Tour of California: Voices after stage 1

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19.02.2008/ J.J. Haedo won the first stage of the Tour of California by outsprinting some of his main rivals in a bunch sprint. But not all sprinters were in the first group after an exiting stage. Here some quotes after stage 1.

© Kathleen Poulos
Fabian Cancellara defended his yellow jersey... (© Kathleen Poulos)

Juan Josť Haedo secured Team CSC a second victory in Tour of California, when the Argentinean was fastest in the sprint, which decided the 156-kilometer first stage from Sausalito to Santa Rosa.

"First of all I wanna thank my team-mates, who lined me up perfectly for the sprint. At first I was jammed in a bit, but I managed to shake loose and open up the sprint as planned. This is my fifth victory, but it's not exactly something you grow tired off. The support from the fans along the roads here in California is absolutely fantastic and it was great to be able to follow up on Fabian's victory with another triumph for myself and the team," said a happy Haedo following the stage.

It was the second strike at this years Tour of California after Fabian Cancellara's won the prologue. Cancellara defended his yellow jersey although Slipstream's Tyler Farrar had been fighting for bonus seconds throughout the stage, but didn't make the top-three in the end.

Title defender Levi Leipheimer is in a good position to repeat last years overall win. Speaking from the podium after the stage finish, Leipheimer told the race announcer Jeff Roark "I feel good, and yesterday to be fourth in the prologue was a good result for me. Fabian is the best in the world and did a special ride yesterday. But I'm happy to be here, and just look at this! The crowd gets bigger and better every year!" Roark pointed to the "Let Levi Ride" button he was wearing, stating that the goal is to get 100,000 signatures on the petition to allow Levi and Team Astana to race in the 2008 Tour de France. Levi thanked the sponsors and fans who began the grassroots effort to prove to the Tour organizers that fans around the world want to see the team race in France this July.

Rabobank's sprinter Oscar Freire did not sprint for the stage win. Before the start of the stage, Rabobank's sport director Erik Breukink wasn't too optimistic about the end results of the stage that Graeme Brown won last year. "Oscar isn't what he used to be yet, but from what I've heard I understand he keeps feeling better. By the end of the week he will be fine. I'm sure he will choose his stage," Breukink, once again pleased about the ambiance and the parcours in California, supposes. "This is a really nice stage to ride. The guys all have a good feeling here. Maybe this could lead to something later this week."

On Monday it was merely riding along. On the only serious obstacle of the day, a very though climb, there threatened to be a crack in the peloton. Robert Gesink could easily stay in the first group of about twenty riders, but in the descent the clusters combined to one group again. In this descent, Paul Martens had a bad fall. The damage wasn't too bad, but the German and some thirty others ended up several minutes behind the peloton.

Nevertheless, after the first real stage a good feeling dominated in the team. Breukink said: "The beginning is over and in general the guys feel good.  Robert Gesink has shown himself for a moment, Oscar keeps getting better each day, and Mathew Hayman was also there. After two days, we don't have to be really discontented. Tuesday will be tougher and we'll have to see how Robert Gesink is doing on Wednesday. That will be an interesting and enjoyable test."

The Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team came into Stage 1 with a goal of repeating its win of the 2006 edition of this great stage into Santa Rosa. Although, the team did not win, Rollin provided fans and his teammates alike with an exciting finish and a performance to be proud of.

The team led by Dominique Rollin who coasted in with a 4th place finish as the highest placed non ProTour rider. Toyota-United continues to perform in America’s biggest races the past 3 years with seven stage wins in America’s three “grand” Tours.

"It was a tough day at the office for Toyota-United," said Scott Moninger. The European teams rode aggressively up the climb early, Ivan Dominguez and a group of TUP riders stuck within 20 seconds of the leaders as they broke away up the climb. They stayed with the leaders up until an hour to go in the race when the pack separated and only 3 Toyota-United riders stayed with the leaders; they were led by Dominique Rollin, Heath Blackgrove, and Ben Day. The remainder of the team fought to catch up to the lead group unsuccessfully the remainder of the race.

Dominique Rollin came into this race in great shape and today’s finish required a strongman’s finish which played well into Dominique’s hand. With one lap to go, Heath Blackgrove brought Rollin into position, "I had the perfect wheel for the sprint with 300m to go, I was flying by everyone, and I knew with this speed, I would win it. But with 150 meters to go, I had a chicane to go thru and I had to pull up or I would have slammed into the barricade, otherwise I had the clear path and I believe I would have won," said Rollin.

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Picture gallery: Tour of California, Stage 1, February 18, 2008

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