06 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 0:01:16 6 Christian Vande Velde (USA, Team CSC) 0:01:24 7 Michael Rogers (Aus, T-Mobile) 0:01:32 8 Ben Day (Aus, Navigators Insurance) 0:01:38 9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita, Liquigas-Bianchi) 0:01:41 10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can, Health Net-Maxxis) 0:01:57 Got a comment? 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