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Levi Leipheimer, weight of the Santa Rosa nation

May 14, 2012

Santa Rosa is Levi country.

 Levi Leipheimer stepped off the sign-in stage and faced the crowd behind the barriers opposite the stage. He raised his arms, and like an orchestra responds to a conductor flourishing his wand, the crowd responded with huge cheers. He could have said something like, “these are my people.”

Levi greets fans in Santa Rosa, 2012 Amgen Tour of CA stage 1

Sunday’s Amgen Tour of California stage 1 started and finished in Santa Rosa where Leipheimer lives. The course resembled almost to a road the route of Levi’s annual Grand Fondo ride.

After a loop around and back into Santa Rosa for an intermediate sprint line, the riders turned west, proceeded north, then dropped onto Route 1 for 15 miles of racing along the Pacific Ocean coastline. Next they took a left onto Coleman Valley Road where the pavement rose steeply. The climb is just 3 kilometers with an average grade of about 10%, hardest on the lower half and easier toward the top.

Route 1 near Coleman Valley Road

The road passes through land protected by the Coleman Valley Road Sonoma County Agricultural Preserve and Open Space District. The county, according to one resident, assesses a quarter cent tax to fund open space purchases.

Amgen Tour of California break-away on Coleman Valley Road

The break-away tackled Coleman Valley Road a few minutes in advance of the peloton. Sebastian Salas (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits) and Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare) seemed the least stressed by the ascent.

The peloton arrived a few minutes later. Earlier in the day before the start, Timmy Duggan of Liquigas-Cannondale indicated it wouldn’t be an easy day. “RadioShack and Garmin are going to make it hard,” he said, downplaying the chances for his team’s sprinters, Daniel Oss and Peter Sagan, for a victory at the finish line in Santa Rosa.

Alex Howes (Garmin-Barracuda) and Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) towed the front of a fragmented peloton up the climb. The lead group included Chris Horner (RadioShack Nissan), Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Tejay VanGarderen (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda), Nicholas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), and others.

Near top of Coleman Valley climb, Howes and Zabriskie lead the main pack

 A bike length behind this group one of Leipheimer’s teammates paced him up the hill.

The road levels out near the top then the riders began a fast, tight, twisty descent, flying between stands of redwood trees. After the descent and through the town of Occidental wide, relatively straight roads and a tailwind helped the pack catch the break. Duggan pulled on the front and teammate Ted King brought Sagan back to the bunch after he flatted 5 kilometers from the finish.

No flat stands in Sagan’s way. He won the sprint and will start today in the leader’s jersey.

Redwood doorway on descent off Coleman Valley Rd.

Leipheimer will find himself back at home on stage 2 as the peloton ascends the Bonny Doon climb where he attacked in an earlier edition of the race.

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From → Road Racing

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