AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGE 1 FROM THE BEST VIEW ON THE ROAD
Today was the first stage of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. Traveling from the Sausalito to Santa Rosa and covering a total of 96.8 miles in just over 4 hours. The stage traveled through some of the best real estate in Northern California but, nothing compared to my unique view for the day.
I had the pleasure of riding in one of the Media cars, which was driven by none other than Steve Hegg (Olympic Gold medal winner and 7-11 team member). From the passenger seat of the Media car I was able to see a bike race unfold like never before. Whether we were driving behind the breakaway rider Jackson Stewart of Team BMC, or driving in front of the Peloton and watching the chase, I must say I could get used to this.
I had the perfect view to see Jackson Stewart (Team BMC) attack the peloton and start to create a gap from the rest of the peloton. He was gaining time and building a very healthy lead at a rate that was faster than expected especially since he was alone in the breakaway. By mile 10 he was almost 2 minutes ahead of the peloton and was able to increase his lead. At the 22.5 mile mark he had gained 8 minutes and 45 second and at the 25.1 mile mark he had a 5 mile gap, no bad for a solo breakaway.
Stewart did not stop there, and at 33.5 miles he had twelve and a half minutes on the rest of the leaders, probably the largest gap of the days stage. As the Coleman Valley climb began he began to show signs of wear and tear from the solo lead and began to give back time to the field. Once he crested the climb and started down the back side into Santa Rosa he started to give back large chunks of time, and at the 73 miles his gap was down 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Jackson Stewart was finally caught at the 79 mile mark and that was when the race exploded.
The run into Santa Rosa was fast and they were strung out in a long line, with riders from the Slipstream/Chipolte squad leading the way. The pace stayed fast until they entered the city of Santa Rosa, when the race became intense. With all the teams fighting to get their sprinters in position for the finish the moves were coming from all directions.
In a scene familiar from last year’s Tour of California Team High Road’s George Hincapie was sent to the asphalt. But rumor has it that George only suffered some superficial scrapes and he should be back on his bike for tomorrow mornings start of Stage 2