It was Rabobank's Paul Martens who took care that the Dutch team controlled the race from the beinning. The German newcomer fell in the first stage, suffered
from stomach complaints in the second, but was now the one who opened the race. Three other riders joined him. Of those four
he was the longest to survive on Mount Hamilton, but he went down in the end as well. Martens lead had ensured that the Rabo
ProTeam could take it easy in the run-up to the highest climb. After that it was Mauricio Ardila's and Robert Gesink's turn. They soon turned out to be amongst the best.
On the peak of the Sierra Grade there was a group of some fifteen to twenty riders left, including Rabo's two trump
cards. George Hincapie decided to start a solo adventure during the descent but he did not hold out long. As expected, the
race was decided on Sierra Grade. That climb was quite a bit shorter than Mount Hamilton and the peak was on a lower altitude,
but the steep parts were not to be underestimated. Ardila worked as Gesink’s foreman. With the Colombian, who finished
within the top ten, by his side, the elite group thinned out more and more.
Levi Leipheimer, last year's winner, was the only one who was able to keep up with Gesink when he decided to pick up the
pace. But it was clear that the Dutchman was just a bit more powerful and stronger. It was not an uphill finish; the two men
had to stay ahead of those who had dropped off for another 25 kilometers. That was not an easy task knowing that with Fabian
Cancellara and David Millar there were a few true time trial specialists in that group. But the one minute and fifteen second
margin turned out to be enough. Gesink won, seized the youth jersey and the third stage in the general classification.
Rabobank's sports director Erik Breukink felt the victory was justified based on the uphill kilometers. "I think Robert
was simply the best in those kilometers. Between the two of them he did most of the work uphill. Not in the last flat part,
they took turns then." The team boss was obviously satisfied with the scenario. "An escape like Paul's immediately gets you
involved in the race. Astana set the pace and we could wait until Mount Hamilton." Then it was time for Gesink and Ardila.
"But Freire came back in the descent and even started Sierra Grade with their group."
A sign that things are really going well with the Spaniard now. Bauke Mollema came up just a little too short to come back
during the descent. He started the final climb a little later. "He finished with the middle bracket. A decent performance
in a tough stage like this. After all, Bauke still has to learn everything." Looking back on it Rabobank's sports director
Erik Breukink concluded: "It has been a perfect day. A beautiful victory in the most difficult stage of this stage by far."
Defending champ Levi Leipheimr (Astana) took over the overall lead. Speaking about the time trial, Levi Leipheimer acknowledged
that there are still plenty of threats in the peloton, naming Dave Zabriskie and David Millar as two top contenders on Friday's
stage. "This race is far from over. We [Team Astana] came out here with something to prove and the team was phenomenal. Chechu
was amazing. The whole team was amazing. Chris and Chechu both were there in the second group. I think we proved to the world
that we're here to race and that we're serious." Giving out the address once more for www.letleviride.com Levi asked the crowd to continue signing the petition to encourage Tour de France organizers to let Team Astana ride in July.
"This is a way for cycling fans here in the US and around the world to let the Tour organizers know that they want the best
riders in the Tour: the defending champion and last year's third place finisher and the best team!" A chant of "Let Levi Ride"
broke out in the crowd as Levi waved to the fans wearing the leader's jersey of the Amgen Tour of California.