Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) defeated the peloton and more than 5,000 feet of climbing in stage two of the Tour of the Gila. The Argentinean sprinter convincingly won the reduced-bunch sprint ahead of Alex Howes (Garmin-Holowekso Partners-Felt) and Rory Sutherland (OUCH).
"My teammates took me to Sutherland's wheel but I saw that there was a really strong head wind so I was patient and waited to start my sprint," said Haedo. "Luis was very strong in the break away but he started cramping in the end. We were hoping to move him up further in the overall."
Race leader Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny's) arrived to the finish line safely after a day marred with crashes. The Santa Rosa, California native maintained a 49-second time margin ahead of second placed Peter Stetina (Garmin-Holowesko Partners-Felt) and one minute ahead of third placed Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing).
"We are just going to keep doing what we can and trying out best," said Levi regarding his teammate Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner all-day efforts over mountains and through strong winds to bring back the lengthy breakaway. "The stages are short so I think it is a perfect way to taper the volume but keep some intensity."
A four-rider, mid-race breakaway missed succeeding to the finish line by one kilometre. The group included Sean Milne (Team Type 1), Floyd Landis (OUCH), Caleb Fairley (Garmin-Holowesko Partners-Felt) and Luis Amaran (Colavita-Sutter Home) and gained a maximum of four minutes.
Amaran fell off the pace on the crest of the final climb with 16 kilometres to the finish. Milne made several bids at a solo victory, noting that Landis had proven to be the strongest rider in the break taking long pulls over the hills in his big ring. Fairley looked back and saw the peloton approaching fast and sat up while Milne made one last dig for glory but the peloton was motivated to see a field sprint and the pair was caught.
Sutherland's OUCH teammates drove the front of the peloton into the long-awaited right hand turn into the Fort Bayard start-finish area. With one kilometre to go the squad looked to have control of the final sprint and Sutherland made the first move with 300 metres to go. Haedo sensed that the strong head wind may play a part in the finale and waited patiently for his winning move with 100 metres to go.
"I passed about four guys in the last sprint, the headwind was so strong," said Howes, who hopes his U23 squad will capture a stage win after two strong second place finishes. "Haedo is a talented rider. He's the kind of guy that doesn't need too much either; maybe just one Hail Marry to get him up to the front and go for it. We are kind of banging our heads against the wall because we are right there and we just can't seem to pull it off."
Stage 3 continues Friday with the 25km Tyrone Time Trial.
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